A week of Camps – Toronto Tech Week in review

As I’ve posted about in the past, Toronto Tech Week took place last week. While the official calendar only showed it as a Monday to Friday affair, the TorCamp community managed to stretch it out to a full Saturday-Saturday event which included no less than three “unconference” format events – BarCampTTW, EnterpriseCamp & InteractionCamp. Being a glutton for punishment I helped organize the BarCamp and attended the other two (thank God for an understanding wife). I skipped the Mesh conference this year as I couldn’t come up with anything compelling enough that would justify it as a work related conference but I was sure to get out to the Mesh social on the first night of the event- will have to figure out how to get there next year.

So, for the interested, a quick recap:

Saturday – BarCamp Toronto Tech Week
I posted about this camp earlier. All in all it was a great event – it was the fourth BarCamp proper that TorCamp has put on (TorCamp ran 20+ related events in 2006) and I think we’re all starting to get into the groove of how they work. Certainly preparation gets easier and easier every time, this past BarCamp was really assembled and organized in the week prior to the event – as with any event, it’s finding the space that’s the hard part, great people/participants make it a great event.

Thanks again to the sponsors: Idee, Microsoft, Hyndman Law & Tucows

Tuesday – EnterpriseCamp (a.k.a Enterprise 2.0)
TorCamper Tom Purves took the initiative to get this camp up and running. Disguised as a more formal, traditional conference Tom was aiming to pull some of Toronto’s business leaders into the mix and start some conversations around how to use “Web 2.0” technologies in today’s enterprises.

The keynotes were delivered by Anthony Williams, co-author of “Wikinomics” and John Bruce, CEO of iUpload, both of whom provided some interesting insights into where they felt the market was headed and ideas on how to help promote new technologies within the enterprise.

Following the keynotes there was a few hours of sessions delivered by various members of the community in two streams, Technical & Organizational. I did a quick discussion on Translation & Localization centered on options and considerations for pushing your product/content out in multiple languages (see slideshow below). I think it was well received and we had some interesting discussion following the presentation.

Sandy Kemsley live blogged the event and her coverage of some of the sessions can be found here.

Wednesday – Mesh Social
Wednesday night was the Mesh social which they held over at the Boiler House in the Distillery District this year.

There was no real agenda here, just an excuse to have a few drinks, some food and mingle with the Mesh attendees & (eventually) presenters. Now Drinks + TorCamp always equals a fun time but the challenge with the event was that the Mesh organizers also held their sponsor/speaker dinner at the same time in the next restraint over so it was roughly eleven before the two groups were able to mix and mingle.

From talking with a couple of the guys I don’t think it’s elitist or deliberate on the part of the organizers – logistics means that there’s really only one night when they can get all of the right people in the right place, and dinner for 30-40 people can take quite a while to get through. They know it’s unfortunate that the timing works out that the two groups can get together after the majority of people have called it a night and they’re trying to find solutions. I still appreciate that they make a point of having an opportunity for people to mix and socialize.

Timing aside it was a fun night and I ended up having some great conversations across the evening.

Saturday #2 – InteractionCamp
A few weeks ago, after VizThink2, I was talking with Kaleem Khan and he suggested I come out to InteractionCamp, which he was helping to organize – he wondered if I might want to dust off my VizThink1 presentation and suggest it as a session. Since we weren’t headed up to the cottage that weekend I asked (read: negotiated with) my wife to get out of the house for a few hours to check out the Camp. It was my intention to go for the morning, check out a session or two, do mine and then head home – I ended up staying most of the day.

Like the BarCamp the week before there was a really good mix of familiar and unfamiliar faces in the crowd and a whole raft of interesting sessions. The camp was held at the Critical Mass offices here in Toronto (I believe they also picked up the tab on lunch). As is my usual trend at these events, I tended to shuffle around from session to session throughout the day, tuning into whichever conversation/discussion peaked my interest as I caught snippets. I’m a horrible note taker, but thankfully we had some good ones out at the camp and their notes can be found here.

Thanks also to the sponsors: Critical Mass, Microsoft, nForm/CanUX, TechSmith & Usability Matters

In Conclusion
All in all I can safely say it was a successful week for the TorCamp community. Across the three events I’d estimate we had roughly 200 unique people come out and participate including a lot of new faces (a call for a show of hands for first time *Campers @ BarCampTTW resulted in HALF the group raising their hands).

Was Toronto Tech Week as a whole a success? Hard to say – there was a bunch of other events across the week. Mesh was a huge success but it was there long before the week was planned (Tech Week was actually set for this past week largely because of Mesh). All in all my concern with Tech Week was it was using a Field of Dreamonomics approach – the dates were declared and made a program, but aside from that it seemed there was very little co-ordination effort across all of the events to present a consistent brand etc. – a “build it and they will come”.

I found the event was also all but invisible within the city – unless you were already involved in the tech community here in the city or worked for Toronto Economic Development you probably had no idea it was even happening.

Certainly it’s an event worth continuing but in future years I think the scope of the week needs to be expanded. The week certainly demonstrated we have an active tech community/cluster here in Tor
onto but aside from that it offered very little to show people why they (or their employees) would want to live in or relocate to Toronto, not just work here. The schedule for the most part was Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. This meant the two weekend BarCamps weren’t on the schedule but it also meant we weren’t showcasing any of the other “things” Toronto has to offer.

Where was “Techlicious”? Theater packages? Other “see the city” promotions? It wouldn’t have taken a whole lot more to work to try and get some meal specials around the city in the spirit of Summerlicious/Winterlicious. We’re a theater capital – why not show it off? And so on and so on…

Hopefully next year the city can take what they’ve learned and build out a better promoted, consistently branded and broader focused week – we’re a good looking city when it comes to tech, now we need to show we’ve got some personality.

BarCampTorontoTechWeek – Belated recap…

BarCampTTW - DSC08228

Well, BarCampTTW has come and gone. As the unofficial kickoff to Toronto Tech Week, I’d have to say BarCampTTW was a rousing success.

Based on the show of hands we had a pretty diverse crowd where almost 50% of the participants were first time BarCampers. Also a good sign was the number of women we had come out – while numbers are still in the teens they represented about a quarter of the attendees. In recent month’s there’s been lots of discussion in both the conference and unconference spaces around the lack of female representation so it’s good to see that some improvement is being made but we’ve still got a ways to go.

All in all the sessions were quite interesting and I found this camp definitely slanted more to the conceptual and ideas rather than pure tech which was interesting. I was talking with some folks at the post-camp drinks and realized that I’ve started to look at BarCamp as the generalist platform/entry point into the community that we use to launch niche interest groups/events from (DemoCamp, VizThink, InteractionCamp, TransitCamp, EnterpriseCamp etc.) . It truly has no agenda or theme out of the gate and, true to form, is entirely whatever the participants make of it. It’ll be interesting to see how the nature of the event changes as we continue to reach out and try and bring new members into the community.

Photos from the event can be found here. Blog posts from the event can be found here & here.

Along with my fellow organizers (Will Pate, Mark Kuznicki, Bryce Johnson and Dan Kurtz), I’d also like to thank our sponsors for this past camp:

Microsoft Canada
Hyndman Law
University of Toronto: Faculty of Information Studies

It’s through supporters like the organizations above that we’re able to put on these great events and keep the price of admittance your time and a willingness to participate.

Check out the TorCamp page to see what events are coming up (VizThink3 is June 14th). If you’re not from Toronto, the BarCamp community is a truly global phenomenon – check out the BarCamp site to see what is going on in your neck of the woods (or see how to start something up).

BarCampTorontoTechWeek – Tomorrow!

Just a reminder that BarCamp Toronto Tech Week is tomorrow, Saturday May 26th. Things will get underway ~9:30am.

There’s still some room (sign up here)if you’re interested in coming, looks like a good, interesting mix of people.

If you do come out please come up and say hi!

– Ryan

BarCamp Toronto Tech Week – May 26, 2007

Coming up this Saturday (May 26th) will be the fourth BarCamp held here in Toronto – BarCamp Toronto Tech Week . As you can probably tell by the name, we’ve planned this Camp to coincide with Toronto Tech Week, a one week long celebration of Toronto’s vibrant technology scene. Unfortunately since the event is happening on the weekend (and BarCamps don’t really work on weekdays) we aren’t listed on the official schedule – so I guess we’ll have to settle for being the “unofficial” kick-off of Tech Week.

I’m co-organizing it with fellow TorCampers Will Pate, Mark Kuznicki, Bryce Johnson and Dan Kurtz and looks like it’ll be a great BarCamp. In addition to the usual suspects, there will likely be a handful of folks from outside the GTA in attendance as well as many people are in town for the (sold out) Mesh Conference taking place Wednesday & Thursday of that week.

Event Details
The plan at the moment is to get underway around 9:30am with a quick session for anyone who hasn’t attended a BarCamp before – we’ll use this time just to familiarize you with the “unconference” model and hopefully get you primed so you don’t spend half the day just trying to figure out what you’ve gotten yourself into (in a fun way). Doors open around 9am. (if you come earlier expect to be put to work ;) )

BarCamps in Toronto typically run until 5:30-6:00 and there’s usually a group of folks who go for an end of day beer at a nearby bar (shouldn’t be hard to find on campus). As usual we’ll have a healthy (and some of it actually healthy) amount of food & drink on hand for the day and lunch will be provided.

As is customary with BarCamps registration is being done via the wiki page found here. If it’s your first time editing a wiki don’t sweat it, it’s easier than it looks. Click “Edit Page” (you may be asked for a password – “c4mp”). Scroll down to the list of names. At the very end of the list add a new line and put “#”, a space and then your name. Click save.

For example:

# Ryan Coleman

In the unlikely event something goes horribly wrong don’t sweat it – that’s what versioning is for! If you have questions my skype ID is “ryancoleman” – drop me a message and I’ll be happy to help out.

See you There!
If you’re in Toronto over the weekend I hope you can make it out. From a quick scan of the current registration list it looks like we’ve already got an interesting mix of folks coming out for this one.

E2.0 (a.k.a. EnterpriseCamp 2.0) – May 29, 2007

I’ve posted about the upcoming Toronto Tech Week (May 28 – June 1) in the past.

Well, the time is quickly approaching and one of the events of that week I’m most looking forward to is E2.0, a one day conference being organized by local TorCamper and friend Tom Purves.

The whole “Web 2.0” craze is great and the social tools that continue to evolve online get more and more impressive with the scope of their reach and effectiveness but what has generally been lacking visibility is consideration to how these tools and ideas are going to have a measurable (positive) impact on businesses, both big and small.

That’s where E2.0 comes in, its specific focus is looking at how using Social Media tools and other “Web 2.0” ideas can transform the way an enterprise does business.

With a growing roster of presenters, including a breakfast keynote presented by Anthony Williams, co-author of “Wikinomics” and John Bruce, CEO of iUpload, it is shaping up to be an interesting day. I’m personally working on a presentation right now around how enterprises can overcome language challenges with 2.0 technologies that I hope to have ready for the event.

There are still some spots available so if you’re looking to get some insight on how the new generation of social tools & web services can benefit your organization I highly suggest you check it out. The registration page can be found here.