Wednesday, November 14, 2007

BARCAMP Winter Session this Weekend

Now then. BARCAMP is back again with all its might and glory this weekend at IIM Ahmedabad again. I was a first timer last time and fell in love with it. I had blogged about it too. This was how it was:


I wouldn't take pains in explaining what a BARCAMP is because there are numerous resources already about BARCAMP scattered all across the Internet. For the uninitiated, read this article, . I was fortunate to attend my first BARCAMP in Bangalore this July, courtesy Bangalore Open Java User Group(BOJUG), through which I came to know about this exciting phenomenon.

I doubt if my blog would be able to convey the level of excitement that I experienced right there at the precinct of IIM Bangalore where the event was hosted. First and foremost, this was the first time ever I set my foot on an IIM campus. I could sense the halo that an IIM campus exudes. The huge expanse of green cover that drapes the campus only adds to its glory .

A lazy and damp Saturday morning of July 28th could do little to dampen the spirits of 400 odd enthusiasts who had turned up to participate in the conference. Oops! I meant the unconference. Yes, after my Bangalore BARCAMP experience, I havent lost an oppurtunity to flaunt my newly acquired geeky vocabulary in my arsenal. The atmosphere possesed me the moment I landed at the campus and i gleefully allowed myself to surrender to the frenzy.

To tell you honestly, I had not understood the concept of BARCAMP till I actually saw it unfold in front of myself. BARCAMP 4 was a collectives edition this time, where each collective was meant for a particular self interest group. BARCAMP describes collectives as:

Collectives are groups of people (generally people) who aggregate around common topics/concerns/ideologies/peeves. They are like niche rooms devised to encourage individuals who, otherwise, spend a lot of energy in inventing the same wheel in different locations, oblivious to the efforts of the others. We introduce Collectives as a way of forming your initial networks before you reach the physical venue. Collectives are specifically, NOT your social networking system replacements – aim for quality of discussion and emergent results rather than numbers.

The collectives they had this time were:

* 1 Technology Collectives

o 1.1 Mobile Collective

o 1.2 Internet Collective

o 1.3 Free and Open Source Software

o 1.4 Content Management Systems Collective

o 1.5 Programming Languages and Compiler Design

* 2 Developer Collectives

o 2.1 BangPypers

o 2.2 Bangalore Open Java User Group

o 2.3 Ruby Collective

o 2.4 BangAJAX Collective

o 2.5 Buffer OverFlows & Code Injection

o 2.6 BandFun Collective

o 2.7 Sysadmins Collective

o 2.8 PHP collective

* 3 Startups Collective

* 4 Enterprise Collectives

o 4.1 FOSS in the Enterprise Collective

* 5 Special interests collectives

o 5.1 Gizmofreaks collective

o 5.2 Photo Collective

o 5.3 Bloggers Collective

o 5.4 User Interface Design & Usability Collective

o 5.5 Wikis Collective

o 5.6 UnBand Collective
o 5.7 Gaming Collective
o 5.8 Investor$ Collective

o 5.9 Bicycling in Bangalore Collective

* 6 Society and Government Collectives

o 6.1 SocialTech Collective

o 6.2 E-governance Collective

* 7 Other Collectives / Non-Collective sessions

o 7.1 BCB4 Hack night

o 7.2 Speed Geeking

o 7.3 Board of Collectives Collective

o 7.4 Bored of Collectives Collective

o 7.5 Psychics Collective

o 7.6 Eating out in Bangalore Collective

o 7.7 Weekend getaways collective

The session kicked off in a huge auditorium which was jam packed and when asked how many were first timers to the BARCAMP, 80% people must have raised hands. A clear indicator of the popularity this camp had generated this time. The atmosphere was very casual with lots of wit and humor wafting in the air, nevertheless with a serious sense of purpose. There were about 30 collectives that were registered. But many collectives were being made right there on the whim. Though there were a few frivolous collectives, like Eating Out, and Physic, there were many who were dead serious about its purpose. Each collective member had to introduce their collective in front of the crowd for 30 seconds. And many a times they had to be chased from the stage as they kept talking about. All in a lighter vein. There were some very interesting collectives and I kept scribbling down the one's that caught my fancy. Soon I had a long list. I couldnt have attended all of them, so I started picking the best. The sessions were conducted just about anywhere the group gathered. In classrooms, canteens, corridors or the lawns. They also had set up a group messaging service, to which anyone who subscribed got regular sms updates of the sessions happening so that no one would be lost in the humdrum.

I let go my plans to attend technical collectives for a change and headed for a collective on Entrepreneurship by Prof. Kumar. Prof. Kumar is the man responsible for setting up the incubation center, NSRECL at IIM Bangalore to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem. His session must have pulled 60% of the crowd and the room fell too short to accommodate everyone. We had to shift to the auditorium. He started with a question, “How many here have their own startups”. There were many hands.

He then asked. “How many are on the verge of setting up a startup”. There were again many hands. As he proceeded to talk, there was an English guy who quipped, “Prof Kumar, You didnt ask how many of us had a failed startups”. And then again many hands rose up. Kumar called the guy up to the stage and asked him to talk about his failed venture and his experiences. This had set the mood for the session, but soon the allotted time was over. There was a group outside who had turned hysterical, since most of the crowd was here and thus attendance to other collectives was thin.

With due permission one of the organizers, introduced another collective called Startups. It had 3 very young speakers who would speak on their ventures and experiences of running their own company from scratch. Soon the crowd was streaming out from the auditorium to listen to these young entreprenuers. They did not want to hear an experienced professor lecturing on entrepreneurship and found more sense hearing straight from those young turks who had actually made it on their own. I too was one of them.The Startups room was jam packed again. I took the front seat. A young fellow beside me introduced himself to me. He was a venture capitalist who, as he spoke, had raised 1 million dollars within an year funding prospective startups. My mind zonked. Soon after he came to know my background, he did not find me interesting. His attention shifted to the fellow on his right side. I realised that this forum was being greatly leveraged to network and make right connections with like minded individuals.

Soon the session got started by Kartik, who had started a company called PICSQUARE followed by Sujoy from Sloka Telecom. They shared their stories and experiences they faced in their attempt to make a place for themselves in the Sun. Kartik should be a 25 yr old guy who along with his friend started a photo publishing service called PICSQUARE and within a year have broken even and have sustained the tough times. Sujoy of Sloka telcom got very popular with the audience because of his inimitable oratory skills and an equally engaging story describing the travails of his enterprenuerial life.

It was soon 2 pm and I rushed to have lunch at the canteen. I then peered through the post its to pick my next would be engaging session. I settled for the Investment collective and rushed to the room. I had to contend stading at a corner as the seats were already taken. Dr Musa (a doctor turned investment expert) was demystifying the nuances of investment and audience was all ears to what he spoke. He was trying to drive home the point, why aggressive investment was no more a choice but an indespensable solution for a secure life. He threw startling numbers when he asked, 'what do you think the cost of education would be for your child in the future?'. His estimate with the rising inflation and Purchasing power parity index, was a staggering 55 lakhs.

After listening to him for the rest of the afternoon, my mind was completely spent out. I was a bit dissapointed not having able to attend other interesting electives and made my mind to come up the next day. But alas!, I got busy with other committments.

I am eagerly looking forward to BARCAMP 5 with an intent of showcasing my own collective.


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