Back in to the Fray, my Friends

Since the start of 2010, I’ve not been all too active in the Melbourne technical community, taking some time to work on me instead, but something got the better of me a few months ago. I was feeling the urge to be a part of the community again, to rekindle friendships and be a part of the awesome environment of knowledge sharing again.

For those who don’t know me, I used to have my fingers in lots of pies, and by all accounts kept sane whilst doing so. This time, however, I want to concentrate on a few areas and do them well. I’m starting with this pie:

A BarCamp is a bit like a long (typically two-day) user group meeting and not quite as organised as a commercial conference. Everyone is a participant and no-one knows the talk schedule until about 30 minutes in to the event; there is no paper submissions process to worry about. In order to ensure people learn and are able to add value, they are based loosely around topics of interest. While some BarCamps have been on the topic of food and wine, library speakers and trainers, and even fashion, they are generally technical in nature, often adding business topics to the mix.

I ran the first BarCamp in Australia back in 2007; it was a three hour drive from Melbourne, had 22 registrations, about 10 participants arrived and at least two people reported getting lost, giving up and going home again! 2008 was a roaring success, most likely due to the slightly more accessible venue – slap in the center of Melbourne – slightly exceeding the venue capacity of 70 people participating in three streams during a one-day event.

Having established itself, the next event was excelled in to the public limelight with radio interviews and government sponsorship. There is no way I could have done this by myself, and the with the help of many other organisers (Kathy, Donna, Peter, Jacinta, Dave and Andy – please tell me if I’ve forgotten you), StixCamp was born and took place near Newstead in country Victoria, in a vineyard. I know!

The fourth BarCampMelbourne (including StixCamp) was held in 2009 and saw 80 people register, more turn up unregistered and a venue in Royal Park tested to its limits. This, is where BarCampMelbourne 2012 will be held in about 10 weeks time.

Starting and organising BarCampMelbourne has to be, hands down, the most rewarding community work I have done; everyone has an awesome time and the buzz lasts forever. I’ve organised professional, commercial conferences, both in teams and by myself, but they pale in comparison to an unconference. The organic nature of such an event and the commitment and investment each and every participant makes from the moment they arrive at the registration desk, fills the event with pure magick.

I look forward to seeing you there – don’t forget to register!