This weekend BarCamp Gent took place. A BarCamp is an unconference organized by the participants (check Wikipedia for more). A little more then 100 people showed up and there were 45 presentations, a nice overall score. It always impresses me how you can create a professional event like this, solely based on the goodwill of the participants. If you give up your Saturday for a geeky conference you need to have at least some passion for what you are doing and that's exactly what makes BarCamps great: people speaking about what they are passionate about.
I forced myself to present as well this time. Being a sidekick during the previous 2 BarCamps I decided is was about time to present something. I tried to give a short overview of OpenStreetMap. What it is, why we need it and how to contribute.
I liked Bernard Grymonpon's presentation about Craftsmanship (in Dutch). He stated that talent in the IT sector is undervalued. How can we explain to the client that there is a difference between someone who ‘makes websites’ and a professional webdeveloper? The discussion was just starting when the 20 minutes passed which is a pity, could have taken a little longer. It was nice to hear lots of people struggle with this idea.
Filip Bunkens (in Dutch) gave a double session starting with the theoretical strobist part (taking photos with off camera flashes) and a hands-on follow up. By the end of the day we had a chance to play with the professional lighting setup. Others were queuing to get their new Facebook profile pictures taken. ;) Nice to have a separate photo track at BarCamp. I missed Stijn De Meyere's presentation about concert photography (in Dutch) and need to start following this guy, his photos look awesome. Let's hope for some more photography related sessions next time.
Dorien Aerts presented her 10 tips to turn your girl- or boyfriend into a geek, hilarious. It felt like a self-help group for geeks, and I mean that in the positive way. Dorien's poll showed most people joined Facebook because of their friends and because they felt they were ‘missing something’ by not joining (their friends holiday pictures for example). Someone explained how he got his wife to use Twitter and got a big applaud from the group.
I heard Toon Vanagt earlier at the TechCrunch meetup. Apart from his helmet his presentation didn't really interest me that much. Well, this time it did. Rarely have I heard such an honest talk about lessons in life. Toon started Casius and explained what went wrong and how he learned from this in his presentation with a catchy title: “What I learned after burning €4,000,000”.
This BarCamp was in Dutch, previous Belgian BarCamps have always been a mixture of languages with presentations being mainly in English (as far as I know). Some people said that being able to present in you mother tongue raised the level resulting in better quality presentations. This is very well possible but for me it feels too “restricted”. It may lower the barrier for native Dutch speakers but raises it for the rest. In my opinion BarCamps are about openness: sharing knowledge and experiences, bringing innovative people together, without language restrictions.
Just for the record: everyone could present in English if they wanted off course, only no one did (myself included). Everyone spoke Dutch so the presentations were in Dutch. Next time a non-Dutch speaker may not be interested because “it's in Dutch” confirming the idea of the people who do participate that there is no need to present in English.
Big thanks to Johan Ronse for initiating the event, the IBBT for the location, One Agency for sponsoring the event and Netlash (in Dutch) for the pizza! I met some interesting people, heard some good presentations and went home with a new project idea. Exactly what I expect from a BarCamp I would say.
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