Arpit Agarwal brought my attention to a blog post by Vijay Anand on how we got the Barcamp format totally wrong. Here’s a counterpost. Not a counterpost to disagree vehemently or reject with what Vijay states (actually a part of me agrees in perfect harmony to some of the things he says), but merely to politely offer an alternate perspective. IMHO IMHO. In Barcampish style, I am offering it to all of you, not shoving it down your throat. Feedback welcome.
As Vijay wrote in his blog:
I know that everybody is thinking this but let me say it out loud: I think someone in India got the barcamp format totally wrong. Barcamps, as we do it in India are not conversational. They are very, and very speaker-centric.
D-1: An engaging interactive session at BCB6 on the durry.
I have not been to many other Barcamps in India, but I feel that Barcamp Bangalore is actually becoming more and more interaction-oriented than session-oriented with every edition. It is becoming harder and harder to find quality sessions led by “experts”, and easier to find the “durries”, “CCD” sessions where you can unchain yourself into amazing dialectics. The analogy I can draw is the predominantly Indian concept of an “Adda”. You shout, you debate, the proverbial storm in a teacup is raised. (Only that its coffee and its damn expensive nowadays).
Come, play with me in the mud
It’s fashionable to be cynical and critical. Think George Bernard Shaw. More than fashionable, it’s important. Important to the sustenance of any vibrant ecosystem. So far be it for me to hack back at what Vijay is saying. As I said, this post is not about that — mudslinging or flame-war.
Back to the point, I think it is somewhat fashionable to say “we don’t get it”. The story changes when “you” are trying to organise Barcamp. Then one starts to gain a better understanding of why things don’t work out the way exactly the way we envisage. So to anybody (including myself) who says I wish Barcamp was this way or that way, I say, “Come over for the next meeting.” Come play with me in the mud.
Planning Committee Meeting At India Coffee House
The Barcamp Bangalore “Planners Committee” is in itself an amazing species in organizational evolution. Some come for the “coolness”, some to feel “in”, while others come in the pursuit of a certain passion which even they may not be able to clearly articulate. But they come. They spend their time, their money, their energy in putting together something.
The Planner’s Committee has no clearly documented organizational mission. No CEOs. No fiscal profit motive. No yearly appraisals. Everybody has different interpretations of Barcamp.
Varun Ram (name changed) feels we need more hardcore tech, after all, Barcamps are about technology, na? Chetan Sharma (name and gender changed) rolls his eyes in disbelief. “What ? No way Barcamps are *only* about technology”, he quips.
Ramnivas Bellandurloo wants formal press releases to inform the media on what BCB is all about. Seven others pounce at his throat crying, “No we don’t want to sell-out.“.
And I am not making this up. This is exactly what was happening in a post-mortem session at IIM Bangalore after the curtains came down on BCB6, yesterday night.Yes sire, this is exactly what happens.
Gratefulness break: Photos taken from Kushal, Arun, Jace and Ajit’s Flickr photostreams — Thanks guys, your rock !
BCB: We are our own definition.
The first Barcamp Bangalore Logo, April 2006
Barcamp Bangalore is not about technology. Its not about music. Its not about dating and its not about carbon footprint minimization. Its about tolerance. Its about giving each other a space, a certain collaboration — to let multiple ideas and perspectives thrive harmoniously. To keep on doing what you passionately believe in whilst not snatching away others’ right to pursue their passion. And I think BCB has come a long way enough to create its own identity where we do not need to go back and look at the definition of Barcamp on the web to ensure whether we are on the right track or not. While they are all fascinating in their own rights, we do not need to “adhere” to what Munich, Minnesota or SanFran Barcamp is doing. We are our own definition. For all we care, call it “BangCamp” if you are really itchy about the name.
The Flea Market
To provide an analogy, Barcamp Bangalore is a flea market, infested with ideas. This is not your sterilized supermarket. And like a flea market, expect chaos, expect muck, expect unscrupulous hawkers and expect well-meaning astrologers. And within all this apparent chaos, should you choose to look hard enough, you will find something to take away (more than a coffee mug or tee). And what you take away is going to be exclusively yours. Maybe you’ll get a small flickr of an idea that you will start to work on as your next serial entrepreneurship endeavour. Maybe you will find a guitar teacher. Maybe you will get a better understanding of Kannada culture. Maybe you will vote this time. Maybe you will find a beautiful snap of yours flickrd by an unknown photographer, that will then be proudly proclaimed on all your social sites.
Depending on your luck, you may even take find yourself a soulmate (based on a true story).
Don’t come with a shopping list
Chances are if you are coming with a shopping list, you may not really get what you came for or even if you do, not quite like it as much. If you came to a session on dating expecting to go back with armed with a “trophy”, what you take away is the satisfaction that people who apparently seem real cool (and hot) have not the faintest clue as to matters of the heart. If you came to meet an angel investor to fund that stupid little idea of yours, what you will take away is that it’s not easy to be an entrepreneur (particularly if all you have are stupid little ideas).
I don’t know what you will get. But like a flea market, there’s always something for somebody.
Wrong is the new right
Maybe we will never get Barcamps right. Maybe there is no right. Crushed between the survivalist needs for a larger audience and the reality that quality density is inversely proportional to the number of people (beyond a low threshold), I think its written in our predestined stars that we keep on struggling to find the right formula. And opinions like Vijay’s will stay forever valid and pertinent (and fashionable 🙂