Bangalore Barcamp and the evolution of a startup

Disclaimer: <start>I have lots of respect for individuals who are taking whole lotta pain to organize the Bangalore barcamp. The views expressed here are based on my experiences over the past few barcamps and in no way, demeans the great value Barcamp has. </over>

Barcamp is like a kickass web2.0 startup – simple, fresh idea, breaks all existing norms, has great stickiness and most important, the community loves it !

But that was then.

The product, of course has evolved (big time!) and gained great amount of traction (and users). And that has resulted in new ‘feature requests/dimensions’ to the product;

Which essentially means that like any mildly successful startup, Barcamp is also going through growing pains!

And somehow I have a feeling that organizers are saying “yes” to every new requests (like they did that with BCB4 when every participant started creating his own collective at runtime!).

Candidly speaking, simplicity is being traded for “let’s have this feature (i.e. collective/topic) too!”; and the result?
Confusion
(see this great featuritis curve- where do you think the different versions of BCBs can be mapped to?)

featuritis.jpg

The earlier versions of BCBs were simple and very intuitive – it was really easy to register as a participant, as a speaker, track events and in general, have a confidence that “you know what you are doing at BCB“.

But, BCB4 and onwards seems to have taken a different track at all – reliance is more on technology rather than simplicity. For e.g. In BCB4, IRC channels became the de-facto channel of communication (to track what’s happening in different tracks) and pen/paper/white boards took a back seat.

I am sensing a similar story with BCB5. Compare the BCB5 pages with BCB3 and you will know the contrasting difference – themes are not too clear, I wasn’t able to find (in 60 seconds) where should I register as a speaker, and details about collectives.

I somehow see the ‘unconference‘ part of Barcamp lost in all these new avatars – too many wikis, too many collectives (which in my opinion can be clubbed in max. 4 categories) and in general, a sense of being overwhelmed by the vast number of topics!

I am not complaining – this is a good problem to have! But at the same time, one needs to take strong decisions and I believe, time has come for Barcamp organizers to decide what should be the focus/future of Barcamp.
After having attended the SFO barcamp, I strongly believe that even unconferences needs to be managed (right from collection of topics, to keeping the entire event simple) and frankly speaking, you just can’t set the horse free and expect the dust to settle down easily!

Here are a few suggestions to maintain the simplicity of BCBs:

  • Let Barcamp focus on 4 areas – Internet/Mobile/Technology and Miscellaneous (i.e. generic stuff which is valid across all of these topics – say, Creative Commons, Entrepreneurship etc).
  • For other topics, allow Barcamp to be the enabler, the grand daddy of all camps instead of attempting to be a one-in-all stuff! – so if you are a doctor, please come to BCBs and meet like-minded people. Then you guys decide to start your own camp and you use Barcamp as a platform to tell the entire BCB community about your newly formed camp (organizers can have a slot for “new camp announcement”)
  • No way, allow people to add to chaos (i.e. create new topics/collectives at the last minute, just because they want to.) – I agree Barcamp is all about democracy (and freedom), but even democracy comes with certain rules and in my opinion, needs to be regulated!

What do you think? Should BCBs focus on few selected themes (+ some misc.) and in the process, spin off new camps like healthcamp/codecamp/osscamp etc? Or do you think this format is sustainable?

In the above curve, where do you think the diff. BCBs version fit in? In my opinion, BCB3 was the happy user peak.

I, of course look forward to BCB5 and as I said earlier, hats off to people behind the event!
tags: barcamp bangalore

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