By our count nearly 350 geeks and “geeks at heart” converged on the Railroader building in downtown Saint Paul this past Saturday and I think most everyone has been very positive about the result. I believe that number (or any number over 300) would make minnēbar the largest barcamp outside of India (Barcamp Bangalore 3 – just a couple weeks ago – drew over 500 people!). I know that barcamps are supposed to be about local community and ours was no exception, but it was still nice (and a little amazing) that we had quite a few people drive or fly in from New York (at least 2), South Dakota (at least 2), Wisconsin (6 or more), and Chicago (at least 1). Knowing that this event is worth someone’s Saturday is one things, but also worth a six hour drive, or several hundred dollar plane ticket? That is awesome.
I am very happy with the way the event turned out. I think the sessions, by and large, were first-rate. The special guests such as William Gurstelle and his excitement for making things that go Whoosh, Boom, Splat as well as the Scout Robots from the University of Minnesota gave a nice real-life tech component to the day. Of course David Heinemeier Hansson was a highlight as he was his usual witty and charming self. I have had lunch with him before (at Etech last year) and have seen him present, but he seemed even better in this setting. All his answers came very freely and he didn’t really seem to struggle with any of the questions. I am sure he had been asked about such things time and time again. Even so, I thought Jamie Thingelstad did a very good job with his side of the interview, as well.
I was very worried that the size of the crowds would really take away from the intimacy and sense of participation that is crucial to barcamps, but I don’t think these fears turned out to be warranted. Plenty of people talked between sessions or headed off to an “ad hoc session room” to discuss this or that and the sessions (with a few exceptions) never got too full. I still believe that the 50 minute session length is good. It is not so much that it can get too detailed so people really have to know their stuff. I spoke with Shourya Sarcar, one of the planners of barcamp Bangalore, and he said that one of the differences between the Minnesota and Bangalore barcamps was that their sessions are 30 minutes and that they “vote with their feet” meaning they leave a session if it is no good, or not what they had hoped. Minnesota “nice” retards that practice a bit, but there was still some wandering between sessions.
I would be remiss if I didn’t post a followup to the successful MinneDemo event put on last week by Luke Francl and Dan Grigsby. Aside from being a victim of that success (the room soon got to be too small for the burgeoning crownd) I think things went off really well and the way has been paved for future demo events to keep the community engaged between the larger MinneBar events (mark your calendars for the 2007 event to be held sometime in April). Here is a followup and here’s another followup of MinneDemo and here are some photos from the event.
MinneBar was great. It was interesting, active, creative, technical, loud, hot, and fun. It is over for now. So far the feedback both in person and on the wiki has been overwhelmingly positive. There were some issues with the wifi staying up and we were pretty much at capacity with over 110 people attending. I plan to write a recap soon, but for now you can browse some of the Flickr photos tagged with MinneBar (there have been so many that MinneBar is a hot tag right now). And here are some links to the people posting them:
Sopheava (aka Margaret Andrews)
With 90 participants as of about 5 minutes ago, MinneBar is really gaining momentum. Now I fear the venue will not be able to accommodate this mass of geeks, hipster designers, and open-sourcers all in one place. I think all this pre-conference excitement will really boil over to some great discussions at the conference. I hope everyone can check their “Minnesota Nice” (aka introversion) at the door and really participate.
The idea for a Fall event has already surfaced, this time with a focus on open source and open solutions: OpenBar. I will keep people updated on the event status and will post a review and such after the event. But with less than one month to go, I just hope I don’t have to turn anyone away.
Let’s find a place that can accommodate 200 next year. Any ideas?
I have a lot of take-aways from the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference but one of the most exciting was the rather unexpected discovery of barcamp. A collaborative (un)conference where everyone participates in discussions and sessions is a great idea and an ideal setting for meeting interesting people, growing community, and exchanging ideas and is something that I decided I wanted to bring to Minnesota. So I have picked a date (May 6th), a venue (local shop Catalyst Studios), some sponsors, and some great participants and started planning for MinneBar.
All the details are at the minnēbar wiki so for now I will just say that this will be a great event and if you are interested in participating add your name to the wiki and, if you want, please add what you would like to speak about or learn about.