Scenes from BarCamp New Orleans (a.k.a. BarCamp NOLA), Part 4


BarCamp NOLA 4 logoHere's the fourth part of my report from BarCamp NOLA, which Edward Ocampo-Gooding and I attended last weekend as part of the BarCamp Tour. In case you missed the earlier postings, you can find them here:

Hack Day Project Announcement


After lunch -- once again, I have to say it was the best lunch that I've had at a BarCamp on this tour -- came the announcement of the BarCamp NOLA Hack Day project. BarCamp NOLA typically spans two days, with the first day being for the BarCamp unconference sessions and the second day set aside for a full-day Hack Day. On the Hack Day, participants try to complete a single for-the-community software project in a single day. The project must be something that's useful and maintained long after the Hack Day has come and gone.

The previous Hack Day projects for BarCamp NOLA are:

After a brief introduction from BarCamp NOLA co-organizer Matt Tritico...

...came the introduction to the idea for this year's BarCamp NOLA Hack Day project. It was to be an index of people in New Orleans who do tech, creative or entrepreneurial stuff, modelled after community sites like Portland, Oregon's PRTLND and Des Moines' Des Mob:

We were told to think over how we'd build such a system, what sort of things should go into it, and to think about what worked for the other cities' sites and what could be added and dropped from the New Orleans version we were going to build the next day. We were also reminded that such a project takes effort from people with different skill sets: not just techies, but artists as well as businesspeople.

The Afternoon Sessions

I caught the session run by Jonathan Kay, Ambassador of Buzz for Grasshopper Group and one of the driving forces behind the BarCamp Tour, which was titled How to Build Brand Loyalty. If there was someone at BarCamp qualified to talk about getting the word out about your brand, it's Jonathan. He's the master of getting the word out about your company, getting people to remember your brand, and getting other people to mention you.

"Hey, Jonathan," I asked before he started his session, "are you going to be intense during your presentation, or very intense?"

"I don't know yet, man," he replied with a grin, "but we'll see!"

He didn't disappoint.

After Jonathan's presentation came Photoshop Compositing and Post-Production for Photographers. It was pretty in-depth stuff, and all the serious pixel-pushers among the attendees were there, taking copious notes.

I decided to check out the Improv Comedy 101 session being held in the lobby. I used to do the improv music with the TheatreSports improv players in Toronto, so this topic was near and dear to my heart. Besides, this was an interesting departure from most BarCamp sessions I've ever seen.

Unlike the other sessions, there were a lot of group participation exercises led by Chris Trew in order to familiarize people with the guiding principles of improv.

Luckily for the people attending the session, Chris is particularly good at explaining and demonstrating improv techniques and coaxing and cajoling performances out of people.

Here's one of my favorite scenes from the session, with Yelp NOLA's Jessica Rohloff getting into the spirit of performance and adding some body language:

The principles of improv are pretty interesting and offer some useful lessons to people who work collaboratively. I'll post some thoughts on them in another article.

In the meantime, the BarCamp Tour people waited to get to their next session:

From left to right, here are BatchBlue's Christelle LachapelleMailChimp's Sharon Teng and Federico Holgado and Grasshopper's Jonathan Kay.

I passed by the Code for America session, which was in full swing in the Idea Room. This non-profit organization is attempting to solve "the core problems facing our communities" by harnessing the power of software developers and techies to use the power of the internet and data "to make governments more open and efficient, and become civic leaders able to realize transformational change with technology". Simply put, it's coding for civic causes.

Here's the Business Intelligence: No Security Clearance Required session:

The I-P Building where BarCamp was held is a beautiful place with a lot of interesting spaces. Here's a little lounge across the hall from the Idea Room. I can picture myself hanging out here as a little getaway from the desk; I could even get work done here without a problem.

Here's a close-up of what's on that whiteboard: Trust Your Crazy Ideas:

I like that many of the hallway walls are covered with local-themed art, presumable created by local artists:

Finally, the last session of the day. As a representative of one of the sponsors, I have a policy of not leading a session unless there's a slot available that's not being filled by a local, and in such cases, doing them at the end of the day. There was an end-of-day slot left open in the LaunchPad office which Ryan Murphy and I decided to fill. Its title: Mo' Money, Mo' Problems:

Ryan recently graduated from BU with a Law degree and he's quite an economics and finance buff. He did the macroeconomics portion of the presentation, talking about the relationships between the Treasury, the Fed and the Banks, as well as the debt ceiling issue that's currently eating up the news cycle (when it isn't obsessed about celebrities). Ryan's an articulate speaker, and we'd all benefit if we could get him on CNN, MSNBC and FOX with a giant blackboard for ten minutes, just to explain how Big Money moves:

I took the microeconomics part: what does this all mean to you, the independent developer, designer or entrepreneur? In the end, it boiled down to being prepared for the possible outcomes that Ryan outlined (cutting spending, devaluing debt - a.k.a. increasing inflation, the government defaulting) and building your own healthy, stable and thriving microeconomies by support each other. I'll elaborate on these ideas in a later post.

Ryan, you did a wonderful job presenting. I saw some people light up with understanding as you explained how Big Money worked. I hope you'll continue to do this; this is information a lot of people need!

The day concluded with clean-up where everyone -- organizers, sponsors and attendees -- pitched in. A couple of hours after that, we reconvened for the BarCamp NOLA Afterparty at the Rendon Inn, who had a great selection of beers and good ol' southern cooking, including bacon-wrapped-bacon and some very delicious deep-friend pork balls.

Next: The Hack Day!