Barcamp Rhein-Neckar

The past weeks were more about working instead of blogging, this weekend will be the opposite: I’m attending Barcamp Rhein-Neckar in Mannheim today and tomorrow. And I’ll use this blog entry to report about my findings.

Introduction

The Barcamp is opened by Habu (who is a professor at Mannheim University) who greets the Barcamp visitors, explains a few organizational facts and leads over to the session planning. A local bakery provided pretzels, but there’s no coffee…

Session Planning

After the first round of session offers, the schedule for saturday is almost full, but sunday still has quite a few open slots.

Session: OpenSocial

OpenSocial is a social software component system provided by Google and used by many social platforms, e.g. Ning. It provides an API that enables users to integrate gadgets from one participating platform on another.

The user’s accounts on the different platforms get associated by providing the concerned login information, there’s no single sign-on mechanism.

Gadgets get included into a web page via HTML IFrames, triggered by either Javascript or a REST mechanism.

Lunch break

The Barcamp organisators had closed an unusual deal: Without even asking what a Barcamp is, the local McDonald’s branch agreed to sponsor the saturday lunch with a 9-piece Chicken McNuggets, fries and beverage per person. Unfortunately, this was the first time since my breakfast back home that I got something to drink. I wonder how the fact that a Barcamp audience and especially the speakers need liquids could get ignored!

Session: Enterprise 2.0

The introduction of social software in a company usually has to have management backing.

RSS helps building information flows that are independent of departments and hierarchies.

Enterprise 2.0 has technical and cultural aspects. The discussion over this last topic takes the rest of the session time.

Session: Education 2.0

The session is meant to be more of a round table for an exchange of opinions. It starts with a short introduction of the audience members. A repeating topic is that the transfer of knowledge, especially in schools and universities, is in many cases very ineffective.

The social media scene offers many tools that enable people to learn whereever, whenever and however they want: blogs, podcasts, vidcasts etc.

Learning is not exempt from the monetarization issue: how can advertising work in that area? One idea: let the learners decide how much they are willing to pay or, alternatively, willing to accept advertisements. For example, the price of downloading a podcast on a certain topic could be lowered if a listener consents to a number of interstitials.

Sunday

I arrived a bit late because the train I had planned to take actually doesn’t go on sundays. Fortunately, Oliver Gassner had moved the second part of his GTD talk to a later time, so I didn’t miss it.

There are much less visitors today than yesterday and many slots on the talk schedule are empty, too. On a positive note, there’s now a table with plastic bottles with water and juice. Still no coffee, though.

Session: GTD in web projects

Problems setting up the laptop and Powerpoint for using the projector cost the presenter about 15 minutes. Those things should be prepared before the talk.

The talk finally starts with a slide show of random light bulb pictures to which the speaker connects web project phases. When the presentation changes to slides about the conceptual phases of a web project (wireframe, marketing concept, business plan etc.), I realize that this talk is as much about Getting Things Done as the WWF is about sports. For the rest of the time, I concentrate on getting blog posts done.

Lunch break

To achieve a balanced nutrition after yesterday’s visit at McDonald’s, we decided to eat at Burger King today. :-)

Session: GTD, part 2

Oliver continued his introduction into the Getting Things Done concept he started yesterday. He explained it well and added helpful real-life examples.

Session: Mac essentials

Wasn’t able to liveblog this session, was busy presenting it. :-)

Session: Featuritis/Geekeritis

Robert Basic talked about the question how many functions a web site or web application should offer to the user. The talk reminded me of Getting Real, the great book the guys from 37signals.com wrote about concentrating on a web application’s core functionality.

Final thoughts

From an organizational point of view, BlogCamp Switzerland was far better than Barcamp Rhein-Neckar, especially because of its tight adherence to the schedule, and fair supply of food and drinks. On the other hand, only about half of the people that registered for Mannheim actually showed up, which could have resulted in a lot of leftovers. That lack of reliability is sad and irritating — not only for the organizers.

There were a lot of talks whose topics weren’t interesting to me. After all, I am not about to launch a social networking platform for homing pigeon owners that want to visualize flight patterns on a Google Map, offering geo-encoded and DRM-free audio of the animals. ;-)

But visiting Barcamp Rhein-Neckar was great for talking to people in real life who I’ve mostly met online before. Therefore, I’d like to greet Oliver Gassner, Silke Berz, Andreas Dittes, Matthias Pfefferle, Artis Cordobo, Marco Ripanti and Armin Karge — thank you for interesting and entertaining conversations!

And finally a big thank you to everyone involved in organizing the Barcamp, to all sponsors and everyone who offered a presentation or talk.