This post by Blackstone Content Correspondent Summer Suleiman originally appeared on ideavillage.org.
If you’re looking for a place where you can be your self and indulge in all things tech, BarCampNola is it.
It’s is a two day self-proclaimed, “unconference” that takes place at Tulane every year. This past year was the eighth annual BarCampNola, but it was the first one I made it out to.
So what’s an “unconference”?
It’s the antithesis of a conference. It’s a place where people can openly talk, exchange ideas and shared interests.
And just hang out.
I talked to Barrett Conrad, co-organizer of BarCampNola to find out where the name came from. Conrad says it it’s a nod to an old concept originally started by a Silicon Valley entrepreneur named Tim O’Reilly.
“In 2003, O’ Reilly kicked off a series of conferences, mischievously called “Foo Camps” (the name is a tribute both to programmers, for whom “foo” is a placeholder word like “whatchamacallit”). The camps were purposely meant to NOT be about business plans and marketing proposals.” (Forbes, 2006) They were a place where people could casually hang out and exchange ideas.
And that’s exactly what BarCampNOLA is, and why it’s so cool.
For starters, organizers of BarCampNola introduced a session by having one of their teammates dressed up in a villain costume attack the presenter.
If you’re one of those folks who feels awkward at formal networking situations (raises hand eagerly!), but love to meet new people and make authentic one-on-one connections, BarCampNola is a good start.
I pulled up a chair next to Quinton Jason, a front end developer, who presented on SVGs, a file format, and a few other folks, they happily invited me into the conversation about a cool project they were working on, a code they were trying to crack, or a cool new 3D game they were perfecting.
And when I asked Jason if he liked the SVG format better than other formats like jpeg and gif, he casually said, “Shit yeah”.
Then, Kurtis Rainbolt-Greene, a software developer, who Quentin was talking with before I joined the conversation, gave me an example.
“Imagine if you had an American Express photo and you want to blow it up into a billboard. If the photo is in SVG format, you can do that automatically and you don’t have to worry about the quality of the image,” Rainbolt-Greene said.
Do you get that experience at a conference?
Justin Kray, was playing a 3D block game he developed called Interrupt, a multi-player game which creates connections in 3D space, when I started asking him questions about why he was at BarCampNola. He offered up some interesting insight on board games, explaining that how they are re-emerging in our tech consumed culture.
Meanwhile, Jason dived into another conversation about coding and completely lost me. He was gushing about a program called Codepen. Do you know anything about code? (Surely, I appeared to be dazed and confused.)
“Not a thing, but I want to learn,” I said.
“Codepen is like Facebook for developers,” he told me.
“Aha!” I exclaimed.
My second lightbulb moment of the day. The first was when I walked into room, and realized there is a very cool, laid back community of tech junkies in New Orleans, and it turns out they convene at thisthing called BarCampNola. And even the tech UN-savvy are welcome.