Tuesday, October 21, 2014

BarCamp Nashville 2014 Recap: Pie, chimps, and more!

BarCamp Nashville 2014 is in the books and it was a good one.I personally had a great, very well rounded experience in that I got to attend some great sessions, met and talked to some new and interesting people, gave my own presentation, and then got to cap of the night by jamming at the after party. That was a pretty good day.

I've run a few events and conferences myself so I know how much organization goes into them and how hard it is especially with only volunteers. My hat is off to the organizers for doing such a good job. Here's a quick recap of my experience.

Special shout out to Eric Near, Chuck Bryant, and Audrey Hunter!

The Venue

I was sad about not going back to Sound Check but that is mainly for my selfish reasons of loving to play music there. Deavor was a very cool setting, truly reflecting Nashville's IT community environment. While a little cramped, I think the space was very effectively used. We were lucky with the good weather so that people could mingle and eat outside during breaks and lunch.

I was mainly in the Mud room most of the day and it was a good space for both presenting and attending a session. I was told there are plans to expand that space so that it may open it up more for next year. It would be nice to have some spaces outside of the session rooms for people to lounge and talk (maybe even some white boards and flip charts for some impromptu sessions?).

The Sponsors

With a free event like this, sponsors make it happen and there were some great companies helping out this year. It was nice that it was never an in-your-face sales pitch with any of them. While they all do want to get their brands out there and tell you about their services, they mainly just want to support the local IT community since a rising tide floats all boats.

Special note on the best SWAG of the conference. MailChimp gave away a ton of free knitted monkey caps that were a huge hit. Everyone was wearing them and sharing them on social media. Very well played, MailChimp! Other sponsors should take notice and remember that probably 80% of what attendees get in their bags get's tossed with barely a glance. Be creative in trying to get their attention and you will be surprised how well it can pay off!

The Sessions

One of the things I love most about BarCamp is the diversity of the topics. There is something for just about everyone from hard core coding, web development, social media, product marketing, etc. Tyson Cadenhead did good job showing us how to use Meteor.js and I loved Bryan Huddleston's session on the rising IT sector in Nashville. Unfortunately I had to miss some of the sessions I really wanted to see to get the band setup for the after party, but I heard lots of good feedback about all of the presentations.

The People

Networking and meeting new people is a big part of this conference and this year's was no exception. I think the smallness of the venue actually helped in that respect in that I was often just standing next to a group of people who spontaneously starting chatting.

One great experience was chatting with a guy that had attended one of my presentations about his ideas for a start up and then several people rolling by and adding their own spin to the conversation ranging from VC funding, to MVP, to hiring good developers, to getting your brand out.

I love that most of the people I talked to were starting their own business. I cannot claim to be very entrepreneurial, sticking with being the guy they call to get stuff done, but I have a ton of respect for those who risk it all to get their own idea out there. The variety of ideas was also very interesting from beauty/barber shop management to apps for behavioral change. I wish all of them luck and hope they make millions (just don't forget the guy you talked to when you just started out!). 

A thought I had for next year would be a bulletin board where some of these start ups could post something like "I need help with (XYZ)" and then some open space sessions could be organized around people who have that same need and people who might be able to help out.

The After Party

I was initially worried about the after party in the parking lot due to some threatening clouds (please do not rain on my Fender Stratocaster!), but there was no rain and it was only slightly chilly. The stage was excellent and the food and beer was delicious (Music City Pie's Cajun pot pies rule!). 

A bit of self criticism here in that the band tried some new, lesser known songs in our set which did not get everyone going initially. We will work on that for next year! Once things got going, and the beer started flowing, there were some fun moments with a rousing sing-a-long of the 4 Non Blondes "What's Going On?" and Gaines rapping to Ice Ice baby with Scott Walters laying down the fiddle (where else but Nashville?).

The Wrap Up

BarCamp continues to be a great technology event for Nashville and I am already excited about next year's possibilities. I encourage you to attend, speak (even if you think you have nothing to say), mingle, and have fun!

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