Les tenants et les aboutissants du BarCamp New York 2006
Publié le 17 janvier 2006 dans le journal Technology
Le BarCamp NYC est terminé et ce fut un grand succès. Plus de cent participants venus de New York City, de la côte ouest, du Midwest, de Boston, et d'autres endroits encore, ont convergé pour un week end complet d'amour de la technologie. Si l'on compare avec une conférence moyenne, nous n'avons utilisé qu'une humble structure mais les événements se sont très bien déroulés. La communauté a réalisé un événement à son goût et selon ses désirs et cela était parfait, comme cela devait être.
J'ai eu l'opportunité de parler avec des personnes incroyablement intéressantes (même si j'ai passé le plus clair de mon temps à courir de tous bords et aurait souhaité avoir plus de temps pour discuter). J'ai également assisté à d'excellentes présentations et eu la chance de parler à deux organisateurs de BarCamp sur la manière d'organiser de tels événements. Il est bon de voir ce phénomène se répandre ainsi.
Maintenant que c'est terminé, je souhaite prendre un moment pour réfléchir aux rouages nécessaires pour organiser et gérer un événement comme un BarCamp. J'espère que cela sera intéressant pour les futurs organisateurs de BarCamp. Voyez comment nous avons procédé.
Le lieu, la partie la plus difficile de loin, fut de trouver l'endroit propice. J'ai commencé à chercher fin août (même si je n'ai pas dit vouloir organiser un BarCamp à New York avant fin Octobre). J'ai contacté des amis et des amis d'amis. Parlé aux universités locales d'utiliser leurs locaux. J'ai essayé des salles qui se louent et d'autres non mais dont la configuration était adéquate. Ce n'est que début décembre que le BarCAmp:BarCampNYC2 a trouvé un lieu dans le bureau de la société Connected Ventures dirigée par mes amis Jakob et Zach.
L'espace envisagé devait avoir les caractéristiques suivantes: - Au moins 3 ou 4 salles de taille moyenne pour le interventions et les présentations - Un ou deux grands espaces de rassemblement - Au moins deux toilettes - Au moins une douche - La capacité d'accueillir 100 personnes durant la journée et de loger 50 personnes la nuit - Un accès internet haut débit illimité - L'utilisation libre du lieu pendant tout le week end
De préférence, il nous fallait un lieu facilement accessible par les transports en commun et disposant d'une cuisine pour faciliter les repas.
Bien qu'il y ait eu de plus petits endroits disponibles, trouver un lieu assez grand, équipé d'une douche, disponible pour un week end entier et capable de loger 50 personnes, en plein coeur de Manhattan, le tout gratuitement, était beaucoup plus dur que je ne l'aurais imaginé au départ. Merci à Zach et Jakob.
Mon conseil: Commencez tôt et ne laissez rien au hasard. Vous trouverez ce que vous voulez mais soyez prêt à faire des compromis créatifs (ou à payer un peu si vous n'avez pas le choix).
We talked about BarCamp on our blogs and invited people to sign up on our wiki and promote it themselves. Blogs were really all that needed to get the word out — our event was oversubscribed a week before it was to take place. Once we had a venue and a date, the rate of signups jumped dramatically, and the closer we got to the event, the more the rate increased. If we hadn’t closed down registration, I think we would have ended up with about twice as many people as we did.Organizers - BarCamp NYC would have been impossible without the help of Mike Goelzer, Nick Gray, and Kara Canal. Division of labor was helpful in doing all the preparations, but absolutely critical as the weekend unfolded.
My advice: Find reliable people who think it’s a cool idea and want to help make it happen. Find them early. Get them involved early and get their ideas for how to run the event better. If you’re lucky and can find people who you already know and trust, you’ll be better off when things start to go crazy.
Sponsors - I started talking to sponsors in late-October, right after I announced I was working on putting together BarCamp in NYC. At that point, we had no venue and no date, and I was about to leave the country for two weeks. All we had was an idea and the first BarCamp to point to. So I went first to the people I knew personally and asked them if they wanted to be involved. They did. As I worked on finding a venue, I also started contacting others who I thought might want to sponsor something like this. Here’s a rough template that I personalized. Once we had our first few sponsors, it was easier to get more. Things got still easier as we found our venue and it got closer to our date. Many of our sponsors contacted me in the last couple weeks, and we ended up having to turn some of them away.
Attendees - There were people that I really wanted to make sure came to BarCamp, and I wasn’t shy about contacting them and telling them so. Any event like BarCamp is dependent in large part on who shows up, so making sure cool people come is really important. Of course, you’re unlikely to know all the awesome people you really want to attend, but the more awesome people who know about it, the more likely it is that awesome that they know will find out about it. Preparations
Registration - We made the decision to have all attendees register formally online and deny entrance to anyone that hadn’t signed up online. This was a departure from the Palo Alto event, where you just had to sign up on the wiki, and the actual turnout ended up being a lot larger than the wiki would have indicated. Our decision was driven by the requirements of our venue (they had a recent break-in and were understandably reluctant to let an unlimited number of unidentified strangers into their offices.) In retrospect, registration gave us a much better idea of who would come on which days, which made our planning a lot easier.
We asked for name, email, presentation title (to get people thinking and remind them of the requirement that everyone participate), which day(s) the attendee expected to attend, t-shirt size, and general comments.
T-shirts - On Chris’s recommendation, we worked with the great folks at GoodStorm to get our Tees made. They made the process super-easy for us. To get them in time, we needed to order tees when only thirty or so people had filled out the formal registration form, so we didn’t know the full distribution or how many to order in total. We extrapolated and ended up going with:
Mens S 11 M 27 L 27 XL 18 XXL 6
Womens S 2 M 4 L 2 XL 3
For a total of 100. We used “gooder” stock, with a dark blue shirt. It ended up being a four-color print and we paid $858.85 + shipping. The tees arrived the day before BarCamp started.
Communication with attendees - We didn’t want to inundate people, so we sent one email two weeks before the event, and another one a few days before. The first one reminded people to register, asked them for help with equipment we needed, told them what to bring, and made suggestions for presentations (along with listing presentation ideas others had already submitted.) The second gave a few more details and timely reminders.
Equipment - Nick handled all of our equipment needs with aplomb. Basically, we needed 4-5 projectors to run 3-4 simultaneous session tracks, a whole mess of ethernet cables, switches, and power strips, and a wireless network. Attendees pitched in and brought the equipment, and Nick kept track of who was bringing what and when so we were able to set up most of it the night before. He also got Sunny from the NY Linux Users Group to bring a few access points and run the network throughout the event. (Note: Nick notes in his excellent writeup that people were constantly asking for mac DVI-VGA and Mini VGA-VGA dongles. Have these on-hand. Also, don’t forget to ask people bringing projectors to bring their power and VGA cables with them!)
Food - Our sponsors provided breakfast and lunch on both days, and dinner and beer on Saturday. They also provided snacks and coffee, other beverages, basic toiletries, and all sorts of other basic amenities. Kara and Mike spent the week before planning and ordering. Mike got our basic grocery items, plasticware, and trash bags delivered by grocery delivery service Fresh Direct. Kara and I picked up some more locally, and Kara planned and ordered all of our meals, working with a local pizzeria and Whole Foods catering department. Totals and times were checked and double-checked, and contact information shared to make things as smooth as possible on the weekend. Almost everything was vegetarian (very important), except for half the sushi and 3 of the pizzas (out of 15.) We expected to feed about 60-70 people at each meal, and that turned out to be about right.
Badges - Luke came up with the idea to have tags on our name badges, and Nick printed them out before flying to NYC from his home in Atlanta.
Misc - Stocked the fridge and cabinets and bathrooms, went over the next day’s introduction and procedures, put sponsor logs on the wall, papered up windows to block light into projector rooms, made signs to help people find things, made the schedule wall, etc. The Event
Check-in - Our official hours ran from 10a-5pm both days, and Nick manned the check-in table at the front door. Attendees were checked off the master list, asked to take off their shoes (Kara’s idea, and one that made cleanup a lot easier and the weekend a bit more fun), and told to put their session up on the wall. (Nick made the schedule wall, and it worked really well.) We had one room dedicated for people to drop off their coats and other stuff. As far as I know, nothing was stolen.
Starting things up! - We kept it brief. Day 1, we stood up, welcomed everyone, thanked the sponsors, told people about the schedule, the meals, the bathrooms, and to treat the venue nicely. Then we got going! Day 2, we did a quick welcome, and Kellan had everyone do a 5-word introduction that he remembered doing at FooCamp. It worked well!
Tracks - We started out with three tracks, but they filled up pretty quickly. Midway through Saturday morning, we opened up a fourth room. Although slots were 1 hour long each, many sessions were shorter, so people stuck their sessions in wherever they found space.
Scheduling - We had bagels, juice, and coffee out at 10am, and people trickled in between 10a and 11a. Our first sessions started at 11am each day, We ran lunch from 1:30-2:30 to give people a chance to recharge and network, and our last sessions started at 5pm. At 5pm on Saturday we went to a nearby bar (selected in advance by Mike) and at 7:30 we came back for a Sushi dinner.
Our schedule got thrown off a bit on Sunday by a late lunch delivery, so we ended up pushing sessions after lunch back 45 minutes. To help people through the wait for our late lunch, Matt Pelletier was nice enough to do an extra session where he asked the audience for web app idea and then built it in Rails as they watched!
Food - We had delivery problems with food on Sunday, due to the inept catering department at Whole Foods. We worked around it as best as we could (when coffee didn’t arrive on time, some attendees went with Nick to get some locally, when lunch got here late, we pushed the schedule back to accommodate.) Next time, we’d probably do easily transportable foods for lunches (pizza worked well for Saturday’s lunch, the sushi we had at Saturday’s dinner may have been better at Sunday’s lunch) so people could take what they want and head off to talk and work with others.
Saturday evening - The atmosphere after dinner was very mellow and very friendly. Lots of interesting conversations going on, lots of people joking around, playing (movies or super mario on projectors), or working together on presentations or projects. This was probably my favorite part of BarCamp. People were happy and just hanging out, having fun.
Sleeping - Somewhere between 20 and 30 people ended up spending the night, spread throughout the rooms and common areas. We didn’t give any instructions on what to do or where to go, everyone just figured it out on their own, found a space when they got tired, and bedded down. In the morning, people go up, showered, and were ready by 10 or 11. Again, no direction, no alarms, it people took care of themselves and each other. It was a beautiful thing.
Throughout the day - Mike kept track of budget, Kara kept on top of kitchen and food (Sunday), Nick stayed on top of equipment needs and check-in, I dealt with scheduling issues and generally helped keep things rolling.
Misc - Our elevators broke down on Saturday afternoon and remained broken for the rest of the weekend. This made check-in complicated for the rest of the event. Wireless internet was also a bit spotty, but was on most of the time. A backup connection would have been a good idea, though I’m not sure how we would have gotten it.
We had a backchannel going for the event, though as Nick pointed out, it wasn’t as widely used as it could have been. Similarly, it would have been nice to have each of the sessions documented more consistently. Jesse Chan Norris suggested making announcements at the beginning of each session to choose a few annotators, but it was hard to keep up. A few people used SubEthaEdit. In general, it would be good to give documentation more thought next time around. (Perhaps using audio or video as well.)
We had a waitlist going throughout the event, and I ended up letting in about half of the people in off of it as we had a better sense of who came and who didn’t.
We hit the top two hot tag slots on flickr, and Nick shot a really fun video of Saturday that he showed Saturday night. People had a whole lot of fun, and have already started asking when the next one will be. I think BarCamp NYC was a great success. The Aftermath
Cleanup - People want to pitch in, you just need to make it easy for them. Throughout the event were careful to keep emptying the trashcans so it was easy for people to pick up after themselves. Kara spent some time before the final sessions ended making up slips of paper, each with a self-contained, relatively simple task written on them. As the sessions ended and people shuffled out, she asked if anyone wanted to help clean a little. Almost everyone did, and she simply handed each person a slip of paper. Each task only took 10 minutes to complete, but with the help of so many people, the place was almost entirely clean by the time the last few people were leaving.
Accounting - We kept careful track of every receipt as we went along and made two copies of everything before leaving the venue. As we go through our budget spreadsheet, we’ll see how far off we were from our estimates in each category. I’ll link to our final budget here when Mike posts it. We left ourselves a cushion of a few hundred dollars in case of accidents of overruns, and spent it down dynamically as the event unfolded.
Sponsors - Our sponsors made this weekend possible, and I’ll send each an email to thank them. We also set aside a t-shirt for each sponsor that couldn’t attend in person. We’ll mail those out this week. Finally, we’ll also email each sponsor a final copy of our budget so they know exactly where their money went.
Attendee List - We’ll send out an email this week thanking the people who made this possible. We’ll also invite attendees to add themselves to an optional attendee list to be sent out to everyone who opts in. I got several requests to make something more comprehensive than what’s on the wiki available. And still more…
There are some good comments coming in from attendees on the wiki. In particular, some great suggestions on how to bettery divide up presentation rooms by length or subject of presentation.