BarCamp Tampa Bay

13 Oct

I attended, and hosted, the first BarCamp in Tampa Bay this weekend. When I first read about BarCamp, I knew it was something I wanted to be associated with, and now that it’s over I’m really glad I was.

BarCamp is a different kind of event – one where open participation is encouraged and networking occurs in its rawest, most natural form. Although plenty of work went into the behind-the-scenes planning, it’s very much an ad-hoc gathering that was created from the desire for people to share and learn from one another. There are no keynote speakers, or even a pre-determined speaker lineup. The schedule is set the morning of the event based on what participants want to present and talk about, and what follows are intense discussions, demos and lots and lots of meaningful interaction. It’s exactly the kind of thing Tampa Bay needs in order to create a vibrant, more livable community.

The event went really well, especially for a first one. Attendance was a little lower than expected, and I’m not really sure why. Maybe people were not familiar with the concept. The people who did attend were extremely happy and seemed to get a lot out of it. The team of behind the scene coordinators was great to work with.

The first day, which focused on technical development, was a little over my head, but I learned a lot from new media day. I attended sessions like “How to Make Love to Your Customer” by Saul Colt of Freshbooks and “Insider’s Guide to New Media” by Brenda Young of Marbay Group.

Some nuggets:

  • Never sell anything on Twitter. Always make it about other people. Freshbooks does some interesting things with Twitter to show the love to their customers.
  • Use the same picture on all of your social media sites to build recognition.
  • New media is not just another avenue to broadcast the same message.
  • 50% of conversations about your company are taking place outside of your control.
  • A new concept called “coworking” is emerging, where people who freelance or work from home get together at coffee shops and such to socialize, do work and share ideas.

Web sites I’m going to check out:

  • – ask questions and get answers on Twitter
  • – track who stops following you on Twitter
  • – demographics for social media sites
  • – track clicks for your Twitter feed. This is a new program created by local BarCamper Kyle Graham.
  • – create a custom search engine
  • snackr – easily track newsfeeds
  • codiris – plugin for pictures that allows you to scroll images in 3D

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