An attempt to conduct on-line meetings in a participatory environmentA NEW informal method of organising/conducting conferences, using Net technologies, is getting acceptance among a section of the tech community. This edition of NetSpeak takes a look at BarCamp, yet another fascinating phenomenon triggered by the Net.The distinct feature of open-source software development lies in its provision to keep the production process public and to allow the beneficiaries to be a part of it. As mentioned in the past, the concept is being tried out in many other areas as well. We have seen the application of open source concepts in a variety of ventures that include open source radio (http://www. hindu.com/biz/2005/05/30/stories/2005053000251600. htm) and open source books. The latest segment hit by the open source culture/philosophy is conference management. In this context, you may check out the piece `Open-Sourcing Conferences' (http://www.linuxjour nal.com/article /8392).In a conventional sense, a conference means a meet planned by a small group where a select few present papers and the others silently listen. BarCamp (http://barcamp. org/) is an attempt to conduct a conference in an open-informal and participatory-environment. Here, no one is barred from attending the conference or making a presentation. Complete planning is done through Net based communication tools (blog, IM, e-mail, Wiki and the like) and word of mouth. As the BarCamp kind of conference is conducted in a totally unconventional fashion, it is also known as `Unconference.' Unlike an invite-only traditional conference, here, the conference schedules are not pre-planned by the organisers. Anyone with something to say can post the topic on to the BarCamp Wiki or grab a vacant slot in the presentation board and the schedules evolve in an organic fashion. You are free to attend/present and also leave anytime you want. The organisers provide a good Net connection (generally with Wi-Fi support) and other minimum facilities. Attendees come equipped with laptops and other materials. Live blogging of the presentations, hosting of conference materials on the Net for sharing with the public and active interactions by participants are the hallmarks of a BarCamp. The BarCamp unconference fever, started in California (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barcamp), is catching up like wildfire worldwide. BarCampDelhi (http://barcamp.org/BarCampDelhi) is the first of its kind held in India. Many more such camps have been scheduled. This author had the opportunity to attend a recent BarCamp at Chennai (barcamp.org/BarCampChennai) for a day and was really moved by the love, commitment and collaborative spirit shown by the young IT professionals/entrepreneurs. Though the concept is popular mainly among IT enthusiasts and experts, it has the potential to be adopted by professionals in other fields as well.
On-line databaseWe have come across several on-line applications meant for data analysis, document creation and the like (Irows and Writely). Recently NetSpeak stumbled on a web-based application for creating/sharing on-line databases.Many netizens store details of favourite web sites for future use. Some keep them in the browser's bookmarks area, some others on an on-line bookmark service and the more tech savvy ones keep them on personal blogs under different categories. An alternative tool for storing such information will be a database that offers multiple ways to retrieve the content. And if we can create a site database on-line with relevant/customised fields such as URL, subject and description information management can be easier. Also, if a site's data can be fed to the database directly from the browser while we are on it, we can populate the database with ease. The on-line database creation service, Lazybase (http://lazybase.com/) may come handy in dealing with such problems.The free service Lazybase lets you create/share a database on your browser with a few mouse clicks. To create a database, just provide your e-mail address and database name and push the `create' button. The service will send you two links: one for administering your database and the other for public viewing of it. You can create several tables (here items) in a database. An excellent feature of this service is the facility to generate a bookmarklet for entering the data directly from the browser. You can create a data entry bookmarklet that automatically fills up some fields using the information from the page (like selected text, page URL and page title) being viewed.J. MURALI
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