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An ‘unconference’ of sorts…

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Method to their madness: Participants at the fifth Barcamp in Bangalore.
Method to their madness: Participants at the fifth Barcamp in Bangalore.

Deepa Kurup

The Barcamp is an informal meet where content is dictated by participants

BANGALORE: A couple of mattresses rolled out on the lawns and corridors, animated discussions about new-fangled developments in software coding, a discourse on improvising technology in bicycles, heated arguments over gender roles and utter chaos. This is just a small slice of the action-packed “technical unconference” at Barcamp Bangalore.

The cliché about self-absorbed techies cooped up for long hours in their global cubicles, coding and cracking, dissipates when hundreds of them gather under the sunny blue sky to discuss the one thing that they are passionate about — technology.

They call it an “unconference” because it is informal and the content is dictated by participants. This geek convention has a lot to offer. From fancy Google map applications to advice on new start-ups and entrepreneurs, this forum hosts a wide spectrum of topics and provides a platform for everyone to share and learn.

What is a Barcamp?

At first glance, the event seems like a chaotic after-concert party, with t-shirts, banners, food stalls, the works…but participants will convince you that there is a method to their madness. The concept originated in Pao Alto, California, as a counter to “Foo-camps” which were formal technical seminars, and spread to India in 2006.

This Barcamp, is the fifth of its kind in Bangalore.

Bangalore, which is touted as the outsourcing hub, is also host to several smaller start-ups and entrepreneurs trying to make it big in the world of technological innovation. The entire planning process from invitations to content is decided over interactions on blogs and groups called “collectives” on the Internet.

Ashish Solanki, a software engineer who works with a start-up software company says, “People like us use the web extensively, so it is the best way to organise it. His company has ideas which started as prototypes over here, engaged with these collectives, and evolved into start-ups. “We have come together later and conducted ‘design camps’ to follow up on this interaction,” he adds.

Technology has no meaning until it can inspire people to go ahead and innovate. Arun Ramarathnam, one of the organisers, says, “I have made some of my best friends here. I enjoy the camaraderie, besides all the exposure to fresh ideas.”

Their passion is evident as they clarify that they would prefer not to be talked about rather than being portrayed wrongly by the media.

Srinivas Yelandur who has attended the past three Barcamps, says, “The topics discussed vary from technical, psychological to social trends, and anybody is free to suggest a topic of their choice.”

There is complete chaos in the open sessions, with people walking in and out of these discussions. Mattresses are rolled out in eight locations around the campus and people passionately discuss various topics in these forums.

While one forum discusses the attraction between men and women, other hosts a workshop by a Bangalorean who has come up with the concept of a carpool which can be evolved using his application software which uses Google maps. Participants who heard him talk said that they would carry this beyond the barcamp and chart out their travel route on the software, so a car sharing system can be devised. “Fewer cars on the road means less pollution, so the process that is initiated here is carried forward,” says Amandeep Singh.

Amidst all the chaos and abandon, what comes through is the passion these people have for their work and the abundance of innovation and talent.

“We are trying to form an eco-system for like-minded people to help meet and discuss technology. Even those who want to start on their own can find a platform here which will help them realise their potential,” says Mr. Ramaratnam.

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