BarCampAfrica: What Did Work

In my other article, I talked about what didn’t work at BarCampAfrica. This article gets in to what did work and what I came away from the event with.
In looking at the schedule, I was a bit concerned about how the whole conference and unconference would mesh up. I didn’t have a very positive outlook about it going in to the day. My main thought was to talk to people who I think are doing very interesting things and who I really wanted to get to know better. It was a simple goal.
Number one on the list of goodness is that I absolutely have to say that Google were fantastic hosts. They went above and beyond the call of duty by providing a location, a venue, and flying a number of people to the event all free of charge. Tara of Google.org was the tough head of the organizing, but she was extremely cool and great at keeping order in a way that didn’t make you dislike her. Even though things were running way, way off schedule, she did everything she could to make sure it stayed enjoyable. I had a lengthy chat with her at the end of the day and have to say that I respect what she does a great deal.
Then of course there was the food that Google provided. Holy crap the employees there are treated well. The breakfast had brilliant scones and the lunch was a simply perfect salad, pasta, and other items. They even had Mighty Leaf Tea which I took full advantage of as I was extremely tired after putting in some long days on Maneno leading up to the event.
When it came to those setting up the event, Kaushal Jhalla stood out as doing a great job linking people up. He was responsible for putting me in contact with a great many people I would have missed otherwise because I simply didn’t know who they were. His knowledge of everyone who was attending was something that he used that day to connect people together who were working on similar projects that could help one another. That worked very well and it wasn’t just me that he linked up. He was doing it for everyone.
I mentioned previously how the schedule fell apart pretty fast. Or, maybe it just did for me. I got lost as to what was happening where after the first breakout session and so I just started talking to people in the hall. I found it great that so many Google people took an interest in the event, since it meant coming in to work on their day off. I have no idea if I’ll have ongoing contact with these folks, but the chats that I had were very informative to find out that the way I’m building a lot of things on Maneno are similar to how they’ve approached the problems at Google. But beyond the Google folks, I met tons of other great people like Paa from the Kamusi Project and David Kobia from Ushahidi. Both are people I hope to have more contact with.
And that was the ultimately great thing about the day. I got out just what I was hoping to get out of it. I met tons of interesting people who all seemed very excited about my project and it was a tremendous boost for people to be so interested in it as my family has no clue what I’m doing. There were some more permanent connections made as well, since the Maneno Twitter nearly doubled in followers after the event. Follow along if you’d like to see what’s happening with the project.
It will be interesting to see what happens next year with BarCampAfrica as there were those in Africa who were very unhappy as to why it was in California. Obviously, there are a great many more questions to be asked and answered over the coming year. It will be interesting to see the solutions and how the next event comes about.
BarCampAfrica: What Did Work