Looking Back on BarCampAfrica

I didn’t have a very positive outlook about it going in to the day of BarCampAfrica. 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. The topics seemed great, but the format seemed off. Such is the good and the bad with these events of which I feel there was a lot more good for what I was personally trying to work on.
But before looking at all that was great about this BarCamp, it really needs to be noted that there were problems and that they stemmed from the fact that a conference format was trying to be mixed with an unconference format. Basically, this is like trying to mix wet and dry in that you end up with some kind of soupy thing. Such was the case with what ultimately ended up being a couple of sets of moderated panels mixed up with breakout sessions. They ended up trampling on one another and it seems that most people gave up on one or the other and just mingled in the common spaces. And even though it may have hurt Guy Kawasaki’s feelings that we weren’t all rushing in to hear his moderating of a panel, it was for the better that people were chatting and coming up with ideas in the true BarCamp intent.
Let’s move on to the goodness though and number one on this list 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.
Looking Back on BarCampAfrica

4 Replies to “Looking Back on BarCampAfrica”

  1. Wonderful post. Inspiring. Captivating. Summaries all that took place at BarCampAfrica. Yes, indeed, why in California instead of a certain point on the African continent?

  2. Well, if it is any consolation, there are plans to have an annual African Blogger’s Conference that will actually be in Africa called, Kelele. But there should definitely more conferences there in the future. Doing these things from a distance is one of the main problems with all African initiatives, which I realize we suffer from not being based in Africa, but we plan on working there a bit in the future as funds allow for it.

  3. As a participant in Ghana, we hada great time. Unfortunately we could not see or even hear the group in California. Mostly one way communications from our side and then none of us could log on to the chat feature to participate in the open forum…nonetheless it was a positive start. We look forward to collaborating with interested parties from abroad to GrowGhana! I hear there is going to be a barcampGhana coming in December focusing on the same points…and I do agree it would be great hosting the next events in Africa/Ghana…we would even volunteer to host the venue and put a few people up at our company campus.

  4. Sorry to hear you had so many problems trying to connect from the region that it actually affected. I think you’re the first person I’ve heard from on the other side of the water. It’s not surprising though given that a lot of things weren’t as smooth in the presentations as they could have been and the break out sessions (aka the core of a BarCamp) were really loose and hard to track down.

Comments are closed.