BarCamp Boulder

November 13th, 2006

Typically I spend my “free time” either hanging out with my family, riding one of my bikes, trying to push mobility and NewsGator Go! forward, or consuming as much tech info as I can find. Over the last several weeks, those things have taken a back seat. Most evenings and weekends have been focused on making BarCamp Boulder happen.

It all started at Barcamp Denver. I chipped in a little bit on that as Danny Newman and Dan Lurie put on a great event. As that day started to wrap up I mentioned to Joe Pezzillo, another Boulderite, that we should do a BarCamp in Boulder. Several weeks later Joe and I crossed paths, and we decided to make Barcamp Boulder a reality. Joe suggested we do it on 11-11 (that’s 0×0F for all you geeks out there). How can you argue with that date. It was on! David Cohen from ColoradoStartups.com has a great write up on the event that you should check out.

I am not going to rehash David’s post, but I do want to talk about some of the things I learned in organizing the event. I think many of these lessons can be carried over to other life experiences. In particular, here are 4 lessons that are very applicable to anyone taking on a leadership role:

1. Surround yourself with great people. DL Thomas quickly joined Joe and I in organizing the event. Danny and Dan from BarCamp Denver stepped up and agreed to do whatever was necessary to help - you guys are awesome. Andrew Hyde quickly stepped up as well. Coming down to the wire, we started to have some issues securing a space for the event. Dirk Grunwald and Michael Main, two of my former CS profs at CU, came to bat with some options. But that was not necessary as the incredibly awesome folks from me.dium offered their space. Wow, I can’t even begin to express my gratitude to David Mandell, Kimbal Musk, Robert Reich, Herb Morreale and the rest of the me.dium staff.

The number of volunteers that helped out is too long for this post, but I will do my best to share this graciousness in another post.

Once, all these great folks were lined up to help with the event, things went incredibly smooth. Of course, I was very nervous that something would go wrong, but those worries were completely unwarranted. Coffee…. We need coffee… must have lots of coffee. No problem, Joe’s got that covered by two of the best coffee shops in town. Whiteboards, guest speaker? No problem, DL’s got that taken care of. Dry erase markers, name tags, sharpies? No worries, Andy’s got them. Ice? Thanks Danny. Beer? Thanks Bill. You get the point!

Great people can accomplish great things!

2. Stay out of the way. So, great folks were organizing the event, but that is only half the battle. The point of BarCamp is to let the attendees decide the direction of the event, so staying out of the way of this activity was a necessity and was easy to pull off. We kicked off the meeting with a thanks to the sponsors, intros from attendees, and the schedule was set for Saturday. This occurred very naturally with minimal friction and an incredible agenda was put in place.

The table was set for Saturday. With great organizers, phenomenal topics, and attendees willing to lead and participate success was the only outcome for Saturday! And it was a huge success.

When you have great people doing the right things (the right people in the right place on the bus) let tasks and activities flow naturally. I love Jim Collins’ work btw!

3. Gently nudge things when you appear to be drifting off track. There were a few points during the day on Saturday when a slight amount of intervention was necessary…. And I mean slight. When we arrived on Saturday morning, most folks were hanging around the coffee and just chit chatting. Can you blame anyone? This was certainly enjoyable and was working pretty well for me. I like coffee and I like to chit chat. At about 5 minutes after 9 am, I figured we needed to get on track. I just poked my head into the small groups that had formed, suggested we get rolling, and everything just fell into place.

At another point in the early afternoon things started to degrade a bit. I think the fine pizza, pasta, and intense morning sessions were taking a tool. We were starting to segregate into small groups talking water cooler smack once again. Not a bad thing, but we still had hot topics to discuss. David Cohen tapped me on the shoulder and suggested I nudge once again. I did that and we were quickly back on track and went another solid 4 hours of focused, educational, and thought provoking discussions.

When things get off track get them back on track gently but do NOT throw up any road blocks!

4. People in general are good and want to do good. There were so many folks offering advice, lending a hand, providing introductions, sharing knowledge and just having a good time. It was refreshing to be part of such a great experience. There were no agendas or hidden motivations just passionate folks who wanted to share, discover, and learn.

Have faith in the inherent good nature of humanity!

If you are kicking up a new venture, starting a new work project, organizing a charity event, CEO of a large company, or just thinking of rounding up the family for a weekend away, please keep these things in mind.

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One Response to “BarCamp Boulder”

  1. Adam Rubenstein Says:

    So when can we expect BarCamp Boulder 2?

    And how about a t-shirt design contest next time around.

    Congratulations on a great event! I’m sure jim collins would be proud…maybe have him as guest speaker at BCB2?

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