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Barcamp -- Funny Name, Fun Event
Published Monday, October 26, 2009 6:40 PM
By Paul Zoeller
Summerville Journal Scene
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What do you get when you mix a group of computer geeks, belly dancers and cooks in a classroom environment -- Barcamp Charleston of course.

What is Barcamp? It is a conference whose content is provided by the actual participants. Started in California, Barcamp is now an international event catering to creatives who want to learn as well as teach their craft. The events are usually free and largely organized through the web.

Bran Cedio of Charleston teaches a belly dancing class during Barcamp Charleston.

The first Barcamp Charleston was held on the old Navy base at the Lowcountry Innovation Center in North Charleston. Its great to see the Navy base coming back to life as businesses move in to fill the empty buildings.

Saturday morning started really early as over 200 participants started filing through the doors at 8:00 a.m. armed with laptops, cameras and smart phones.

Attendees leave their thoughts, comments and doodles on a piece of fabric.

This event was a coming out party for computer wizards and programming nerds who fully embraced their societal labels.

One guy presenting his idea for a class actually blurted out, "I am a computer geek!" When you're smart, why hide it.

Everyone listens to instructions before giving their ideas for classes at the beginning of the event.

It is safe to say I was not the smartest person in that room. In fact, if that had been my high school graduating class, my class ranking would have been so low they would have held me back a year.

But that is what is great about a conference, or "unconference" as they refer to it -- I get to pick the brains of some intelligent people. This kind of backfired on me at the first session, though.

A scheduling board fills up quickly with about 50 sessions from computer language to social skills classes.

I wanted to learn how to make an iPhone app from Paul Reynolds from Myrtle Beach. I love the apps I have but have always wanted to custom design a camera app just for me. After listening to all the work that goes into making an app, I am better off spending 99 cents to buy one instead. Crazy talk of Xcode, registering with Apple and other big words that I forgot. The class was beneficial because I could have spent countless hours researching just to learn what I did in one 45 minute class.

The next class was better, still over my head but better. The guys from {e} house studio talked about using a standard web language for webpages. Again, they spoke in a foreign language called html5 but I was able to ask questions and get the gist of their presentation. Even better, they entertained more of my questions after class -- you know, the dumb questions you don't want to ask in front of others.

Some classes were very involved technically and some were not.

That was one of the cool things about the conference, people were not trying to sell you their product but impart some of their wisdom. I could ask questions and they didn't try to sell me a book on how to do it. Even after classes, people were still asking questions and discussing topics.

Also, the sessions were less like a class but more like a group discussion where many ideas were heard and talked about.

Lunch offered attendees a chance to meet others as well as learn.

After the morning sessions, lunch was served and valuable time spent on a motorized skateboard. The lunch, like everything else at the conference, was free and the skateboard was dangerous (at least in my hands). Free and dangerous -- two of my favorite words.

Somewhere there is a picture of me trying to negotiate a corner on the monster skateboard. Where was that when I was younger? Kids today have all the fun toys.

Daniel Russell-Einhorn demonstrates how to ride a motorized skateboard.

After lunch and socializing, we headed back to the classrooms. Sessions from fear of public speaking to using twitter or rebuilding an Xbox could be found on a large schedule board. One called Siesta, Spanish for nap, could be attended after lunch.

Participant Nathan Smith uses his lunch break to take part in a conference call.

I chose to attend a class on robotics. Team 342 started in the Dorchester 2 school district but has expanded to include students across the Lowcountry. The students help design and build a robot for competition against other schools across the country. The presentation was a hit as attendees got the chance to maneuver the robot around the room.

Finally, one class I saw delivered no technical jargon or fancy code. It was still out of my league but fun to watch. Bran Cedio taught an intro to belly dancing class. Gotta be honest, I underestimated the amount of work that goes into that dance and I have a whole new respect for Cedio along with the girls who gave it a try.

People were given the opportunity to maneuver Robot 342 through the room and pick up rubber balls, much like students do in competition.

I didn't get to stay for the grand finale of bacon cooking but heard it was a tasty hit.

Artist Joanna Jackson paints at her booth in the demo&display area where many artists displayed their work.

Barcamp is a great concept of receiving and imparting knowledge. What knowledge did I impart? Not much but I did push the button for the group picture. Others though opened my eyes up to new technology and ideas I would have spent a lot of time trying to learn on my own.

Events like this not only offer a place for learning but for meeting others as well.

Over 200 of the Barcamp attendees and I posed for a group picture after lunch.

The concept of Barcamp kind of reminds me of all the times my parents tried in vain to pass along wisdom to me and it went in one ear and out the other. This time around I paid better attention

I can't wait for Barcamp Charleston next year because I think I finally figured out that motorized skateboard.

Paul Zoeller is a freelance photographer new to the area. Do you have an idea for a new blog or a question about a current blog? If you do contact Zoeller at

Comments (6)

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So much good stuff
Thursday, October 29, 2009 12:36 AM

The event was wonderful, but I don't think I anticipated how much I was going to wind up enjoying all the stuff people did to document it. These photos are wonderful, Paul. Just wonderful.

Posted by: Dan Conover
Happy Camper
Tuesday, October 27, 2009 9:19 PM

Thanks for the shout out and choosing a photo where I look somewhat coordinated. This article is a great one for me to forward to friends who ask, "What was that BarCamp thing anyway?". Keep up the good work.

Posted by: Kathleen Donnelly (red-shirted novice belly dancer)
great stuff
Tuesday, October 27, 2009 3:33 PM

love your pictures Paul, really love 'em! geoff. (the video camera man!)

Posted by: geofftech
skateboard video
Tuesday, October 27, 2009 12:05 PM

it's not just a photo of you riding that skateboard, it's a short video clip

Posted by: imabug
I remember this guy
Tuesday, October 27, 2009 10:55 AM

He sure looked grumpy Saturday.

Posted by:
Tuesday, October 27, 2009 3:15 AM

Thanks for the great post with great pics. I drove down from Asheville, North Carolina and had a blast at BarCampCHS. It was great to meet-up with like-minds.

Posted by: Jose Ibarra :: @h0zae

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