Monday 8 September 2008

This one time, at BarCamp...

barcamp Hong Kong 2008

I spent Saturday at Geekfest (term of affection, I promise), aka BarCamp HK. BarCamp is an unconference, where anyone who has any interest in the Internet goes along to debate, learn, and chat. We all turned up between 9 and 10, and after introductions, we had the opportunity to add a topic to the board. It could be a topic that you know all about, something you want to find out more about, or simply something that's happening in the industry. The “camp guides” then organise all of these topics into sessions and rooms. Some of them end up as mini-presentations with slides and timelines and everything, some of them are guided but much more informal, and veer off onto a related subject, and some of them a seat-of-your-pants, improv style. No prizes for guessing which mine was...

I came up with a rather snazzy name I thought, “Online Marketing for customer acquisition”. Mine was one of the first sessions, which was lucky. I mostly talked about what I did at Eurostar, and in the process I realised that we were actually quite sophisticated in some respects. Affiliate marketing here still has that slightly shifty, dodgy image it had in the UK 5 years ago – punters setting up crap websites and bunging a shedload of banners onto them in the hope that someone would a) miraculously find their crap site and b) miraculously click on a banner and c) miraculously buy something when they finally reached what they were looking for.

Anyway, there were about 200 people there. Here's a photo of 20% of the women present, along with Jimmy.

Topics were hugely varied, ranging from Drupal, Open Source and Creative Commons to iPhone apps, via Flex 4 SDK (?!)

At the end of the afternoon (before we retired to the bar – I got there first) we had 13 startup pitches. Each project had 4 minutes to sell itself, no laptops, no slides allowed. The idea with the most votes won an Xbox, so there were a few non-ideas, trying to wing their way to a free games console. However, for me the clear winner was a real-time public transport info system, or! I think we all voted for the URL really.

The day was pretty hard going to begin with as I arrived in a room full of 190 male, Cantonese-speaking geeks...but I met some great people by the end of the day, it was well worth going. I think in future, it would be good to try and make contact with at least one person before I go!

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