BarCamp Boston's most recent "unconference" was the first I'd ever attended. I was deep in a flurry of tweets when I stumbled upon their event announcement and call for volunteers. Planner that I am, I was intrigued by the gall it takes to put people in a space and rely on their interests and abilities to orchestrate a dynamic event. Once I read about that thrilling set up and their No Harassment policy, by Jove, I knew I needed to sign up.
I hearkened to the call and trudged out in the rain to Microsoft's NERD center in Cambridge. I made my way up to the registration desk to pick up my nifty badge and meet some of the other attendees. Once we got settled and filed into the common space for breakfast, we were greeted by Jay Neely, Digital Community Builder at the Boston Globe and organizer extraordinaire.
After Jay's rundown of the logistics, pastries, and coffee (that was just what I needed), the workshops were underway. Some of the more hilarious ones had names like "Immortality 101: How Steve Jobs Could Still Be Alive", followed by "Going from Perl to Go in Three Weeks". It seems that whether we're talking about the oft-referenced Jobs or the much missed Tupac Shakur, every subculture has its sorely missed bastion who was once larger than life. I'm still in the dark about what Perl is and whether Go is a place I'm interested in visiting. So it goes.
Attendees were encouraged to scribble topics they were interested in hearing about and affix them to the wall (after which other interested parties would place asterisks to "vote"). Once enough interest was garnered and a speaker stepped up to the plate, a space would be assigned. Jay Neely and Christopher Sherlin kept the #BCBos schedule updated so we were always in the loop. Christopher, a Front End Developer with the Boston Globe, was also kind enough to give yours truly a quick tutorial in the difference between UX and UI. I am forever in his debt.
I scampered to and fro, hitting up presentations like Steve Garfield's "Videoblogging with Hyperlapse and Snapchat", which included him regaling us with adorable stories about his parents. Mama Garfield has a blog of her own that is not to be missed. From there, I got a lesson in team building from Toy Pig Co's Robby Grodin. I rounded out my first BarCamp Boston experience with Amber P's presentation on podcasting and Albert Willis' informative (and entertaining) rundown on all things Bitcoin.
I weaved in and out of discussions, furiously scribbling notes in my Moleskine (like a liberal arts spy a la Carmen Sandiego). I took note of all the terms I was unfamiliar with a mind to google them all later. I gobbled snacks and took note of the tenor of each space - how sharp, how engaged, how (in the truest sense of the word) wonderful they were. I realized that though I've never written a line of code in my life, I was among my people.
The passionate ones. The ones who lived to dream and construct. To clarify. To work and rework. And, my goodness, it was wonderful company.
Over the years, I've come to appreciate the art and passion present within tech subcultures. You see, I'm a Romantic-era art lovin', Homeric ode quotin', Shakespeare and Kierkegaard referencin' thinker through and through...and it's easy for people in my fields of choice (philosophy and literature) to operate as if we have a monopoly on beauty and the romance of everyday life. Tech is not without its issues (for example, I was in a position to have lunch with a majority of the event's Black attendees...at a table of four), but the truth remains:
For every dream, societies need those who can render the dream into existence. For every person who can pontificate about an idea, we need someone to lay the groundwork, providing us with a framework for its implementation. For as long as there shall exist* a need for innovation...there shall be a need for innovators.
I, for one, am certainly glad we have them.
*This line is a nod to a Victor Hugo quote