BarCamp Singapore 3: a truly socially constructed experience

Photo by the incredibly ramblinglibrarian

Inspired by the ramblinglibrarian, I’d like to share my experience in virtual attendance of my first BarCamp, namely BarCamp Singapore 3.

Organized by Preetam Rai (who also shares his experience), and helped by many others including @claudia10, @shenheng, @cneil, the event had over 200 registrations, with just over 150 participants by lunch time. Many of my friends presented, including the ramblinglibrarian on “Publishing your music online“.

How #BarCampSG3 took off…
Most participants posted updates on twitter, and while we used an array of tools to keep track of BarCamp related conversations, Ben Koe reminded us about TwitterFall. Of all the ways to display twitter hastags, I’d recommend this for future conferences. Searching through flickr, sadly not many made the effort to upload photos; hopefully we’ll see more appear tomorrow. Aaron Koh conducted video interviews via Qik, while Brian Koh liveblogged Coleman Yee’s talk on Information Architecture (I heard was damn good!). Being far away from home, these folks offered the cognitive window (or wormhole) through which my synaptic tendrils could extend.

Although I’ve been a fan of BarCamps, the funny thing is that I’ve never had the opportunity to join one. BarCamps consist of open, participatory workshop-events, whose content would typically be provided by participants. In other words, the BarCamp idea is to have participants not simply listen, but contribute as well.

Despite being in Buffalo, I felt the call to support the BarCamp back home, so Preetam helped hook me up via Skype to deliver my talk. I had a bunch of topics prepared for different audiences (from education to public relations), so I decided to go with the simplest one for my first run:

Even my muppet “Prof Cheeko” couldn’t save the day… presenting over Skype is hard!

Now this BarCampSG3 presentation was adapted from my earlier PRSA talk where I introduced public relations professionals to the world of social media. The gist of my talk was to give them an idea on how to honestly get started, immediately after my session.

While the PRSA folks loved it, participants at BarCamp Singapore didn’t seem as enthused. Just listen to the difference between the above BarCampSG3 video and this PRSA presentation’s audio (play slideshow for crowd audio).

What went wrong?
Despite delivering several talks via Skype before, I actually felt that this might have been my worst performance ever, thus a veil of guilt fell upon me this once:

  1. Easiest Assumption: I suck. Self-doubt followed by a quick dive out the window from the top floor.
  2. Wrong topic for the crowd: I should have upped the ante and shared something more challenging.
  3. It’s just Skype: WIth the hisses and pops, I had a hard time figuring out if people heard me, or if I got any reaction from them. In fact, I had the sensation that I was flying blind. It didn’t feel good at all, especially since I couldn’t interact with participants as much as I wanted to. It’s like trying to tell a joke through sign language. Tough.

Aside from my sobering Skype experience, it was clear how enjoyable the rest of BarCamp was. From the tweets, the attendees clearly loved it, citing #BarCampSG3 as the best event they’ve attended in a long time. Understandably so… it was a buffet for the mind, from folks of equal standing, taking turns to show one another remarkable things. In essence, five simultaneous tracks of philanthropic yet delicious braindroppings.

I can’t wait for the next Barcamp to redeem myself. If you like to see the BarCampSG3 presentations, some of the slideshows are now up on

UPDATE: While #BarCampSG3 was trending to the number one spot on twitter last Saturday, creeping up behind was #fisting. I didn’t think much about it at first until a fellow academic pointed me to the #fisting instigator. Kinda funny, kinda insidious.

6 thoughts on “BarCamp Singapore 3: a truly socially constructed experience

  1. Hi Kevin, reading your words like “worst performance” and “veil of guilt” suggests that (1) you’ve a high commitment to quality, (2) you are committed to giving the best to your audience.

    But if I may comment as a Barcamp newbie, in the spirit of barcamping I don’t think there’s ever any “screw-ups” in the whole sense. I bet if I were the audience, even if (emphasis IF) it was a screw-up, that itself is a learning point isn’t it? I mean, how many people have attempted Skype-deliveries?

    I think what’s important is the learning process. By blogging about how it can be done better, that completes the learning cycle for Round 1. A screw-up would be if you didn’t try for a Round-Two (not necessarily Skype but something else, within your means). Cheers.

  2. Kevin, first of all, it was not so bad. I guess you got that feeling cause the audience was a bit sedate. They did actually chuckle a few times and were interested. It was only the second session of the day and a skype session must have been a bit disorienting for them. We did another skype later in the day in Zibin coming in from Opera in Oslo and people had warmed up enough to ask questions etc.

    Here is what I think we should we should do next time when we skype someone in

    1. Get the audience to come closer to the screen and nearer to the speaker so that the speaker can see the audience reactions.

    2. The light banter you had with Kelley at the end was good. We should have done that before the session started. Like give about 5 minutes for the audience to know you and talk to you before you start the actual presentation.

  3. Preetam, first, thanks for organizing the BarCamp. I think it went very well as it has diversity of topics! Second, good ideas. Yes, huddling closer would be good, and so would light chatter before we actually started. ­čÖé

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