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Wireless Utopia

The journey towards a free wireless world.

The Decline of BCB

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Its fascinating to see how Bangalore Barcamp is evolving. I have attended all the four events till now. My main motivation being a) network with like minded people and b) attend the interesting talks. To get an idea of how it has changed, here's a comparison of the format, the focus of the event and the position of the topics and participants page on the website.

The first one was a one day event with the classic paper wiki. The theme was Web 2.0 and the participants and talks was on the first page itself. It featured talks from Tara Hunt, Pete Demmer of Yahoo and even Chirs Messina. Its was relatively a small event, with around 100 or so people turned up. It was definitely a good start.

The second one happened six months later at the wonderful Thought Works office. This time it was a two day event and and the theme was entrepreneurship. The website seems to be empty, but if I remember right, the participants and topic page was one click away from the main page. True to its character, the best discussions happened in the vast main hall. One memorable moment was when Sandeep Singhal asked the audience how many wanted to start off on their own and almost all the hands shot up!

The third one happened around four months later at IIM Bangalore. The format was modified a bit to have rooms dedicated to each topic. The theme was more or less centered around Technology. The participants and topics were on different pages, one click away from the main page. The best of talks were in the Mobile track. That room was always full! I loved the session by Savita Kini about services vs. products.

The fourth one happened four months down the line and was a two day event. This time the format was changed to group topics into collectives and were given a shorter time in each room. The official theme was Technology and Social Implications. The topics page was three pages away from the main page depending upon which collective you were interested in. The organization left a lot to be desired and it chaotic at times.

The fifth one has just been announced. The theme and the participants/topics page is not up yet, but I expect it to be similar to BCB4. But reading this gives me a distinct feeling that it is moving away from its unconference roots.

To my mind, BCB3 was the peak and the decline has started. One of the most attractive aspects of Barcamp was its simplicity. It was easy to find who was attending and who was talking about what. With each Barcamp it got progressively difficult to do so. With BCB4 it was impossible to get a quick snapshot and I dont expect BCB5 to be any different.

To think of it, the significance of Barcamp has also diminished over the past year with more events and unconferences cropping up. Barcamp itself has played an important role in germinating these events. These spinoffs have taken over the role of bringing together people around a narrower common interest. And as such Barcamp in its bloated form does not really interest me any more.

But still its hard not to feel nostalgic about BCB. It was fun while it lasted.

Edit: Check out Jace's response here. Have a look at the comments as well.

Eidt 2: If you are one of the organizers and want to suggest that I should do something instead of whining, pls. stop here. Read this, read the post once more and spare yourself the trouble.

Edit 3: OK. If I look back at this thread with a cooler mind, it does seem very harsh. Its embarrassing in fact. Sorry for getting carried away.

Tags: , , , ,
posted by Rajiv, 2:41 AM


Couldnt agree with you more on BCB's changing avatar. I attended the SFO Barcamp and one thing that was distinguishly different was it's simplicity - they relied less on technology and very well organized - just the way, BCB3 was!

Hope things will change, but after attending BCB4,I am not too sure how serious will I be about BCBs.I believe the bigger problem is a "few pockets" of people tend to take BCBs as their own personal party and end up screwing the format.
Said Blogger Ashish, 10:55 AM  

its astonishing how much effort actually goes in BCB's. long meets every weekend, mailing list for organizers, getting sponsors and what not. i guess its easier to do it in other places with a well developed ecosystem. someone just donates their meeting hall and sponsors are ready to cover the expenses!
Said Blogger Rajiv, 12:13 PM  

Ashish, if you're up to it, you can run your own Barcamp. No one holds a monopoly on organising one. It would also help if you could come in and explain how you think things could be done better, and understand the challenges we face putting together one.

Barcamp Bangalore has more people knocking on the doors than anywhere else. Several hundreds of them. No one has an reasonable answer yet for how to limit entry in a way that does not exclude the keenest contributors. We have to deal with all those people, and with most expecting a conference environment and interpreting the lack of imposed order as event management failure.

How many did you see lending a hand to make order out of chaos? Did you?
Said Blogger Jace, 10:03 PM  


You can not say, run your own Barcamp to every one who raises a concern. Being part of team of BCB 2,3 and 4 I myself was not comfortable with the way BCB4 done and How BCB5 is going on

We can not keep saying like that, and shut the mouth of the people. I called BCB5 first meeting thinking to keep in simple format.

It is all about Top down or bottom up. Check the collectives formed till now. They are more like a topics.
Said Blogger Kesava, 10:30 PM  

If you're not happy with the way things are done, what are your options, Kesava?

1. Put a hand in and help fix things.
2. Run your own event or join another team.
3. Grumble and move on.
4. Grumble and remain a nitpicker in the sidelines.

Anything else?
Said Blogger Jace, 11:32 PM  


Be careful what you wish for. BCB has already been forked into several smaller camps. The serious folks will move to these camps.

As you rightly said, the challenge with BCB is to how to manage the audience who's just interested in attending, not participating. My advice is turn BCB6 into a conference and put a fee to it.

Said Blogger Rajiv, 12:08 AM  

Every time you are saying run your own.. it appears that Barcamp Bangalore(Success) belongs to you. It belongs to the community and team(s).

I just want emphasize one thing, run your own and etc..these are jace’s personal opinions. Not the team(s) opinions. Few of the team members are ready give their ears for criticism.

Jace, coming back to the choice, you know it. I will not call it fixing, but something else....
Said Blogger Kesava, 12:16 AM  

There's no need for hostilities, folks. I'm in no way implying that anyone should buzz off or that any glories are personal. Let's set the facts straight:

1. No one owns Barcamp. There is no official Barcamp Bangalore. There is just an non-static team that uses the name. Nothing is preventing anyone else from using it, or from working with the existing team.

2. If you're unhappy with the current event that goes by the name of Barcamp Bangalore, you have your options on how to deal with it. I've listed the ones I can think of, but that list is by no means exhaustive. Making a list does not imply anyone is being asked to choose from it.

3. As far as I can tell, no one in the current BCB team is doing it for personal gain. I have expressed in the past that people who put in personal energies should get something out of it, something that makes that energy investment sustainable. This does not imply that anyone who is doing it is expecting a certain sort of return. (We all do have our personal motivations, of course.) Please put aside the conspiracy theories of how anyone may be out to rip off the community for personal gain.

4. Criticism is very welcome. We all run on feedback. On the flip side, critics should not be afraid of having their opinions examined.

5. All of the above is a personal statement. I do no claim to be speaking on behalf of anyone else.
Said Blogger Jace, 12:53 AM  


I dont think anyone other than you is getting hostile here.

As far as your defense goes, its too late. As they say, we are seeing hubris now. The scandals are not far behind.

Said Blogger Rajiv, 2:16 AM  

Rajiv, everyone is entitled to their opinion. As far as I can see, BCB5 is shaping up just great.
Said Blogger Jace, 2:24 AM  

Great to hear that Jace. Wishing you all the best for it.
Said Blogger Rajiv, 2:47 AM  

Thanks. Hope you'll be there, even if only to check if BCB5 is better or worse than BCB4.
Said Blogger Jace, 2:49 AM  

To my mind, BCB3 was the peak and the decline has started. One of the most attractive aspects of Barcamp was its simplicity.

Respect your views on this.

It was easy to find who was attending and who was talking about what. With each Barcamp it got progressively difficult to do so.

If everyone knew who was talking and about what, then the 'UN' of the unconference will disappear! What do you think?

The organization left a lot to be desired and it chaotic at times.

I dont completely agree :), maybe I saw things from the other side. But this is expected when out of a 600 strong crowd, only 20 volunteer to support with the organizing!!!
Besides, its an unconference yar, I dont think its justified to come with expectations like "I want this to be organized for me", "If it would have happened that way, it would have been better" yada yada... If you are not happy with things go and do them your self. Trust me people will appreciate it ! The community members who volunteer to organize the event are *not* responsible towards meeting anyones personal expectations.

Nothing personal about what I said above Rajiv. :D
Said Blogger hi2u_amit, 9:54 AM  

Hello Amit,

Are you sure that the volunteers should not be responsible for organizing the event? Whats your objective to volunteer in the first place then?

The statement that you are vastly outnumbered is lame excuse. BCB3 was very well attended and organized and you were a part of the team.

To be fair, it was only the last one which went awry. The rest of the three was perfect. One out of four is still a great track record. But being arrogant about it and rejecting criticism is not a good sign. Dont let this success go to your head, which I unfortunately suspect is the case.

Hope you guys can turn it around this time.

Said Blogger Rajiv, 10:36 AM  

Rajiv and Ashish,

I have been associated with all BCBs so far either as participant or organiser.

We respect your opinion. Obviously you don't seem too thrilled by what you saw at BCB4.

We will reflect on what you have shared and see what can be done to excite those of you who weren't exhilarated.

You would appreciate than any event has some things that work well and things that dont.

We tried a few new things at BCB4 which the organisers thought were essential....

1. Keep event focussed primarily on technology.

2. Democratising themes for the event (through collectives)

3. Allowing technology topics as well as few other those that werent necessarily focussed on technology.

4. Being inclusive to non techies with an inclination / interest in applied technology.

5. Providing opportunity to allow as many interested to attend, limiting only by infrastructure.

To a large extent we achieved those objectives. Most participants thought they had a good weekend at BCB4 at the well attended wrapup session at the audi (see flickr). Not sure if you folks were around.

It was truly heartening to see the Photo collective, Social Tech collective, Creative commons collective, Gizmo freaks huddle around in small groups and do what they thought best - share ideas in small groups with people they met at BCB4.

Sure there we some things that didnt go too well as we would have liked... (but thats a separate post).

We would love to have you guys on the organising team. Believe me it takes some time out of ones personal calendar and priorities (I can speak for myself).

We are driven by passion to make BCB an ongoing ecosystem. We needs every ones ideas, critical views, support and thinking hats to realise this dream.

We'd love to have you guys part of that and do hope we can get you to change your minds with what you see with future barcamp editions.

We are optimistic about the future of the event. And your support too... Thanks for you frank views.
Please make it to BCB5.


Pls note: These are my personal views. Apologies for the longish post.

To the one who has authored this post and all those who have commented so far, I am saddened to see the responses to this post with much excitement. Unfortunately, all of you have been a part of BCB since the beginning and after 4 BCBs we are discussing this way! Lets come together to achieve something in common rather than commenting each other (I know we are not doing that here).

As far as I know, Rajiv you are an entrepreneur and I am quite disappointed with the attitude of the post (please understand that i am not commenting on the post yet, and am only commenting about the way the post has been authored).
Why did I make the above statement? Entrepreneurs don't crib or write something which hurts others (also knowing people on the other side). If you had so many of these concerns, why didn't you get in touch with any of the team (i know that you personally don't know me) and join the gang saying "Guys, I have few concerns which I would like to share., see if we can do anything about them". How does this sound? It is much better.
Let me tell you one thing, when we point fingers / comment / criticize something, we need to propose something too. "Oppose and Propose" should be the motive, but not something which would be making people think (especially people who have not been to a BCB and waiting to be there in future) otherwise.
Let us be more productive in what we write on blogs. Blogs do not just express your feelings, but all show our attitude and thought process.
I would not say "Go and organize your own BarCamp", but please feel free to come and join the team and share your thoughts. As the famous quote goes "United we stand, Individual we fall". Commenting on an activity does not give us anything, instead of that, try to give your bet on that. In case you cannot participate (time constraints / personal work load etc), you can alternatively propose something which would be beneficial. What do you say?
When we do not have the time / liberty / guts to dig into an issue and solve it, it is respectful if we keep quite or Oppose and Propose.
Please do not take me wrong....

Hello Arun,

Good to see you here.

Thank you for your invitation to join the Organizing Committee. But no thanks. For the reason have a look at the comments thread above.

Ashish suggests the "hidden agenda" and Jace goes ballistic on it. He's outright rude to Kesava and goes on to clear up things on everyone's behalf with a personal disclaimer at the end! But he's pretty much happy with way BCB5 is going and does not see any need for change.

Then Mr. Amit Singh comes in, start with respecting my views, toes a not so unfamiliar line ends up with another smart ass judgment. To his credit he did read the post though.

And whats with this standard line of "go do your own jig if you think you're better". The organizers who have come in have gone along similar lines. And I have seen this being thrown at anyone who says something negative. Is that the only answer you guys have? How about looking at the merit of the criticism?

I have heard it so many times that's its starting to piss me off now. Pls. refrain from this argument. Its deeply flawed, betrays your insecurity and we can see through it. And if you guys think that BCB is far ahead of competition then think again.

Do you really think I should bother to be a part of this group? I dont think so. Disdain for criticism, intimidation and bigotry are not really the shining qualities to be proud of. I'd rather keep myself as far away from this group as possible. I do have some credibility in the community we are part of, and i value it. And I daresay, you should bail out before it comes back and bites you.

To be honest, the organizers have done a great job so far and credit should go to them. But let me point out that it has been pretty much a fluid group and cannot be attributed to a person. Participants like me also have a role in the success. But looks like the success is going to the head instead of the heart. You guys have lost sight of terra firma.

Pls dont let this turn out to be another Bangalore LUG. You know the story dont you.

Said Blogger Rajiv, 2:56 AM  


Sorry to disappoint you, but I dont believe in the rule book. I threw it out long ago and have been happy ever since. :).

As far as my proposition goes, pls. read the post once more and you'll find it.

Said Blogger Rajiv, 3:01 AM  


The one paragraph you wrote - "Do you really think I should bother to be a part of this group? I dont think so. Disdain for criticism, intimidation and bigotry are not really the shining qualities to be proud of. I'd rather keep myself as far away from this group as possible. I do have some credibility in the community we are part of, and i value it. And I daresay, you should bail out before it comes back and bites you." ....

shows a lot about you. If you are respected in your community, please heave it. If you are a great personality which the world is proud of, Good luck. But, please... maintain the respect your community gives and do not post material like this which is not worth (for people who have only time to comment and no time to contribute to improve). I am writing this comment for readers of this post to know what other think of you.
To be honest, I have been following your blog for sometime now and also have always admired you for being a creative and young entrepreneur, but with this, my friend, my respect has gone down. Probably you might not understand this.... and not care for it too..

Thanks for your time anyway...


Welcome back.

Let me point out that your accusation of arrogance is completely misplaced. If you read the comment a bit more carefully.

If you are looking for an apology raising the issues which I think are important, I am sorry to disappoint you again. I stand by my observations and regret that it hurts your sentiments.

About what you think about me and our larger community, you are welcome to post them here for the viewing pleasure of the readers.

Said Blogger Rajiv, 5:32 AM  

Things are not looking every good, are they? I posted this elsewhere. Thought I should repost here:

1. The community is not the event. The structure of each event belongs to
the team that organises it. The content belongs to the community. At no
point does any individual or team own the community.

2. Someone makes an accusation of this being a personal party. I point out
that no one owns the community and therefore if one is not interested in
making actionable criticism (how does one respond to an accusation of a
personal party?), there is always the option of running another event using
the same name and addressing the same community. This was as blunt a
statement I could make on how no one could consider this their exclusive
event. How could it be interpreted to mean the exact opposite?

(The fact of Barcamp being ownerless does not come from me -- it comes from Barcamp's initiators.)
Said Blogger Jace, 5:13 AM  

Hey Jace,

Sorry to get carried away a bit here. Now when I look back, its really embarrassing. Really sorry about the harsh words. Shouldn't have done it.

I was taken aback by the response to it actually. Not many people read this blog so I didnt expect any comments in the first place. I was under the impression that it was a nice analysis with a conclusion at the end.

What really got my goat was the accusation of armchair criticism without even attempting to comprehend what was being said.

But then these things happen. Should watch out against it. Sorry once again if I hurt any feelings and sentiments. Was not intentional.

Said Blogger Rajiv, 5:27 AM  

Hello Rajiv,
I wanted to know to know if I could use your post for the blog talk section in our paper.. pls do let me know, my email id is nt.balanarayan[at]gmail[dot]com

I have registered for BCB5 within collective "Mobile Internet in India Facts Myths and Future". This is my first BCB. Let me see how it goes.
Said Anonymous Arvind Padmanabhan, 8:25 PM  

Missed this discussion earlier, but even then I guess I should reply -: By a "few pockets" of people tend to take BCBs as their own personal party and end up screwing the format." - that was my observation about bcb4. Infact, even in my post somebody pointed out that few guys (for name, you can read the post on my blog) treat bcbs as their personal PR agenda. My comment was not at all for the organizers (but looks like there are few others too who perceive the same)

But, yes for "screwing up the format" part, my comments are for organizers.
Honestly, I don't feel like writing too much about all this - we have discussed this time and again (and am really fed up now). The only way BCBs can work, IMHO is by going back to the basics, i.e. simplicity of the event.

I'll be part of BCB6 organizing team.
Said Blogger Ashish, 3:58 AM  

Hey guys,
Looks like I am entering this discussion pretty late. However my 2 cents. Apart from the goods/ bads/problems and whatever. I would like to thank every one of the organizing team for the BCB5. It was great, people wanting to make a difference and maybe change the world. And thats what a BC is supposed to be I guess. So Kudos to that.

Now about the problems raised in the meeting at end of BCB5 by the organizers

1. Effort - Takes a lot of effort. The organizers have full-time jobs and find it difficult to spend lots of time.

2. Money- there is money spent in shirts-banners-food etc which is first invested in by the organizers without a clear refund date

3. Importance and relevance- Added to the time and effort spent the organizers are not sure how meaningful it is to hold the BCB more often.

These are valid points and I respect it.

So here may be some solutions
1. Effort- Rotate the organizing team. A Few good men should not always take the burden all the time.Encourage people in college to be part of the ground force .Incentive them, charge the participants / sponsors and pay these guys.

2. Money- Charge an upfront fee from the sponsors to be part of the BC. Charge the participants. Most attendees are working professionals. I would not mind paying 50-100 Rs for entry. Put the income-spending details on the wiki, so those in doubt can look.

3. Importance-Relevance: Do a survery [there are some free online survey tools I guess]. You see its the participants who should influence the frequency and format of the event and not organizers.

I would like a barcamp every month.
or atleast once in 2 months. Beyond that may be too long.

Thats it . "its simple" or "it can be simple"

-Chandan Maruthi-
Said Blogger Chandan, 3:18 AM  

Rajiv, we're doing DevCamp on the 9th of Feb 08. Take a look. More stuff, less fluff is the unofficial motto.
Said Blogger Sidu, 11:18 AM  

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