First BarCamp in Calgary – Loving it!

The first BarCamp in Calgary was a great success on Saturday, Dec 15th. (see: flickr photos) Looking back, the weeks of planning, hard work, headaches, and even heartaches have paid off with a BarCamp that everyone enjoyed and had a great time. Seeing people charged up and energized by the keynote, presentation sessions and actively engaged in discussions with each other during breaks really put a big smile on my and other organizers’ faces.

Many thanks go to our sponsors Cambrian House, IBM Canada, Material Insight, and Microsoft Canada, for their generous help and support. Let me also take a moment to thank the great work by the five event organizers — Sarah Blue, John Bristowe, David Gluzman, Patrick Lor (Calgary gets Guy Kawasaki because of Pat) and myself. Plus amazing help from Ashley Bristowe (photography) and Gordon McDowell (video).

Now, let me share with you my personal experience of the first BarCamp in Calgary as one of the organizers. I share my organizing experience here so that other cities without a BarCamp may be able to learn from us.

(Note to Reg, Scott, and Ken in Edmonton: Sorry to put you guys on the spot, but I love to see Edmonton organizes a DemoCamp or BarCamp in the near future. What do you say?)


The planning for our Dec 15th BarCampCalgary actually started exactly six weeks ahead of the actual camp, on Nov 3rd (I checked the edit history (big smile)), when the date of Dec 15th was set.

Now, the idea of launching a BarCamp in Calgary was originated nine months earlier in March 2007. My then new friend Austin Hill came to visit Calgary which lead to a group of interested people coming out for a bloggers’ dinner. And Austin and us talked about things related to DemoCamp and BarCamp. I still remember calling East Side Mario to reserve a table and then arriving early to ensure everything was all set. (see Austin’s entry) (Lessons? Use any excuse (over dinner or a coffee) to meet and organize a DemoCamp or BarCamp in your city if it doesn’t have one already)

By the way, if Austin was not so busy with his new startup, he would have accepted our invitation to attend BarCamp where we would have given him a big round of applauses for instigating the DemoCamp and BarCamp movement in Calgary. So, thanks a lot Austin.

Fast forward to Friday Dec 14th, a group of volunteers (John, David, Gordon and myself) went to IBM Canada’s downtown building to set things up for Saturday (with the great help of Bob Johnson and his colleagues). David and his colleague delivered the cases of bottled water/soft drinks/beers for the camp. And John and I spent a total of 2.5 hours doing various things and ensuring the projection system, Wi-Fi network, sound system, etc. were all setup and ready to go with our equipment and we know how to operate them on Saturday morning. (note: Wi-Fi access was important as some attendees ended up live blogging and uploading pictures. Plus I was determined not to see the Chinese FooCamp Wi-Fi problem happening in Calgary.)

On the morning of Saturday Dec 15th, David, Gordon, John and I braved the early morning cold and arrived at the IBM building at 7:30am to get things ready for the day. The two hours from 7:30 – 9:30am just went by so quickly. I am still amazed by how efficient we were.

And then we pretty much follow our schedule as a guide. We were so happy to see in a few cases the discussions in the sessions got so engaging and more time were alloted. And then in all of our scheduled breaks, people were so engaged in conversations, making new contacts that it was challenging to bring them back. (smile) Here is our schedule, for the record,

9:00 – 9:30 Registration / Presentation Posting / Voting
9:30 – 9:40 Introduction
9:40 – 11:00 Keynote presentation by Guy Kawasaki
11:00 – 11:30 Break & Voting
11:30 – 12:30 Start top voted on presentations
12:30 LUNCH (yummy!)
1:30 – 4:00 Afternoon sessions

Now, let me re-emphasize this is my personal report and not a sanitized BarCamp “organizing committee approved” report as I want to reply to some concerned friends’ critique that BarCampCalgary should not have a keynote. Having Guy as a Keynote speaker increased our profile and drew more Calgarians to come out to attend BarCamp on a cold Calgary Saturday morning just 10 days before Christmas, so I think having Guy to kick starting the camp movement in Calgary is a good thing. And most of the attendees stayed for the whole day of events and are eager to attend future camps.

Now that we have a successful BarCamp under our belt, we will have the momentum to push onwards to future BarCamps which we plan to have no keynotes. I took these concerned friends’ critique as something they raised out of love of BarCampCalgary, and I will be very willing to exchange ideas and thoughts with them via emails.

Finally, John and Gordon had taken hours and hours of BarCamp video footage and will be posting later when the processing are done.

As one of the organizers of the event, I ended up running around the whole day doing this or that and were only able to sit down to listen to a few sessions. Judging by the fact that the majority of the registered attendees stayed till the end, we had a great and successful first BarCamp.

Here are some blog entries I found on the web about BarCampCalgary,

  • Doug Walker wrote a live blog entry during Guy’s presentation at BarCamp.
  • Patrick Lor has a posting that shares his experience of BarCampCalgary plus a detailed list of thanks.

To keep an international prospective on things and an eye for opportunities to learn, here are two blog entries with wonderful insights about two other BarCamp events that also happened on Dec 15th half way around the world,


2 Responses to First BarCamp in Calgary – Loving it!

  1. Austin Hill says:

    Sounds like a great event and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to make it.

    The reviews & write ups were great.

    Looking forward to trying to make it out for next years meetup.


  2. kempton says:

    Hi Austin,

    Wonderful. Look forward to seeing you at next year’s meetup. It will be great to introduce you to the community.

    Thanks a lot for instigating our Demo and Bar camps. I am paying forward by trying to instigate the camps at other cities.

    Best Regards,

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