BarCamp Milwaukee 9: Another Useful Day

Last month, I went to BarCamp Milwaukee 9 for a daylong exercise in stretching my mind. I’ve written a lot about BarCamp over the years (I’ve only  missed two of the  nine events), and I’ve always found it useful (the attending AND the writing about it). Let me share some of what I learned. These are some notes on the sessions I attended with about 70 folks, a nice crowd.

Open Source Ecology

Some days before BarCamp, I received an invitation to join a new Meetup in Milwaukee called Open Source Ecology. It was the first time I’d heard the term, but as an “open source guy” with an environmental bent, the idea was pretty attractive. I needed to learn more before signing up, so when a group of folks showed up and introduced themselves as from Open Source Ecology, I was very pleased, and said so when it came my turn to introduce myself.

Here’s the elevator speech description of Open Source Ecology, from their website:

We’re developing open source industrial machines that can be made for a fraction of commercial costs, and sharing our designs online for free. The goal of Open Source Ecology is to create an open source economy – an efficient economy which increases innovation by open collaboration.

It’s an intriguing idea, and begins with what they call the Global Village Construction Set, a set of 50 machines designed to build other industrial machines to reconstruct civilization independent of today’s global capitalist economy.

English: Depiction of the 50 machines composin...
English: Depiction of the 50 machines composing the “Global Village Construction Set” by the “Open Source Ecology” project (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here in Milwaukee, they are working to build a machine that can turn buckets of ordinary dirt into bricks that are strong enough to build housing that meets modern building codes. Someday, instead of the old rural barn-raising festivals, we could see brick-house-raising parties for genuine Habitats for Humanity. Community building at its finest!

The Milwaukee group is also trying to partner with local educators to create a course focused on building the LifeTrac tractor, which sure sounds cool!

The discussion focused on the practicality of realizing this idealistic vision of building a new economy beside the existing institutions. Side note: they’re keen on finding better technical writers to help non-engineers build these machines.

These are good folks, and I’ll be following their progress. You can too, on their Facebook page.

Qt on Android and iOS (And windows, mac, linux)

Qt Logo
Qt Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BarCamps are by and for various types of geeks, but inevitably, there are sessions about programming. Sometimes I get attracted by these, despite not being a programmer. I actually tried one session about building a boot loader (software that allows you to run multiple operating systems on different hard drive partitions), but found myself drowning fairly quickly. I wasn’t the only camper who invoked The Law of Two Feet on this session, I’m afraid. This is the BarCamp principle of “if you’re not getting what you need from a session, walk away and find something useful.”

In the next session window (what turned out to be my last of the day), I was excited to learn that someone was giving a talk on using the Qt development framework to build applications for multiple mobile devices. Why get excited? Well, among the mobile devices that has adopted Qt as its default platform is Ubuntu. Technically, I’m writing a book on Ubuntu mobile devices (on hold until such a device appears in the US), and finding what programmers find cool, useful and unique about this framework is very helpful for writing that chapter.

So I watched this talk with keen interest, and learned much about how to work with the Qt Developer integrated developer environment. This young man had written an app to deliver dynamic schedules for Chicago Metra trains using Qt’s QML language (as does Ubuntu), and shared his process. If the book project resumes, I think I’ll be in pretty good shape.

After that session, I was dismayed to learn that I’d developed an ear infection and needed to get home. But BarCamp Milwaukee did help me yet again. I’ve always said that I would not be who I am if not for BarCamp, and look forward to next year!


A Weekend Like No Other (with no BarCamp)

03:01, 27 August 2005 . . Slowpokeiv . . 1600×...
Image via Wikipedia

This was supposed to be my review of BarCampMilwaukee6, with all the usual comments on what I learned, what I shared, and how much fun I had with the always-unique band of BarCampers. Only problem is that I missed it, for the first time.

I don’t know if this qualifies as a legitimate excuse, but there was a unique confluence of sporting events in Wisconsin last weekend:

Like 225,000+ other Brewer fans, I tossed my name into the virtual hat to get what limited seats might be available for a playoff game at Miller Park. Astonishingly, I was one of the 5500 names selected to buy tickets for the Division Series. At the time, nobody knew when the games would be, so there was a chance that BarCamp wouldn’t be affected at all. But I had a plan, just in case the games were on the weekend: I’d buy tickets for the Sunday game, and go to BarCamp Saturday.

When the time came to actually login and buy the tickets, the Virtual Waiting Room was not kind to me. By the time I got through, there was just standing room available for Game #2. Didn’t want to spend $25 to walk around the ballpark, so I dropped out.

What I didn’t know at the time was that my brother-in-law got tickets for Game #1. After he offered me one of his tickets, I was on Plan B: I’d see baseball on Saturday, and go to BarCamp Sunday. This is what happened last year, when I went to the Farm Aid show at the same location. This would be fine.

Until Thursday. I was working hard when I got a call from my boss’ boss. This sort of thing never happens. Any worries I might have had about the subject of the call were dissipated early. The CEO was wondering if I might be interested in using his tickets to the Packer game Sunday.

For a multitude of reasons, I said ‘yes.’ I was immediately glad I didn’t get those Sunday baseball tickets. But now what? Plan C goes into effect: Baseball Saturday afternoon, BarCamp in the evening (I could forego the Badger game), Green Bay on Sunday.

We had a great time at Miller Park Saturday afternoon. What I was not expecting was that my back would suddenly start acting wacky the instant I came home from the ballpark. I literally could not get out of my chair without great pain. So I was hosed.

With several big doses of ibuprofen and a long car ride to Green Bay, I somehow managed to make it through the football game too. It was my first time at the Temple of (American) Football, and it was certainly unforgettable. But I felt pretty bad about missing my favorite (un)conference. This will be different next year.

Anyway, if you’d like to see what we all missed, here’s the schedule.

If you went to BarCamp, please share some highlights in the comments. Feel free to denounce me for my wicked choices too.

Have you ever had a conflict between two or more events that you had major passions for? How did you resolve it? Was it the right decision? Comment below.

One more thing: GO BREWERS!!

BarCampMilwaukee6 Just Two Weeks Away!

Have I mentioned this lately: I love conferences! There’s not much better times than the opportunity to get together with folks of like interests, like mind and similar skills, get away from the day to day and schmooze. Occasionally, even learning takes place. For serendipity and wide-ranging topics, few conferences beat the ones falling under the  BarCamp umbrella.

A week from Saturday (October 1), BarCampMilwaukee 6 opens at Bucketworks on South Fifth Street in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood. If you happen to be within traveling distance, you should come. You will meet fabulous people, eat marvelous food, play with assorted ideas and toys,and probably get a t-shirt too. For the second year, there will also be KidsCamp, which should be great fun. As always, there will be robots, too. Did I mention it’s all free of charge? Unless, of course, you want to make a donation.

You can peruse the Conferences and such category here to learn more about all six versions of BCMKE. Register for BCMKE6 at the site. Watch this space for further reminiscing.

And speaking of conferences, watch this space too for some WordPress news.

It’s BarCampMKE Time Again!

With August upon us, can the first weekend in October be far behind? This week marked the launching of the new, Drupal-based BarCamp Milwaukee 5 site and the traditional self-organization of the untraditional tech unconference has commenced. My goodness, in four days there are already almost 30 proposed sessions (of course, by the time you click that link there are likely to be even more!).

BarCampMilwaukee is truly my favorite weekend of the year, and it’s a little hard to believe I’ve been to all of them. I could reminisce endlessly about stuff I’ve learned and fun I’ve had, but I’ll hold off on that (for now, at least). Since my man Gabe has already given the reasons you (or your company) should sponsor BCMKE, today I want to give you a few reasons why you should plan to come.

  • You want to learn something. Take a look at those sessions again. If you’ve got curiosity about any of them, the people who are presenting are passionate about their subject(s), and probably know as much as anyone on the planet about that. If you’re curious about some topic that isn’t on the list yet, put it on the list (sooner, rather than later). Chances are somebody else either knows enough to put a session together, or perhaps a bunch of people with a similar curiosity can help you research the topic so you can all learn together!
  • You want to share something you’ve learned. I’ve been working with open source software for so long, it’s almost second nature to want to help others learn what I know. BarCamp is one of those places where you can do that without having to know everything about your topic. You can comfortably stand on the shoulders of giants here.
  • You want to improve your social skills. Whether it be that fear of public speaking (see above), or that gnawing feeling that you have been collecting Facebook friends that you’ve barely met. Conversations start pretty easily at BarCamp.
  • You want to hang out with the cool, smart kids. Whether your social skills are polished or not, BarCamp is a place to meet all sorts of interesting people in a very non-intimidating space.
  • You want to meet some of your favorite bloggers. Not just me, though I’ll be there too.

There’s lots more reasons (did I mention it’s FREE!), but all I have time to write about now. Go and register now, and I’ll see you October 2-3 at Bucketworks!

Six Days Till WriteCamp2 in Milwaukee!

Hey folks, there’s still time to make plans to attend WriteCamp2 in Milwaukee next weekend! This camp is for you if your interests lie toward the written (or typed) word. Bloggers, poets, journalists, business and technical writers, fiction and nonfiction writers – we want to see you! Any other writers, and would-be writers I left out – yes, you too!

You can read about what I’m doing at WriteCamp at my other site. In brief, I’ll be leading a discussion about the future of American journalism, and doing something related to WordPress. I’ll have copies of WordPress in Depth on hand, and a pen to sign them with. I’ll also be at the pre-party Friday night, having some fun.

But WriteCamp is not entirely about the published and famous laying out the One True Path to publishing fame, because there isn’t any such thing. WriteCamp is about every participant sharing their passion and knowledge about whatever writing-related topic strikes them.

Hope to see you in my hometown!