Archive for the ‘BarCamp Boston’ Category



by Kaj Kandler

I invited my wife to join me for the second day of BarCamp Boston 2. I wanted her to see Rod Begbie‘s presentation on “Powerful Pointed Presentations – How to give kick-ass presentations, and avoid becoming PowerPoint’s bitch.” I knew this would be a highlight of the day and it was. Rod was in his element, when he showed the audience how to reduce the amount of text on a slide, how to focus the attention from time to time and how to make the talk the center of the presentation and use the slides for illustration and not as a distraction. The lesson that stuck in my head, is “Be nice to your audience and finish early.” It leaves some time to contemplate the presentation rather than racing to the next event or catching up with the inevitable urgencies of the day.

Following Rod I attempted to captivate an audience for “How to organize a Meetup”. I only attracted a handful of participants but we did discuss the topic at length. I shared my experience with as an efficient vehicle to organize a group to a given topic in the real world, using the Internet as the tool. In my opinion, the return on investment comes from being instantly above the fold on search results, for someone looking for the key word in combination with a US town. It makes it very easy to attract new members. My audience pointed out that sometimes one even finds a ready made list of interested people for the topic waiting for someone to start the Meetup group.

After lunch I did present on “Plan-B for – documentation for non technical users.” My audience was again very small. But the feedback I received for the presentation and the concept was certainly worth it. The group had an interesting exchange about if and how to fund Plan-B for with advertising (separate writeup follows).

My last session for the day was a discussion by Michael Feldman about using technology in teaching college students. Michael is a professor for communication at the BU law school. He has long experimented with technology and has often been disappointed. His lessons are “You need to tailor to the least technology savvy student” and “keep your learning objective in focus”. He currently works a lot with Wiki sites to foster discussions and mash up some useful tools for his class.

If you haven’t attended a BarCamp, I can highly recommend to do so. The unconventional format produces a very productive atmosphere and you get to know many interesting people and their projects. I’m very grateful to the organizers: Shimon Rura, Larry Lyons, Ray Deck, Jeff Potter, Keith Erskine, Mike Walsh, Sooz and the sponsors.

See also my report from Saturday.



by Kaj Kandler

Last summer I went to the first BarCamp Boston. I had a great time there and did not want to miss BarCamp Boston 2 this past weekend.

BarCamp Boston 2 was held at MIT Stata Center, the famous building by architect Frank O. Gehry.

The rules for a BarCamp an unconference of geeks are simple. Every participant can chair a session, discussion or provide a lightning talk. The organizers have set aside a few appropriate meeting rooms and a schedule on a blackboard where one can read the program and add one self to the offering. In addition the organizers and sponsors did provide us with food and refreshments.

The first session I attended was “JavaScript Encryption” by Alan Taylor. Alan presented a self contained HTML document that included encrypted content which could only be revealed with the correct password. He calls his project Message Vault. His experience with making the application secure was very interesting. His biggest challenge was to embed an encrypted form of the password that was hard to decipher.

Next, I attended “Open/Collaborative/Green Mapping” by Jerrad Pierce. I had met Jerrad earlier in the hall where he presented his maps and had talked him into presenting his experience with this project in a session. He has created a Green Map of Cambridge, as part of the GreenMaps initiative. He also wrote his thesis on the subject of a better index to points on the map. Jerrad had 45+ interested listeners and a lot of questions where asked. How did he get the data from public sources? What tools did he use? What other tools he could recommend, especially those that where available at no cost?

Amanda Watlington presented before the afternoon break about “Video – How to Make It Found in Search Engines”. She stressed that video and audio files become more important to search as people use the web increasingly to consume media. So she told webmasters that it is important to annotate the media assets with internal and external keyword tags and to write, if possible, a transcript from the media and post it on a page that contains the file. In addition she recommended to submit the media file to specialty search engines, in order to make it available to the searching public.

My last session for the day was “Financing your Startup” by David Kaufman. It wasn’t all new, but certainly a comprehensive overview of how to finance your startup. I took away the following tidbits of wisdom: “Revenue or advanced financing by your (future) customers is the best way to survive the first phase” and “VC financing is only appropriate if you can show a very fast adoption curve and a large market.” Typically VCs want to invest X Millions and have that returned 10 fold within 3 to 5 years. If your business model does not show a plausible case for this kind of development, do not spend (waste) your time with talking to VCs. In addition, think about who the VC would potentially sell his share in the company? It helps to know who would be a potential buyer, especially as the default exit strategy of an Initial Public Offering (IPO) is not as available as it used to be.

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the socializing in the evening, as I had prior commitments.



by Kaj Kandler

Second day of BarCampBoston started out a bit slower. Many had not come back for a second day at least not very early. May be I missed some important sessions on the bar on the night before.

  • Today I enjoyed a very energetic session about “Powerful, Pointed Presentations”. In essence cater to the emotions of your audience to get both halves of the listener’s brain involved. Also, the obligatory slide-show print-out should be avoided and replaced by a text document presented after the oral presentation has finished.
  • It was also time to jump into the ring and educate fellow BarCampers about Open Document Format, why the State of Massachusetts did mandate it and what the role for is in this development. Unfortunately my session was at the same time as “Newbie on Rails”, which did draw the bulk of the crowd.
  • More BarCampers were interested in the topic “Solving Spam by signing messages with PGP” which I offered. I have this idea in my head for more than two years and I wanted to here what other have to say about it. I think the basic issue with spam is the ability to falsify the sender. If all (or most) e-mail is signed with PGP, then everybody can filter on that signature (which can’t be falsified) and so determine if that e-mail is important to him or not. Here are some of the arguments:
    • You create your own signature, and publish the public key. Your signature becomes more trustworthy through other people signing it with their signature.
    • One also needs to be aware that by signing some else signature I do not claim this person is not a spammer. I only authenticate that he is who he says he is in the signature. All I verify is her name and her e-mail address. But this gives any recipient the ability to forcefully filter on that identity.
    • If we get to the point that most e-mail is signed and I mostly care about e-mail signed by a someone I know already, then I would blacklist all unknown senders. This can be solved by prioritizing e-mail according to the trust level of the signature and the distance between me and the closest signer of the signature to be checked.
    • One member of the audience did say that e-mail lists would brake the signature by adding their own footer, such as Yahoo. However, they can either add the footer in a mime compliant way or resign the message with their own key.
    • Another member pointed to HushMail having implemented an interesting PGP signed web-mail trust. I got to check this out soon.
    • Many agreed the key to such a system is two-fold
      • We need a wide spread filter, preferably a spamassassin filter. This filter needs to verify the signature of the e-mail and then use the trust vote in the my key-ring to apply the filter I defined.
      • The second component would be E-Mail clients, such as Thunderbird, to come integrated with PGP and the ability to create or load a PGP key with every profile one creates.

I really enjoyed this BarCamp and look forward to the next one. Mike Walsh said planning is in progress for one in fall 2006.

I want to thank Monster for hosting us and the other sponsors for making it possible. If one thing I would improve for next time, it is a better scheduling system, that is available via the net. Especially in the Monster location, where the event was spread out between three disjunct locations this would be a great plus.



by Kaj Kandler

Finally is here. I had high hopes going to Maynard and I was not disappointed. The crowd was mainly 25+ and had a slant to the professional, rather than the geek with college credentials. However, the first day was a lot of fun.

The folks from Monster Inc. welcomed us and we started the day with a breakfast, studying the big scheduling wall and watch it change every ten minutes as new events were posted and others were moved around. A good start was the introduction round, where a microphone was passed around and everybody who wanted introduced him- or herself shortly. The elevator speeches were definitely professionally presented.

  • My first session around 11 am was called “From idea to realization”, held be Sudha Jamthe. She told the story of her remarkable experience raising 1 Mio in 40 days in the heydays of the bubble and what she learned how the VC and Angel investor world works. She said she sees many hopeful entrepreneurs who are hopeful because the some VC told them “If you improve this function on your software we can fund you”. She said in her experience this stage can last up to three years (with changing VCs in the process) and no successful funding. She said, you need to get at least one customer that buys the product to overcome this cycle. Her best advice was to not avoid the VCs but use their advice and do not pin your hope on the money. Sudha also said, the best advisers for a start-up are those former entrepreneurs that are back into some kind of corporate executive job. They are not focused on investing and money and they are not high paid professional advisers. But the miss the entrepreneurial spirit and if you can bring some of your enthusiasm to them it rewards them for helping you and sharing their wisdom with you. Off course your idea must catch fire in their mind. All around an excellent session.
  • Shimon Rura, gave a thought provoking session about better UI’s. He applied some psychological insight to the topic. One that stuck in my head was give the user immediate reward. Every step must present some useful information. In other words avoid long navigations paths and query only forms. Instead list the most useful information right away and allow for further filtering or deeper navigation.
  • Another excellent brainstorming session was held by Andy Singleton from Assembla. He wanted to explore the vision of a Software reactor. His basic assumption was that all resources, like people, talent, QA, code, etc. are abundant and if qualified in the right way and given the right incentives one could build an awesome virtual software organization (a software reactor). The crowd wasn’t really convinced that all resources are abundant and we tested this assumption quite a bit. I certainly had the feeling that Andy went home a step forward in his thought process of this issue (or should we call it a business model?).

All in all, the first day was shock full of great sessions and a multitude of one on one’s.

Read more about the second day at BarCamp Boston.



by Kaj Kandler

On June 3 – 4 the Boston geek community will gather for the BarCamp Boston 2006. Thanks to Shimon Rura for driving the organizing effort. It promises to be an interesting event with presentations, lightning talks and demos. BarCamps are supposed to bring together geeks as well as entrepreneurs to talk ideas, trends and how to make them happen for the benefit of the greater public. In addition we’ll have a hacking competition I look forward to. If you live in Greater Boston, you don’t want to miss it. If only to tour the offices of who sponsors the facilities.