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Day Two; Barcamp Bangalore 2008:The spirit of the unconference

Day two started quite late. I attended a 15 minute session on employing web 2.0 technologies to empower K12 education in schools. Natarajan KS from The Krida Foundation stressed the potential of using online tools for fostering learning in real classroom scenarios. The discussion threw up questions on the feasibility of this approach when even basic frameworks of infrastructure, teachers and even books does not exist in government schools in India. Mindset was also cited as a roadblock to e-learning.

Day two started quite late. I attended a 15 minute session on employing web 2.0 technologies to empower K12 education in schools. Natarajan KS from The Krida Foundation stressed the potential of using online tools for fostering learning in real classroom scenarios. The discussion threw up questions on the feasibility of this approach when even basic frameworks of infrastructure, teachers and even books does not exist in government schools in India. Mindset was also cited as a roadblock to e-learning. The speaker talked about one of their success stories where children were encouraged to write poems on a wiki. Social empowerment with technology was infact a frequently discussed issue during the event.

I then attended a session on legal issues that hamper the VoIP industry in India that was initiated by Rajiv Poddar of Sedna Wirless. VoIP calls are only allowed for PC to PC connectivity. VoIP calls cannot be made to landline or mobile phones in India and the practice is illegal. It is a protectionist policy to safeguard Telecom Operators’ international call termination and interconnect fees. VoIP calls which cost a fraction of international call rates as VoIP will enable businesses and individuals alike to talk cheaply. This does not go down well with the government. He then briefly mentioned a few business models around VoIP. The session saw the creation of a group
Voice for VOIP
to take this issue forward among the participants for future action.

MySpace India hosted an entire series of sessions on their OpenSocial platform that is open to developers. While these were perhaps of interest to the developer community present at barcamp, the more interesting sight was of the free MySpace t-shirts being distributed. As soon as the box was opened, people almost leaped inside the box to nab them. Chaos ensued and I caught a number of people complaining later for not being able to get the coveted t-shirt. Deep Malhotra, MySpace, Director of Sales was mingling with the crowd and ensuring their participation in the sessions. I’m not sure if the t-shirts helped in achieving that though!

I then attended the discussion on the too much of good is bad: Second Life and Facebook initiated by Aditya Mishra, a veteran BCB organizer. He highlighted the irony of Facebook in that while apps have been one of the main reasons the social network is so immensely popular, the same have now started to prove distracting and annoying to a growing number of users. He began the discussion with talking about Second Life as a marketing platform and how big ticket, multi billion corporates run islands inside the virtual world to showcase their products and launch campaigns around them. the viability and ROI of these massive investments was also pondered upon. He questioned the scalability of SL in terms of the server support that the 3D environment requires to run. The bandwidth problem we face in India cannot render the environments effectively and that’s why the SL population from India is miniscule. Then, a group of techies descended upon the discussion and began to argue over the technical challenges of the virtual world and that’s when I made my exit.

As I wandered around after this to hunt for more gyan, there was a SEO tips and tricks session on and another one on SAAS and when it is a bad idea. Smita from RangDe encouraged everyone to attend her talk and I’m glad I did.

RangDe is an initiative that aims to bring microcredit to individual borrowers who come from very low income backgrounds but possess a genuine need of a loan. Needs can range from upgrading a very small business or a child’s education. The founder, Smita Ram spoke about the platform which innovatively brings the borrower and investors together with Rangde facilitating the relationship. I as an investor can lend the amount I desire to a borrower after searching borrower profiles on the site. RangDe will then make sure the money reaches the borrower through partner organizations in the areas they operate in. Smita was able to influence the audience with her talk as her dedication and passion to the cause was infectious.

A gathering on palmistry and astrology saw many takers and the believers had queued up to learn about their future from Rajeev Kumar, who is a Lead India finalist from Bangalore and conducted sessions on the art of going green and led the creation of the Voice for VOIP group as well at the event. Mr Shashi Kant was back with the unknown aspects of Panchtantra and his loyal followers were seen hanging onto his every word.

One of the last sessions of the day was on usability on the web and was led by Akash Srivastava, a user experience consultant but gradually became a very enthusiastic discussion. A typical feature of barcamps is the voicing of hundreds of varying opinions in a single session and that essentially makes the experience very enjoyable. Aashish Solanki from Yulop also spoke about finding that harmony between user and design. While points that were raised included the not so wise use of bold and flashy colors and design, keeping the motivation and need of a user in mind before a design is created, branding solutions and marketing platforms were also boisterously discussed. Ibibo’s Balti campaign got its fair share of brickbats. A participant pointed out motivations that always contribute to the success of any online campaign; reward, challenge and humor.

It was time for the final feedback session and as Aditi Gupta of Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship at IIMA and one of the organizers pointed out, it was a “fantafabulous” BCB6. Everyone agreed that it was a successful sixth edition and hoped that participation would grow with each successive Barcamp. Not everyone was happy with the non internet sessions that took centre stage but as organizers pointed out, a barcamp is a platform for ideas and everyone was free to speak their mind.

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