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My first unconference format conference - AdaCamp Bangalore

Posted by Priyanka Nag on 2:25 AM in , , ,
I have never been to any AdaCamp before this one, just read a lot about it. Thus, I was really excited for my first AdaCamp from almost a month before the commencement of the event. Most importantly, I was responsible to take care of Mozilla's presence at this event. This included helping all the participating Mozillians to get to the city of the event, arrange their accommodation and food and finally make sure that other AdaCampers, who were not aware of Mozilla yet, could also know about this Open Source organization and its different projects.

I met the two AdaCamp organizers, Alex and Suki, for the first time at the reception dinner sponsored by 'Web We Want' on the evening of Friday, 21st November 2014. This was the same place where I also met a lot of other amazing ladies. The most interesting part was, meeting people whom I was already connected with, virtually, but was meeting for the first time.

The next two days were one of the most amazing and learning experiences of my life! This was my first unconference format conference. When I had initially heard about this concept, I was really worried that this might be a very messy process! Not deciding tracks of a conference before hand and deciding them on the day of those sessions, in a very democratic way, involving everyone in the decision making process...really? To my surprise, this was one of the most organized way of making the schedule of a conference, I have ever witnessed. I have been to several meetings where organizers and expert panels would spend hours, deciding, arguing over the structure of an event and its agenda. How we can give participants the power to decide, choose and finalize what they want to both teach and learn from a conference was not only an amazing idea but at AdaCamp Bangalore, it was also an amazingly executed idea!


The schedule of AdaCamp Bangalore, decided by participants

Another woooow moment for me at the AdaCamp was Sumana Harihareswara's session on 'Imposter Syndrome'. I was surprised to see that every woman sitting in that room, attending AdaCamp, agreed at a point that they do suffer from imposter syndrome in some way or the other. The handouts given for this session is something I have preserved to be able to share with my other female colleagues and friends.

Mozilla got to mark a good presence at AdaCamp. All the participating Mozillians, actively proposed several sessions for the two days of the conference and to my surprise, almost all of our sessions got sufficient appreciation and made it to the final schedule. From a generic introduction session to Mozilla and its community to sessions on Firefox OS as well as Webmaker, we did it all. Diwanshi's session on the Art and Craft community of Mozilla was probably the most colorful session of the event where all creative hands got together to create some amazing stuffs. 


Some of the makes of the Art and Craft session at AdaCamp

At AdaCamp, I also learnt the skill to organize and handle 'Lightening talks' better. There were so many other sessions, workshops, lunch discussions where I have not only learnt a lot of new things, have also found so many like minded people, together in one room.

Among all the great things that this event has taught me, a few which I would definitely like to list down are:

[1] While organizing events, we often don't take care of a lot of things. Since we like our beautiful faces to be clicked and published, we ignore the fact that there might be someone who might not enjoy it the same way. At AdaCamp, they take care of everyone's privacy. You get to choose from three different colored lanyards. Based on your preference on being photographed, you could choose to wear a particular colored lanyard. I totally admired this!

[2] Many of us like to blog, tweet or post about events and learning on different social media platforms, without realizing how much we are supposed to say and where the limit should be drawn to not hamper someone else's privacy. At AdaCamp, we were reminded of these factors. I have never been to another conference where everyone's privacy, their freedom was given such importance.

[3] The compliment wall. We all like to be appreciated and during the AdaCamp, we kept being appreciated for two full days. We had a wall where we had initially pinned up a lot of compliments, which we could think of, and later for the next two days, those compliments got down from the wall and reached the deserving person.  


The wall of compliments

I have learnt a lot from AdaCamp and honestly, if I organize events in the future, reflections of those learning will surely show!


The AdaCampers of Bangalore



2

Portland coincidental work-week

I will leave my travel adventure out from this blog post cause they are sufficiently interesting to deserve a separate, dedicated post. So, I will jump directly to my experience of this co-incidential work-week at Portland.

On the first day, when I walked into the Portland Art Museum in the morning, I was overwhelmed to see so many known faces and being able to flag a few new faces to their IRC nicks (or twitter handles), whom I was meeting for the first time outside of the virtual world. 



What's your slingshot?

During this one week, I heard a lot of amazing people, from David Slater to Chris Beard, from Mark Surman to Mitchel Baker....too much awesomeness on the stage! The guest speakers on the first day was Brian Muirhead, from NASA who made us realize that even though we were not NASA engineers, and our work was limited to the earthen atmosphere, sometimes the criticality of projects or the way of handling them didn't need to differ much. The second day's guest speaker, Michael Lopp (@rands), was a person I had been following on twitter but never knew his real name or how he looked untill the moring of 3rd of December. The talk about Old guards vs New guards was not only something I could relate to but also had a few very interestig points we could all learn from.

After the opening addresses on both days, I found a comfortable spot with the MDN folks. I knew that under all possible circumstances, these would be the people I would mostly hang-around with for the rest of the week. Well, MDN is undoubtedly my most favorite project among all other possible contribution pathways that I have (or still do) tried contributing to.


We do know how to mark our territory!

Just like most Mozilla work-weeks, this week also had a lot of sticky notes all around, so many etherpads created and a master etherpad to link all the etherpads and a lot of wiki pages! When you know that you are gonna be haunted my sticky notes for at-least the next one week, you can be sure that you had a great workweek and a lot of planning. Plannings around the different contribution metrics for MDN, contribution recognition, MDN events for 2015, growing the community as well as a few technical changes and a few responsibilities which I have committed to and will be trying to complete before the calender changes it reading to 2015....it was a crazy crazy fun week. One important initiative that I am not only interested in being executed by also am willing to jump into in any possible manner is the linking of Webmaker and MDN. To me, its like my two superheros who are planning to work together to save this world!

I didn't spend much time with the community building team this week, other than the last day when I could finally join the group. First and foremost, Allen Gunner is undoubtedly one of the best facilitators I have seem in my life. Half of the session, my focus on his skills and how I could learn a few of them. I am happy to have been able to join the community building team on their concluding day as I got a summary of the week's discussion as well as could help the concluding plans and also make a few new commitments to a few new interesting things that are being planned in the year 2015.

Well, I am not sure if I have been able to do a good job at thanking Dietrich personally for inviting me and hosting me at his place for the fun filled get-together, but I sincerely do confess that I had way more fun at his party than I had expected to. Meeting so many new people there, mostly meeting so many amazing engineerings who are building the new mobile operating system which I not only extensively use but also brag about to my friends, family and colleagues.

A few wow moments -

[1] Seeing @rage outside the twitter world, live infront of me!


[2] Mitchel's talk on how Mozilla acknowledges the tensions created around the last few decisions that went out and her explanation around why and how they were made and were important.


[3] Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' live performance at the mega party.


[4] My first ever experience of trying to 'dance' with other Mozillians. Yes, I had successfully avoided them during the Summit, MozFest and all other previous events in the last 2 years.


[5] The proudest moment for me was probably the meeting of the MDN and the webmaker team. When neither of the teams knew every other member of the other team, I was probably the one person who knew every person in that circle. Having worked very closely with both the teams, it was my cloud nine (++) moment of the workweek to be sitting with all my rock-stars together!

A lot of people met, a lot of planning done, a lot of things learnt and most importantly, a lot of commitments made which I am looking forward to execute in 2015.

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