After some initial hesitation, I decided to show up at BarCamp Hong Kong, the first of its kind to take place in town. Held at Yahoo! Hong Kong‘s offices at Sunning Plaza in Causeway Bay, the event attracted close to a hundred participants, more than the number of those who signed up at the BarCamp’s unofficial registration booth.
As expected, some familiar faces were seen in the crowd: Ed Chok, Angus, Sam, Napoleon and Derek, my former colleague at Ion Global. I met new friends as well: Ca Phun Ung, born in Vietnam but was practically raised in the UK before coming to Hong Kong and eventually in China, and manages his own business just north of the border; Colin Leung, Multimedia Director at MixMedia whom I got some animated discussions along with Julian Wong, web developer at Yahoo! Hong Kong; Bo Fussing, Managing Director for Technology for the Waglan Group, and Chris Chan, a freelance web developer focusing on Ruby shared their views on a more technical side of things, something I have decided to put into the backseat of my career.
I also got to realize that Oiwan Lam is a woman and not a man (Notes: 1. I’ve been half-focused into the controversy that dragged her along and 2. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to figure out a Chinese name to be of a man’s or woman’s.) And I got to meet Rebecca Mackinnon who is closely following Oiwan’s case. Victor Cheung, who made a comprehensive coverage of BarCamp (methinks he the one of the initial pioneers who brought the idea of BarCamp in Hong Kong) was content on being out of the spotlight and was one of the photographer of the event.
Before event started to unfold at around 11am, we had an informal way to introduce ourselves. Free t-shirt were handed over courtesy of Ed’s company, which fielded the most number of participants during the event. It somehow motivated people, typically shy ones, to say something. There I found out that most of the attendees are into technology business, with some students, multimedia and very few marketing people. I am dismayed that no one else from my office showed up. Somehow I was uncertain that if I were to give a talk about search engine marketing, I’d ever draw a seizable crowd to listen to me.
The crowd grew by the time sessions were about to start and Yahoo offices became a little crowded. Nevertheless we’re all grateful for the space, equipment and manpower offered. One effective way to organize topics was the use of colored post-it that allows greater flexibility and addresses the need of organizing things even if at the last minute. Some topics were merged, some sharing required projectors, which are not available on other rooms (we had three session rooms: Lamma, Dimsum and was it Fried Noodles?) and the post-it system addressed those issues seamlessly.
I first attended a session about mobile web, a talk which spawned a healthy discussion about privacy issues, legal implications on operating certain territories (the web should know no boundaries, right, but dirty politics has its own way of getting through). That led to the more intense talk about China censorship, privacy laws and related topics initiated by Rebecca and participated in mainly by Sam, Henry Oh and Charles Mok.
My schedule was at 1pm, just after the midday lunch break. I had to scramble for a topic which I easily figured out based on the backgrounds of my would-be listeners. I decided to give a high level SEO/PPC presentation which I later found out was too basic to one of the members of the audience. There were a few questions (customizing code for search engines, AJAX linking issues) and with 30 minutes to spare for the whole session, the talk allowed minimal interaction. Then I met the CEO of OpenRice, Ray Chung and Bill So of Headnix (I did not know there is a position called Cocoa Developer until today; I guess I need to sway myself into Mac a little bit more) after the talk.
Later I also attended the session on Eclipse Rich Client Application Platform by Andrei Lissovki.
Apart from the seemingly crowded rooms, I think everything else worked fine. Maybe except for one instance when the projector did not work for an interesting presentation about a webcam as an input device and making the laser pointer simulate a mouse by Ben.
BarCamp Hong Kong indeed proved that Hong Kong community is alive and open for new opportunities not only for personal benefit but also for the whole of Hong Kong. Although it may be a conventional wisdom that these gatherings are more of techie, geeky type just because of the interests of attendees, it shouldn’t be taken as such. As defined:
BarCamp is an ad-hoc unconference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from attendees. Anyone with something to contribute or with the desire to learn is welcome and invited to join.
I look forward to the next BarCamp session. Thank you guys!
(Thanks Sam for the photos!)