Almost 2 weeks ago (can’t a girl study?), I attended Vancouver BarCamp at Workspace, same as last year. I didnâ€™t present this year, but when I arrived (late and a tad hung over from the Alibi Room party the night previous where KA and I got up to our usual antics. Gawd.) I realized that this was a mistake. There was nothing on wikis: it shoulda been me. Next year. Fine.
Anyhoo. There werenâ€™t a tonne of sessions that grabbed my attention this year, which was a bit of a drag. I did attend Tod Maffinâ€™s session on cool apps for geeks (or something like that) but being late I was seated far away and could barely hear, or see well, for that matter.
One session that did catch my eye, from a research perspective, was Robert Scalesâ€™ session on open source as a business model. This was intriguing to me, because sharing and cooperation among firms does not fit under the horizon of capitalism or its fundamental and essential goal, the god profit. Not normally, anyhow.
But Scales (as everyone seems to call him) has a different view of the Van tech scene. According to this view, the various Drupal shops operate in a vague sort of affiliation, working together on what are (from the clientsâ€™ perspective) competitive bids and sliding each other business if itâ€™s a better fit for another shop.
Scales says the various companies, including his Raincity Studios, a drupal web development/design firm, and Bryght (whatup kk+?) work together to bolster the local tech scene, focusing on cooperation rather than competition. Or as Scales put it, â€œcompetitive collaboration.â€ (I just learned thereâ€™s another word for this, a neologism, in fact: co-opetition.)
This is certainly an unusual business model but it seems to be working. Inspired by the open source software development method, they work collaboratively on client proposals, and follow a similar pricing scheme in order not to undercut one another. They regularly pass clients back and forth, depending on their own particular specialties, the clientsâ€™ needs and, of course, how busy they are.
And they are busy. Scales says Raincity will be turning away business for the foreseeable future. But this hasnâ€™t seemed to dampen their enthusiasm for open source or their passion for contributing to the Drupal project. Scales says that educating clients about the benefits of open source (not least of which is financial) is an important aspect of their work. Giving back to the Drupal community remains fundamental.
So whatâ€™s the overall vision? Scales talked about the about need for larger projects, for training; for building open employment communities; and for pooling talent. â€œIf weâ€™re bringing all these entities together in a super-collaboration, will it work? Or will there be a clash of ideologies? The tension, as he identified it, is this: â€œWeâ€™re out to make money, and to make the world better.â€ Scales tossed out the idea of a mega agency collecting all the different aspects of the Van tech scene together, in a loose federation, or under some sort of umbrella organization. (He talks more about his open business approach here). This is a big, bold, innovative idea. I think it would be amazing if it workedâ€¦.
I also attended Lee Lefeverâ€™s session, Fighting Complexity with Video. Businesses hire Leeâ€™s Seattle-based consulting company, Common Craft to make short, explanatory videos for their websites. I first came across Common Craft when searching for a good resource for teaching wikis. Mark Dilley suggested Wikis in Plain English, which does rock. I showed it to my class last semester and they really dug it. CC also has videos on RSS and Social Bookmarking, which I am definitely going to check out. Anyhow, I missed most of Leeâ€™s session, cause it ran concurrently with Scalesâ€™. So I only caught the tale end. Another drag.
The last session I attended was one about Drupal and Facebook (there were a number of sessions having to do with Facebook. Have I mentioned I am over Facebook?) Anyhow, it was pretty short, and all I could really get out of it (with my limited technical knowledge/skills) was that a seemingly cool new fb app, using Drupal for the back end, is in the works, and Iâ€™ll prolly add it when itâ€™s ready. Itâ€™s from Project Opus, an online music community designed to support artists, fans and local music. and it allows you to make a mix tape, and then share your player. Something like that.
Thatâ€™s enough. BarCamp was fun. It was on my birthday, and nerdy as it truly is, I found it a great way to celebrate gettinâ€™ older. When I got home, there was a surprise dinner, surprise guests and surprise presents. The only thing not a surprise was the cake which, when you have kids, is a requirement.