BarCampDC 3 Recap

This past Saturday, November 14th, a hundred DC tech enthusiasts gathered at the Martin Luther King Library to create their own conference. Topics were suggested by participants and the group at large determined the schedule. It was a BarCamp at it’s best!

The final schedule as picked by the particpants at BarCamp DC

Large crowd at BarCamp DC 3

This year’s BarCamp had a few twists. The word ‘Twitter’ was banned and anyone violating that rule had to pay a dollar to the Twitter swear jar which was donated to charity. The other rule was no PowerPoint slides which was an effort to promote group discussions and participation over lectures.

I got to catch up with former co-workers from USNews as well as other DC tech-heads I met at other local events. The entire event including lunch was free of charge thanks to the generous sponsors who helped make BarCampDC possible. The pizza was quite good.

Typical techie BarCamp food: PIZZA!

Some of the talks I went to included:

Russell Heimlich and John Chen during the How To Play Tetris talk at BarCamp DC 3.

How To Play Tetris led by John Chen. John didn’t actually think anyone was interested in his talk but we had a good-size group talking about video game politics, strategies for Tetris, and the fact that there are Tetris pros making US$100k per year in Korea. The key takeaway was being good at Tetris takes practice, practice, and more practice. And after you’ve practiced some more, you wake up one day and realize you’re good at Tetris.

An Introduction to the Android Platform Gyuri Grell and Zvi Band led an introduction to the Android mobile OS platform. The talk was a little over my head as it was mostly about Java, which I know nothing about. The source code for Meetro DC, the DC Metro app demoed, can be found on GitHub for anyone to poke around and play with. I did enjoy seeing from a high level how Android apps work and shedding some light on the magic running behind the scenes. I’m really excited to see where Android goes in the future.

The most thought-provoking talk I sat in was Generalist vs. Specialist led by Kelly Gifford. It was such an open-ended topic that spurred a healthy debate. From my point of view you are both a generalist and specialist depending on what level you are comparing to. For example, in your company you might be the only “web person”, making you a specialist but with so many different hats to wear in a sole-developer position, you have to do many different things making you a generalist. Like most anything in life, nothing is cut and dry black and white but a lot of gray areas.

Ryan McGrath is in a unique situation at his job at  He is in charge of Improving the Performance of the Frontend for millions of sites hosted there.  Crufty code, too much JavaScript, and a less-than-ideal backend issue are some of the problems plaguing his pursuit for excellence. An engineer from Clearspring, which distributes billions of page views of widgets all across the web,  was in the room and provided some great insight into tuning performance for large-scale sites. They talked about some geeky stuff like serving images as base64 strings instead of binary data which can yield some performance gains. I was pretty much lost after that.

The final talk of the day was about TemlarPHP, a cascading template framework built with PHP. It separates presentation from content to create websites that are easy to maintain and standards complaint with the need for a database. It was created by Shawn Brown and looked like a lighter alternative compared to the other feature-packed, and somewhat bloated, web frameworks out there.

Russell Heimlich discussing frontend tips at BarCamp DC

Like the past two DC BarCamps, I gave a talk. The topic was HTML/CSS/JavaScript Tips & Tricks which I have picked up over the past few years and thought were worth sharing. I felt it was one of my best presentations as my talking points came to me naturally with code details to back up what I was saying. I was stoked to see so many people show up to hear what I had to say as well as contribute a few points of their own. Shaun Farrell managed to capture video from a part of my talk.

So as you can see there was a lot going on. There were so many other presentations I wanted to see and people I wanted to meet and chat with but there just wasn’t enough time. A big thanks goes out to the organizers (@jfc3 , @thorpus, @corbett3000, @farrelley, @patricktimony & all the others) that helped put on another great DC tech event.

Other BarCamp DC Resources

DC Tech Events For Fall

The DC tech scene is just bursting at the seams with interesting (and free) tech events and un-conferences coming up this fall. I don’t know If I will be able to attend them all but here are a few that made it on to my radar.

Accessibility Camp DC Logo
Accessibility Camp DC is taking place at Martin Luther King Library on October 10, 2009. The event will cover topics and discussions about making the web more accessible.

Public Media Camp Logo
PublicMediaCamp will be at American University on October 17 and 18, 2009. The event aims to put 100 developers, 100 public media supporters, and 100 people who work for public broadcasting companies in a room and see what comes of it.

TedX MidAtlantic Logo
TEDx Midatlantic will be held on November 5, 2009, at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, MD.  The event will feature presentations by many of the leading thinkers and doers in the MidAtlantic Region.

BarCampDC Logo
BarCamp3 is the grand daddy of all DC tech events. It will be at the Martin Luther King Library on November 14, 2009. This is always my favorite event of the year.

BarCampDC2: Bigger, Geekier, And More Food

This past weekend the second DC area BarCamp took place. Like last year’s event, a horde of local techies came out to teach one another and collaborate on new ideas.

My favorite presentation was from Jeff Brown, a high school teacher who considers himself a webucator. His talk was about how he is teaching proper, standards-compliant web development techniques at Damascus High School in Montgomery County. Here’s a picture of the back of my head (I’m in the blue shirt) taken by kenyaoa during the session.

Jeff Brown is a Webucator

Another memorable event was an impromptu session about Expression Engine, a flexible CMS. I was so inspired from the small group that the next day I tried the free version out myself.

The Washington Post was there covering the event and there was a small write up in the business section this morning. They interviewed Charlie Park, a friend of mine I met at the first BarCamp, who started an online budgeting app. The reporter called the space where we were meeting a “Georgetown basement” but it was actually generously donated by the Center for Digital Imaging Arts, which is a part of Boston University.

When you get over a hundred developers together all day, they’re going to get hungry. Thankfully this Barcamp was loaded with food. A full breakfast was provided including an assortment of bagels, muffins, and coffee. Candy, nutrigrain bars, and granola bars were available for snacking on throughout the day. And for lunch, the organizers ordered 100 pizzas for everyone! I think that ended up to be half a pizza for every attendee. As you might guess there was some extra food leftover at the end of the day so the Barcamp organizers donated 40 pizzas, 60 bagels, and a heap of muffins to a local homeless shelter.

Donating Extra Pizza

The after party took place at McFadden’s and since there was extra money left over in the budget we got to blow it on free drinks and food. Our waitress did a great job of keeping the group’s glasses and bellies full.

Overall it was another great DC tech event. A big thanks to all the people who helped organize the event and deal with the logistics. Another big thanks goes to all the sponsors who made BarCamp possible. Their donations went a long way so everyone could have a great time.

Other posts from around the interwebs:

BarCamp DC 2 Is Coming

It seems like just yesterday I was telling you guys about SocialDevCamp East. But the other day I got word that the 2nd DC area BarCamp is happening on Saturday, October 18th. This time it will be at the Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University in Georgetown. Why there is a Boston University in DC is beyond me. But lucky for me, the conference is right across the street from my work so I’ll be familiar with the area.

Last year’s BarCamp was the first technology conference I had ever been to and I had a great time meeting other like-minded web folks like myself. I gave a presentation about Firebug which was pretty much by the seat of my pants. This time I hope to present again except this time around I will come better prepared.

I hope to see you there on October 18th for BarCamp DC 2! More details can be found at the official website and wiki.


Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University
1055 Thomas Jefferson Street NW
Washington, DC 20007

SocailDevCamp East Fall Edition Is Coming!

Social Dev Camp East Logo

I just got an e-mail today from Dave Troy, the SocialDevCamp East organizer, announcing the fall edition of SocialDevCamp East! Like last year, this unconference is taking place at the University of Baltimore’s Thumel Business Center Building. If it is anything like the first SocialDevCamp East then expect to meet lots of interesting people and sit in on a bunch of great talks.

So if I’ve piqued your interest and you’re free all day on Saturday November 1st, then I’ll see you there! If anyone from the DC area wants to go and needs a ride up to Baltimore then let me know. I’ve got a mini-van and live right next to the Glenmont metro station (red line).

Time and Place

Saturday, November 1, 2008
8:30am – 10:00pm
University of Baltimore
1420 Charles St.
Baltimore, MD

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Other Resources