The BarCamp happened yesterday and Philly’s brightest and most enthusiastic ‘interative media’ professionals came out in force. Barcamp is a type of grass roots conference setup by the people bottom up rather then by a company top down.
I talked a lot, learned a lot, drank a lot and made some friends in the process.
Each session exceeded my expectations in different ways. My talk on the how we build and operate http://www.comcast.net was very well received and it was very telling to step up from the weeds and view this creation with my peers. As much as we need to move forward sometimes we at CIM forget how far we have come. Since this was an untelevised, ego and marketecture free event we openly discussed what we did right and wrong. Having this talk with people that live through this grind every day is very different then having it with people that learned the ‘right way to build websites’ from books or blogs.
“Don’t hire legacy developers, kill legacy systems”–My quote of the session
You guys really work hard, Comcast should hire more developers.–Audience quote of the session
From there I went to a “Web Standards’ talk given by someone that lived through it at AOL. Given my challenges of getting standards adopted at Comcast this was also a great learning and sharing session. We discussed what needs to happen in our educational system and industry in order for Standards be become accepted as a core part of webdev and not a ‘nice to have’.
Who would hire a web developer that does not follow standards?–Audience quote of the session
After a quick lunch attempt at a local Indian place (service in 45 min: FAIL) we returned for a talk about innovation. My intent of this session was a he said / she said comedy routine with Arpit where he would play the role of the frustrated developer and I’d be more of the pointy haired boss keeping our hapless developers trudging towards a deadline. Interesting enough this session redefined the term “Innovation” for me as the talk went in a completely different direction. By the definition of my peers we have been innovative. Much of our innovation has not been customer facing so it does not fit with the typical management concept of what they expect to see with regard to innovation.
A very interesting undercurrent was that most people innovate by padding their time or otherwise hiding this effort from their bosses. I commented that I think this is disrespectful to the bosses and the responses again surprised me. It turns out that most people feel that the top execs are very cluefull and ‘get it’ at many levels. They also feel that the middle management just below them have no clue. The other key factor in stifling innovation in large organizations is the inherent disrespect across disciplines. For some reason many people think that innovation has to come from their immediate team rather then the larger group. (So for example the HTML devs have to innovate as opposed to the team consisting of HTML/IA/Design/Biz/QA etc..)
The other great take home was that the entire crowd was supportive and we all wanted each other to succeed. I never experienced such a positive vibe about Comcast in Philly and how much the tech community was behind us to succeed. There is nothing in the way of CIM (Comcast Interactive Media). I do think that we finally have that ‘critical mass’ of community here in Philly and it is time that the East Coast become known as a center of innovation. There is some great talent in this region, from us corp developers to the fierce independents at Indy Hall
“We are not the Comcast you know and hate, we are the Comcast you don’t know and love”–Quote of the session
All this was less then half my day. Stay tuned for more!