BarcampLA6 – Mahalo, Santa Monica, CA

Mahalo (by boogah)

Last weekend I attended BarcampLA, this was their 6th event and it was quite good. It was held at the Mahalo office space in Santa Monica CA Oct 25th and 26th. I took my brother along since he’s never been to an event such as this. I could have taken him to some of the previous events I’ve gone to lately but most of them are about podcasting and he isn’t really into that (no matter how hard I press it on him!). Barcamp was a great experience in sharing all sorts of knowledge in an open forum format. Typically someone would plan out a speech or a slideshow or powerpoint and then there would be a time for open questions. Most of the time the person talking was knowledgeable in the topic at hand but I ran into a few instance where they were only running it to being the discussion. Either way is fine since I’ve learned that at these events there is always someone that know more than you do and in some cases LOVES to make that fact quite known (and sometimes annoyingly too).

Our schedule was as follows:

Saturday

  • NIA – Play Pong with your brain
  • WordPress – Birds of a feather
  • Amazon EC2
  • Intro to Hardware Hacking

Sunday

  • Swiss Army Knives and Multitools
  • Using Photography to build your social network
  • Widgets and sharing online
  • Microsoft Surface
  • Lucid Dreams

Saturday

We arrived around 2pm on Saturday, we left our house at 12:30-1:00 and hit a bit of traffic along the way. I tweeted that I’d be arriving at Mahalo at 2 and my friend and fellow OC PodcasterPodcastJunky replied stating she was leaving at 2 and I could have her parking spot. Santa Monica is known for its crap parking and expensive parking garage rates so it was a good thing she was leaving when we were arriving. We later found out that quite a few cars were parking in adjacent company spots and they were being towed. When we walked up to Mahalo we were greeted by Jason Cosper who was one of the people running the event. I met Jason (known to his friend as boogah) at a local group he started a few months back, a LA WordPress Users Group. For having the entire event on his and his partners shoulders he was quite chill about the whole thing. I asked how things were going then headed inside. We walked in and wrote our names on some name tags and headed to the events board.

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We headed to the NIA – Play Pong with your brain group first. The room quite crowded and after a few small technical issues the presenter was about to demo how to play pong using only his brain. He had a headband with some electronics attached allowing for variations in his brainwaves to move the paddle up and down. He did a couple of great his and then during one volley missed it. It was a great demo of what could be done with so little. He also spoke about some research hes been doing with other forms of input, tounge, nose, eyes.. etc.

Our next stop was WordPress Birds of a Feather by Joe Crawford “artLung”

This was a great talk involving many aspects of wordpress. Upgrade frustrations, not being a crappy shared hosting customer using wordpress (wp-cache anyone?), and some great tips on various wordpress plugins. One thing that was not mentioned was podcasting, interesting.
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They handed out free BarcampLA shirts

After that they had snack time and then we headed to the Amazon EC2 talk, the room was quite dark since the room being used was where they shoot the green screen video for Mahalo Daily. EC2 is a way of using Amazon’s servers as a private server of your own. You setup the connection to the server using different methods, we used ElasticFox, a firefox plugin that lets you setup and maintain these virtual servers remotely. After spending $0.10 on my credit card I had a fully functional Ubuntu Hardy install running on a virtual machine. I made sure to terminate the connection and the virtual server so I wouldn’t be changed a fee per hour of it running.

BarCamp LA 6 (by vissago) BarCamp LA 6 (by vissago)

Next up we went to the Intro to hardware hacking with Eliot from Hackaday.com. This was one of the talks I really wanted to see and it was cool to see the guy behind one of my fave sites out there hackaday.com talk about all the cool stuff he deals with. The session started with Eliot bringing in this box that had a bunch of hacked hardware in it. In a very Carrot Top fashion he began pulling things hes hacked in the past from it. WRT routers, LED arrays, LED POVs, Dreammaker, etc. It was good fun to be had by all. He also explained some things about how to get into hardware hacking and the various types of breadboards and some examples of the stuff he uses to hack. I need to find one of those small FON routers and hack it.

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Sunday

Brandon and I arrived early on Sunday so we wouldn’t have a hard time finding parking. Once we arrived we checked out the board and got an idea of what we were interested in hearing about for the day.

Swiss Army Knives and Multitools What a cool and interactive presentation. It was mainly a show and tell of all the cool tools people carry with them, oddly even to events such as this.

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The 1st minute or so of this video appears to be upside down, it corrects its self.

Using Photography to build your social network. William Marc Salsberry did a great job showing how he has used his photography to draw attention to himself and his businesses. By doing so he showed us how we can take photography and making people look good to draw attention to our social networks. One of the things he empasised is making your subject looking good allows for a somewhat viral or word of mouth draw to you and your network. People like to talk when something good happens to them and Marc has learned that by taking great photos he’s not only developed a great relationship with the subject but also with their social network. I’ve recorded his session on video, most of it unfortunatly is the screen or the back of his head.

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Widgets and sharing online. Justin Thorpe from ClearSpring Technologies did a session talking about Widgets and how to use them to share info with others or to use for yourself. The sharing with others bit was interesting because there are many websites out there that provide a service that will take existing content and “widgetize” it. You take your RSS feed or other dynamic content and tell the webservice about it then they create a widget using this data. It can be video, audio, text etc. The idea of using widgets for yourself is interesting because you’d use these on a start page such as igoogle or yahoo. You can see your weather, bank balances, traffic info etc all from your private start page.

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Microsoft Surface. My brother and I were really looking forward to seeing this thing in action. It’s an tabletop based interface that allows you to manipulate “assets” on the screen. It uses a camera below the table to read where you fingers are and allows you to move and interact with items on the screen. We were pretty impressed with this Microsofts effort and we’re looking forward to seeing what the future holds.

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Lucid Dreams. It looks like the Tucker Brothers are both avid dreamers. After listening to this session on Lucid Dreaming and how you can control your dreams and interact with the “dream world” it dawned on us that we both have vivid dreams. I asked about taking in your sleep and no one had much to say regarding that.

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Closing

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I think BarCampLA6 went off without a hitch, at least I didn’t notice anything. Things went quite well for the group that attended, twitter was in full effect at this unconference. @jasontucker if you want to send me a shout out.