Notice: What you are about to read could be considered a rant.
I had a lot of fun teasing the BarCamp Nashville organizers. I absolutely had no idea what to expect from the event. I watched the BarCamp Austin video, read the website and the blog. It wasn’t until the speakers list was released that I had a thought of what to expect. Turns out, having a speakers list is a no-no for Barcamps.
Here’s what appealed to me (and apparently at least one other attendee/speaker.)
I saw a lot of talk about “no agendas” “blank sheets of paper on the wall” and “getting together to brainstorm.”
I debated not going. It was obvious that I was going to be the oldest person there. Older by decades, not by just a few years. Older than some of the barcampers dads. Not old enough to be anyone’s grandfather, thank goodness.
What I found was 400 Xers and Yers. For background, what I am writing about needs this qualifier about generalizations and stereotypes.
Warning:I am going to refer to some “generational theory” in this post. This theory is replete with generalizations and stereotypes of the members of each generation, while in reality there are some blurred lines between different generations. Some Boomers act and think more like Gen Xers, some Xers act and think more like Millennials (or Gen Yers), and some Gen Xers act and think more like Boomers.
Strauss and Howe define the four most recent generations as the Boomers (1943-1960), Gen X (1961-1981), Millennial Gen Y (1982-2003)
I’m not putting forth some theory here, that’s too academic, but I think I can offer a valid observation that frankly surprised me about these two groups.
Here’s what I observed.
Gen Xers and Gen Yers want structure
I’ve been going to seminars, conferences, meetings, whatever, for 37 years. Invariably it’s a classroom setting with somebody standing behind a lectern telling the audience what they should be doing. If you don’t know the routine it starts with the advance publicity explaining why this person is qualified to tell us what to do and the topic of the speech. Then you go to the conference and find out that the topic has been changed, then you attend the session and find out it’s been changed again. The speaker will say it’s to be a two way conversation, s/he doesn’t have all the answers. “Let’s make this a discussion.” 55 minutes into the one hour session, they end their monologue and ask if there are any questions.
I always come home frustrated because I don’t like being lectured to. Do you know anyone that does?
I thought Barcamp Nashville would be a radical departure from this routine. Barcamp.org gave me a good reason to think this.
- Be ready to participate – come with an idea for a session you can lead. You don’t have to be an expert at your topic; as long as it’s not too specific, there’ll probably be someone else present who can help you out. You can also contribute to the conversation during a session. This is a great way to participate, since it spreads knowledge from everyone, instead of just the leader.
First indication that Xers and Yers want structure:
Barcamp Nashville was held in a big old bar – a cool joint – the Exit/In. OK, cool factor, check. Uh oh, what’s this? The folding chairs are set up in rows? It’s dark like a performance venue should be. But the massive podium is on the stage four feet above the rest of us, and it has a spot light focused on it.
Second indication that Xers and Yers want structure:
There was a formal program schedule that the organizers insisted be adhered to as closely as possible. Most of the speakers – the local people who volunteered on a Saturday – were given twenty minutes. This killed me: there was a guy down front that was giving cues to the speakers.
Third indication of structure:
After each session when the Q & A started, one of the organizers had hand mic and ran around to make sure the questioner didn’t move from their seat.
Fourth indication of needed structure:
There was a dinner break which amounted to a “forced” interaction period.
Are you following me here?
Except….that’s NOT what BarCamp Nashville was. I don’t know if it’s because they didn’t trust us to be geeky enough for Freeform or if by the time something like BarCamp reaches the Bible Belt we have to force it into the standard PowerPoint-A-Rama that we’ve all come to know from church, sales meetings and overly dull e-commerce pitches.
Brittney Gilbert was a local Nashville blogger who went to work for WKRN as a paid blogger. She called it being professional, I call it being paid. Anyway, she quit because she got scared when the trolls got to personal. So she quit.
She needed structure, the safety of anonymity. Try Googling Brittney Gilbert and see how private she is since she quit and started another blog.
I mistakenly thought the article was penned by an unnamed writer. It was, instead, writtenho is now #1 with a bullet on my Shit List. Okay, not really, I don’t have a Shit List, because if I did it would be too long.
Don’t dish it if you can’t take it.
One of the best indications of Xers and Yers needing structure came during the Q & A after one of the two keynote speakers, Penelope Trunk. She has it nailed. If you’re starting your career, read what she has to say and then live it.
I had read earlier about some controversy created by Penelope Trunk at the Blogher.org convention. So I asked the question: “what happened at Blogher?” She said she didn’t know what I was talking about. A person in the audience tried to explain but the mic guy just moved on to the next questioner.
Turns out, she was the cause of some controversy at BlogHer and even apologized to a blogger. Here’s what she said in the comments: Hi, Lindsay. I’m sorry that I offended so many people that day.
Since my question didn’t fit the topic of her speech, the Xer moved on and we missed out on some insights that would have been very interesting. The Brazen Careerist vs. The Mommy Blogger
She talked about the ten myths of the workplace. (This link says nine, but she apparently added a tenth in the past few months.)
One of the questions from the audience dealt with benefits. Since mic guy wouldn’t go up a flight of stairs so we could hear the question, Trunk thought he was asking about pensions, and responded that working one place for fifteen years wouldn’t get you much more than a paycheck. Then she clarified that the question was about health care.
She is a freelance blogger and speaker. She earns her family’s income from blogging. She has two special needs children and a husband with a pre-existing condition. She said, they are practically uninsurable and her health insurance costs over $30,000 per year.
She said it can be done. The questioner said he was a freelancer and that he disagreed.
But he wanted the structure.
Half the room was marketing people. Usually I think of marketing people as having the propensity to try to avoid structure. They need to be creative in their thinking. The rest of the room I guess were bloggers, programmers, “digerati” of Nashville (is that a oxymoron?)
Of all the places I expected to find minimal structure for a gathering of like minded individuals, it would be at Barcamp Nashville. Instead I found just another seminar.
Disclaimer: this no reflection on the speakers unless mentioned specifically. tag: barcampnashville
I now return you to our regular scheduled “smart-assery.”