First off, I ended up attending almost by accident. I caught a Tweet about the event and realized it was on NC State University's campus where Garrison Locke and Jason Austin work. So – as a joke – I mention that I should go. Three seconds later, Shaun Farrell speaks up and offers to drive while Jason offers us real bedrooms. The rest was just gas money and details.
Next, the team – led by Dave Johnson – did a great job of getting keeping things organized, people fed, and everyone properly caffeinated. We got there early – Jason was working registration – and things were already sorted out and moving pretty well. They continued to move about the same way throughout the day.
Next, RedHat shared some great space. The classrooms were all (roughly) together and setup well with easy power distribution and good wifi coverage. Of course, unlike most conference spaces, these were mostly classrooms, so it was quite a bit easier and well done.
My only concern was in the lead up… if you're not familiar with my efforts, I tend to be involved and talk and think a lot about Unconferences and BarCamps. One of the oddities about BarCampRDU was the sponsorship structure. Generally, BarCamp sponsorships are set up with a cash ceiling of $250 or so and any bigger donations have to be “in kind” or services. This conference had Diamond, Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Other.
While this worked in their case and I didn't see any problems, the trend makes me nervous. One of the key parts of the BarCamp sponsorship structure is leveling the playing field between the Microsofts and the CaseySoftware's (or Blue Parabola's). As soon as sponsorship levels start forming, some sponsors are going to expect more access, more benefits, and privileges that other sponsors don't get. Isn't that what they paid for? A guaranteed presentation slot? Prominent placement on the shirt/website? Handouts to all the attendees? Guaranteed admission for some of their people or sales prospects? Maybe naming rights for the conference?
At some point – and once again BarCampRDU did not cross this line – it becomes a regular conference…
All of that said, I'd attend again in a heartbeat.
Well, as long as the deer don't attack again. But that's another story…