Saturday, February 28, 2009

Barcamp SG 3 - "How to produce & publish your music album online, practically free, without a music production company or distributor"

[From earlier post]
BarCamp / BarCampSingapore3

Here's what I presented this afternoon at BarcampSG 3.

Waiting for my session to start

My session started with 5 people. Then more streamed in. In the end, there were maybe 25 to 30 (wish I'd taken a picture at the end).

I polled the audience during my talk. About a third of those present played some musical instruments. Only three (three!) had some intention to record their music onto their computers. Two-thirds were Mac users but maybe one-sixth had actually explored GarageBand on their Mac (gasp!)

Maybe after today, more will start recording their music in GarageBand and publish their music online.

When I ended my 20 minute talk, I asked them "This is my first Barcamp. So what happens after the talk ends? 'Cos you all seem to be just waiting for something."

That got some laughs. And this guy in front said, "If we're bored, we'll walk away. We're still here."

Something like that. :)

Here are the related barcampsg3 Tweets, Slideshare presentations, and Flickr tags.

BarcampSG was an eye-opener for me.

The Singapore barcamp adopts a hybrid format, where some of the talks are pre-scheduled, leaving the rest up for voting on the actual day. At most other barcamps, all talks are determined only the day itself and through public votes.

LED Home Lighting Ideas by Brendon Chong Some werewolf game or something

Preetam (one of organiser) tells me this was sort of an "easing in" towards a full voting format. However, I think a hybrid model may work just as well and perhaps something uniquely Singaporean.


The average age of attendees seem to be around late 20s to early 30s. I'm kinda considered the "older crowd" I think, though I spotted maybe one or two blokes a lot older than me.

Speaking as an "oldie" who's more used to the traditional organised/ scheduled conferences, the barcamp 'Unconference' format was a refreshing change. But it can daunting. The main reason, I feel, is in how Barcamp presentations are "selected".

In a traditional conference, speakers get endorsed by a select group of panelists. Only successful abstracts are selected and participants won't know who and what have been rejected.

At a Barcamp, any one who wish to speak can submit their topic and have others vote for it. This also means if your topic isn't popular, it's publicly known. To an 'Oldie', I'd imagine this requires a mindset shift. And it takes guts to submit a topic.

This is an example of a topic put up for voting:
How you voted for a proposed barcamp topic

If the topic receives enough votes (I think it's benchmarked against other topics) then it'll go onto the official programme schedule (updated real-time using whiteboard markers, heh):
The barcamp SG 3 programme

The advantage of this Barcamp format is that the participants have a say in the speakers they want to hear.

The disadvantage is that participants tend to vote on the basis of the title only, 'cos speakers don't circulate abstracts. There's no guarantee that the content would match the 'interesting-ness' factor in the title.

In truth, I'd be pretty hesitant to plonk my topic on the board for people to vote. But as I said, it requires a mindset shift.

The public voting format acts like a messy but effective self-selecting and crowd-filtered system. Only the very passionate, and who are likely to be experts in what they want to talk about, would want to put themselves on the line. And the participants play a part in the success of the event.

I've to qualify that I'm a pre-scheduled speaker. If I haven't experienced Barcamp, I wouldn't have turned up even if I was passionate and knowledgeable.

For one, I'm the kind of guy who tend to have too many self-doubts. And yes, my ego is easily bruised.

But having experienced this Barcamp, I have a better sense of the atmosphere and expectations of attendees. Most people are pretty nice (I've not read any Tweet about sucky presentations, heh).

So I feel a hybrid Barcamp model might be more feasible for Singapore, especially ease in Oldies like me. Also, I think it'll be a good balance to have the speakers ranging from the very passionate-but-relatively-inexperienced to the experienced-but-Oldie-mindsets. Or the passionate-but-young-and-hesitant.

Oh, another thing I like about Barcamp is that I learned a lot just from conversations that occurred in the hallways.


After my presentation, people came up and asked questions. And I learned from them in the process. Which created yet another shift in my mind, from the speaker's viewpoint.

Meaning, you don't really need to be Top Of Your Field to be a speaker. I realise now a Barcamp speaker is a Participant, first and last.

In a traditional conference format, speakers are usually expert trainers or lecturers. They are expected to deliver information.

At Barcamps, the speaker acts as a catalyst for conversations.

The talk is just one part, rather than the end, of the entire Barcamp learning experience.

Mindset shift indeed.

Barcamp SG 3, at Ngee Ann Poly TLC

[update: Here's Nazrul's post. He came all the way from Malaysia to attend BarcampSG. Plus he's a real music producer too. Cool]


  1. Ivan first of all thanks for coming and presenting.

    I wanted to add some details to the selection process. While it is true that only the titles go on to the voting board, the candidates are encouraged to canvass - i.e. they walk around with their computers open showing couple of slides to the attendees to try to get their votes. Usually there is a pitching session before the actual voting where all the presenters get to do a 1 min pitch of their topic. Unfortunately, we had to skip the pitching session yesterday as we did not have enough rooms. We will do this the next time.

    If lets say a topic gets 2 votes, the person may get a classroom to present but they can always take the 2 interested people to one of the open areas and do their presentation.

    Also, one needn't be an expert. A lot of barcamp sessions are discussions and even teach me type of sessions. At a recent barcamp in JB, one of the topic was "Teach me Wordpress". The person who posted the topic was the learner, the people who knew about wordpress were the attendees. and they shared their wordpress expertise in the class.

  2. Thanks for having me, Preetam. And thanks for the clarification. I like the "teach me" example.

    There's really a lot that goes on at a Barcamp. Definitely a lot more participatory that the typical conference. A lot more fun too, I feel. Yet the learning is no less serious.

    I wonder if the next session needs more publicity on "How Barcamp Works". Maybe loosen the "geek" part (which may create some stereotypes). At least I think that's how it can work in Singapore.

    I'm definitely alot more interested in Barcamp SG, now that I've tried out one and you've explained more. If you think I can be of any help for the next one (not necessarily as a speaker), let me know!

  3. Anonymous9:42 pm

    Hi Ivan!

    Glad you're now onboard the barcamp "fever". It sure is much more fun and engaging as compared to other similar sessions. It takes effort not just from the speakers but also the participants. Everyone should play an active role at barcamp.

    If there were more tweeters and liveblogger around, I'm sure we can even bring in participation that's unable to make it to barcamp physically. Perhaps for the next one, we can get volunteers to station in each room and send live updates via tweet too.

    Will share more about my thoughts on barcamp on my blog soon. Do pop by too ya. :P

    (learning from you leh... ermm the shameless plugging part? *lol*)

  4. I've enjoyed your presentation very much I must say. It was informative and clear. My only 'complaint' was that we seemed to need more of your time for Q&A! ;)

    Thanks for answering my query about piano recording. I am exploring the option that you advised me on - doing the instrumental and vocals separately.

  5. hi ivan!

    i enjoyed your presentation & yes, to be a BarCamp speaker, you'd have to be a participant first & last. that is the right mindset to make you stay "hungry".

    i've made up a few ideas for barcamp kl 2009 and will shoot the email your way very very soon.

    congratulations on your first barcamp experience :) ask for more! haha

  6. @Claudia - I dare not say I have barcamp fever yet but it's definitely warming up!

    @Rachel - Thanks for your questions. I hope you'll record something. Go post it to even (oh, email me too)

    @Nazrul - so cool to meet a fellow Joe Satriani fan (at least, you're the only guy who said Yea when I asked if anyone knew JS, LOL). Wow, all the way from Malaysia to attend barcampSG. Glad we managed to talk then! I went over to your Music 2.0 post and I can certainly learn more from you.


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