Open Space conferences show why smaller can be better

By Matthew Heusser, CIO |  IT Management, Conferences

BarCampGR was the broadest of the three events. Mobile application development was popular, with a double-length session called "Objective-C Eye For the .NET Guy" and a talk on developing native Android UI applications. There were also presentations on distributed version control, hacking GIS systems, decoupling team active record and about how "Real-Time Systems Keep You ALIVE!" In addition to hardcore technical topics, there were sessions on using a slow cooker to smoke ribs, publishing an ebook, learning macroeconomic theory and removing malware.

The Saturday morning status board for BarCampGR 2012.

The great story of the conference wasn't the talks, though, but how it was organized. When I attended BarCampGR for the first time, in 2008, the schedule (Friday night to Saturday night) was built on a big board where people who wanted to present showed up and wrote in what they wanted to speak about. Organizers put up a new board every few hours, with three in all.

By 2012, the organizers had something better in mind. Prior to the event, they create a Reddit page for attendees to submit ideas. Anyone could browse the selection, vote ideas up or down or leave comments. This way, by the time the conference started, submitters know if a particular event will be popular enough to propose and will have feedback to make the talk better.

One highlight of the conference came from Calvin College Professor Patrick Bailey. He speaks about the science, technology, engineering and math professions, collectively called the STEM degrees. Bailey shows the difference between the new types of jobs that require STEM degrees and the number of students in the pipeline.

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For computing through 2020, Bailey's research shows three-and-a-half times more computer science jobs created than CS graduates. While that might be good news for programmers, it suggests that employers need to develop hiring and retention strategies now or face pain later, he says.

Patrick Bailey suggests that there is a mismatch between computing students and the jobs that will be created in the next eight years.


Originally published on CIO |  Click here to read the original story.
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