Now that the third Barcamp Berlin is officially over, it's time for me to take a look back at the event that took place at the Hauptstadtrepräsentanz der Deutschen Telekom. As prestigious as the building itself is, it's only partly fit for a Barcamp. While the atrium was the perfect place to meet people, to have a chat or two, and to simply relax between sessions, the session rooms just weren't rooms yet mere compartments, divided by foldable room divider. That brought the noise level up way too high, with the result that many participants had a hard time understanding what they were being told - not to mention discussions that would have been possible. Apart from that, however, it was an excellent Barcamp. I met lots of old and some new friends, had a great time at the after-hour at St. Oberholz, and was tired but happy after eleven hours of sessions and chit-chat.
I was especially pleased that most of the session more demanding, on a higher level than those at BarCamp Munich the week before. It's always a matter of luck to find the right sessions because, too often, you just don't know what to expect after the session slotting. But, as I said, this time I attended six interesting sessions which I will summarize here in chronological order.
The first session I attended was by Ole Begemann who introduced us to the Strobist approach to photography which is basically about how to use off-camera flash lights to improve the quality of one's photos. Ole published some notes about his talk. Thanks, Ole, it was an enlightening session in every resprect, especially because I bought a digital SLR this year and still have a lot to learn.
Petar Djekic then showed us mufin, a new service that seeks to make up for the shortcomings of conventional music recommendation services. While users of last.fm, Amazon, or other popular sites and services are often faced with inconclusive, uninteresting or even wrong recommendations that are direct results of their respective approaches - user generated recommendations, automatic matching of any kind - a new, better strategy should add one more important information: It analyzes the actual music files. Of course, other tools do that, too, but mufin aims to integrate all known methods and thus generate better recommendations. Inspiring.
Next up was a session by our hosts, Deutsche Telekom, who have launched a developer portal some time ago. The German telecommunications giant read the signs of the times and obviously realized that they need to open up their products to developers. In short, there's an Open API for interested developers who want to play around with voice call services, VoIP, and sending short messages over the net. I don't want to go into details here, but I must admit that they realized that they have problems there and honestly asked third-party developers for help. This seems to be quiet an achievement for this huge corporation that - in the eyes of most geeks - ranks not much behind M$ on the unpopulariry scale. We'll have to wait and see, however, how this endeavor turns out in the long run.
Equally instructive was Jan and Volker's talk about CouchDB, a document-oriented database written in Erlang that seems to be very useful for a variety of diverse applications. It demands an almost completely new way of thinking from someone who usually developes for relational databases, but it seems to be lightning fast if you know how to use it right. Definitely worth a closer look. You can find links to further presentations on CouchDB on the wiki.
Although tired and to the brim filled with information, I stayed for the last round of sessions and attended Ian Forrester's talk on Boxee and XBMC. Unusual stuff, but we heard and talked about a lot of tools that I will try out for sure. Building my own media center for watching TV, recorded video, and everything else has been on my list for a long time. I set up a MythTV box once on Fedora, and it worked, but the hardware was to old, cranky and loud. Maybe I try to find an old X-Box and fiddle with it a little more. Anyhow, the next time I got a couple of hours left, I will give Boxee a shot.
All in all, I really enjoyed my day at this BarCamp, and I also enjoyed relaxing on Sunday, with no BarCampers around, just a long breakfast, strolling around Görli, taking a walk through some other parts of the city and thinking about anything but computers