BarCamp Philly 2016: An Unconference Recap

Every once in a while a tech conference comes along and wows an audience. But what happens when you attend an “un-conference”? That’s exactly what happened when Creative MMS dispatched a team of highly trained digital media experts to BarCamp 2016.

The Result: a creative collaboration that proved inspiration comes in many forms. Unlike a standard conference, BarCamp is an unconference that’s carried out by the attendees. Talks and discussions are scheduled the day of the unconference and cover a wide range of topics. Some are related to technology, while others are more ambiguous. We caught up with the Creative MMS team to probe their thoughts on this year’s event.

What inspired you most about BarCamp Philly 2016?

Ben LeDonni – Creative MMS Founder
The coffee! I mean, caffeine always does the trick and it certainly inspired me to get even more inspired by the talks 😉

Seriously though, the most inspiring thing for me was the all around energy of the crowd. The crowd loves the day and event so much. They collectively come together and collaborate, present and discuss random and unrelated topics, push through logistics issues and diverse backgrounds to make the event work. The people are so passionate about the tradition and belief in “getting together and collaborating” that the energy is high, the talks are great and faith in humanity is restored. (OK. Maybe a bit too dramatic.) The organizers were super inspiring, running through blockers and helping people with the greater good of the masses in mind.

Of course, I was inspired by, our very own, David Pereira’s talk on Voice Search and the future of it. So much so, that I went home, dusted off my coding chops and programmed an Alexa Skill. But I was so inspired by inspiration sake, that to say that one “learning” was the true takeaway would be too “un”altruistic, and almost feel like “poor form” by BarCamp standards.

Tyler Baber – Digital Account Manager
This was my seventh BarCamp Philly, and each time I go I know I will learn something that will make me think “how was I ever doing it differently before?” It’s a great place to hear about new strategies, tools, processes, and ways of thinking about the problems we face regularly when designing and building custom digital experiences. Frequently this insight comes from unexpected places–a throwaway comment in the middle of a session or something picked up in conversations in the hall.

This year I walked away aware of two tools I can easily imagine working with going forward.

In the first session of the morning, I saw how developers at Philadelphia digital agency O3 World used IBM’s Watson cognitive technology platform to create a personality profile based on a twitter feed. Then they use that profile to suggest what coffee roast the user might prefer. Targeted behavior marketing is nothing new, but the mix of tool and application was intriguing and has me thinking of ways we can leverage cognitive technology to deliver even better user experiences in the future.

In a later session, I listened as a professor of Interactive Design explained how he teaches college students the same kind of skills and processes we deal with every day in our agency. He astutely explained what our clients already know: user experience isn’t just a Web thing. His students have an assignment to diagram a flowchart describing the rules of a sport they didn’t previously know–a clever exercise for designers to put themselves in the position of an audience outside themselves.

As he walked through the work of his students, he made an offhand remark about Principal, a tool they use for designing and prototyping interactive elements.

At Creative:MMS we have a variety of ways to communicate concepts for hover effects, interactions, and animations to our clients, and Principal appears to be another tool we can add to our growing kit of User Experience Design resources.

David Pereira – Digital Optimization Strategist
When I first arrived at BarCamp, I had no idea what to expect. After all, it was my first “unconference” event. Walking through the growing crowd for a few minutes, I suddenly realized that I was in the presence of like-minded individuals. Not in the sense of just Digital Marketers, but a gathering of people with a passion for knowledge.

There were two things that inspired me on that day. The first was the fact that seemingly everyday people stepped out of their comfort zone to share topics they felt passionate about. There was a constant energy that surged through everyone, as if every single person was of one mind that day. This willingness to listen and learn inspired me.

Another thing that encouraged me was probably the second reason I was at BarCamp Philly 2016. I was inspired by the Creative MMS team that attended this event with me. I’ve never been one to shy away from public speaking, and now I had a platform to represent our Digital Marketing Agency.

I gave a talk on Voice Search Optimization for Businesses and how this evolving technology is changing the SEO landscape as we know it. It was exciting and humbling to receive the feedback from others as I shared my insights on this topic.

Being around my creative teammates and other passionate professionals was probably the most inspiring. Basically, this unconference was unbelievable!

Becca Refford – Web Design & Development
Getting to enjoy it for the first time with a team! Obviously the mishmash of talks and discussions this year were just as interesting as I’ve come to expect….. but for the past three BarCamps, I’ve been a bit of a loner. This year, our little crew made it out in full force. Having a group of people who were just as excited about being there as I was made the whole experience HEAPS better.

I also gave my first ever BarCamp talk with Tyler Baber – a Quizzo about Philly Architecture!

Anthony Peruso  – Junior Web Designer
Overall this was my first official tech conference. I was blown away by the atmosphere and overall energy at this event. Just seeing the positivity and collaboration level of the field we’re in is truly incredible.

The people giving talks were just your average person who was looking to share their views on how to do things better. I found this to be so useful just because there are tons of different ways to do just one thing.

It certainly opened my eyes and I realized that I have so much to learn. I cannot wait to go to more of these types of conventions!

Collaboration Leads To Inspiration

Knowledge is power. It’s even more powerful when that knowledge is fueled by inspiration. Creative MMS is always finding creative ways to help brands improve their digital presence while fine tuning the user experience. BarCamp Philly 2016 was an unconference like no other, proving that collaboration leads to inspiration. As a digital marketing company in Philadelphia, we use discovery and strategy to kick off every project. Contact us for all of your responsive web design and conversion optimization needs. Get inspired!