MinneBar 6 Summary

Today I went to MinneBar 6, which seems like it was the most populated one I’ve ever been to. It wasn’t as crowded as the first one that I attended, which was in a much smaller space with less people. This year went off pretty much without a hitch as an attendee. I attended some good talks with some great discussion.

At the start of the day Garrick van Buren gathered a bunch of people in a room and we talked about the Do Not Track thought space. I haven’t really been paying that much attention to the area, but it’s getting more and more nefarious from the tracking side it seems like. Mykl Roventine brought up at the end a whole new tangled ball that I hadn’t thought about in the form of affiliate programs - where sites are giving your purchase information to all of it’s affiliate partners in order to have them flag the items that they are responsible for. They’ll probably both be interested in the fact that I am running awstats for my own server, and I was previously going to re-add Google Analytics but have decided against it. The server logs are all I really need, at least for this site. There is an interesting trade-off here though, because many users will bring traffic to your site by putting on Facebook’s Like button or the Tweet This button, and the advantage of the extra traffic should be considered.

Next there was a good session about getting started with Android, that was in the largest room, which to me seems the least “MinneBar”-ish - the smaller rooms make discussion and question asking a lot easier. Donn Felker of QONQR did a great job of making the room work though, asking for topics before he started and handling most of them. It was not a lot of coding but a lot of focus on tooling as well as the details about monetizing your idea. One thing that I took away from this session was that people should start with the minimum viable product. If it’s going to be paid, start it out cheap and people will buy it anyway if they think it’s useful. I should have asked about what the change from a 24 hour to a 15 minute refund policy has had on sales of paid apps, especially on the small functionality MVPs.

I didn’t see anything all that interesting for the third session, so I fixed a couple of bugs and handled some emails, and talked to Garrick for a couple minutes while the directly before lunch. Grabbing some pizza, I talked to some students from St. Cloud who are just finishing up, and then walk around looking for some other people to talk to. John Chilton found me and we chatted a bit. I’m rubbish at networking at MinneBar. I don’t feel like I can sit down at a table that already has a group of guys at it and make connections - it could be that I’m just not great at it, or something about the tables or that there is always wifi available. I see a lot of guys from my twitter followers but I don’t tend to actually chat with them.

In the afternoon, Charles Nutter won the award for the most technical presentation of the day, going over almost all of the JVM bytecode operands while going over a short explanation of the stack machine that it runs on while encouraging everyone to learn a little bit about the bytecode that so many of our programs compile down to. A completely full room really indicated to me that there was untapped audience at MinneBar this year who would have accepted some more technical sessions.

Directly after that, the most entertaining session went to Charles again, this time assisted by his son, with an ad-hoc session about Minecraft. I’m a big fan of the game, but I haven’t played it in a while so I saw some of the new features, and had a good time chatting with some other gamers in the crowd. That’s also another audience that I think could be approached at the next MinneBar - something for the leisure time.

In the remaining sessions, I attended one on gathering your data about your users and plotting it in a useful way, mining the data that you already have in order to get good analytics. This was somewhat technical but quite cool because they sliced and diced the creative commons StackExchange Data Dump to show some interesting things. I seriously consider implementing some of these for my consulting work, they seem like the kinds of data that would be very appreciated to show growth to investors and the like. The last one I went to was more of a discussion about how designers and coders should cross-pollinate a bit when they are learning. Designers should learn a bit of code, coders should at least know a little bit of Photoshop / Fireworks… at least enough to get the job done.

I was pretty tired at the end of the day, so I didn’t stick around for much of the beer, also I was driving home and actually had to get some stuff done in the evening. I also just wasn’t feeling up to the networking aspect just then, partially discouraged because of my earlier failure to get into it around lunch time.

Overall, I would say that MinneBar 6 turned out to be a great BarCamp, with some wonderful sessions. The ones that I attended were all worthwhile. I didn’t “vote with my feet” and switch sessions in the middle of any this year - if I remember correctly I think I actually did that last time. I came across with a couple of thoughts - I’d really like to do a presentation next year about something. I feel like I should be able to contribute something to a conference like this, especially because there is such a wide range of topics presented on. Also, I feel a lot more comfortable getting my networking on in a smaller, more focused group - something like Ruby Users of Minnesota meetings, where I know that any person there is going to have more in common with me than one of a thousand. I’ll look forward to going to this next year if I don’t have a conflict though, and I encourage the same to anyone else in the tech community in the Twin Cities.