BarCamp Chennai 5 – #bcc5

For reasons of hashtagging search results leading directly to my blog, I included that in the title.

Why post so soon after the previous blog post? Because I promised I would to a bunch of like minded geeks.

Today, I attended BarCamp Chennai 5. It’s an unconference – which is another way of saying it’s the most free forum on the planet. The participants are the ones who conduct all the sessions and with whom all the interaction takes place. There is no greater authority asserting itself and taking centre stage all the time. I absolutely loved the concept.

It takes some time to understand what an unconference is and how much freedom you have in there. Actually, you have zero restrictions and some minor monitoring in case things get out of hand for the sponsors – PayPal.

I went to BarCamp with my friend, Abishek. Believe me, getting to that office is not a piece of cake considering all areas beyond Thiruvanmiyur are memory blocks you can’t access (The influence of assassin’s creed is evident, sorry 😛 )

But we made it to the PayPal office and after fumbling around the maze they call the parking area, we got to their registration desk and to the 6th floor into the Main Camp. We took quite some time trying to wrap our heads around their schedule. Once convinced we’d got it right, we proceeded to our first session – BrainNook.

BrainNook is an online multiplayer game – for kids. It was an eye opener as to how an online multiplayer is generally designed. I mean – this is nowhere close to the complexity that MMOs like WoW or others possess but the basic underlying architecture is the same – server handling, client handling, server-client communication and all that. BrainNook is an educational game and can be accessed here. I never bothered trying to play it because I know I have no interest in these things. The session anchor – Abhijeet Vijayakar – explained to us the major components of the game design. The game seems fairly simple on the in-game quest designs part (hardcore gamers will know what I mean by that term) but still amazes me on how much resource is needed for such a simple idea. Starting from a server having 2 server management softwares – PHP+MySQL and Flex – till the feature-rich client and the custom analytics code for data collection, the game took 15 months to design and while not a visual treat (it’s for kids – so what the hell), it certainly brings out some design perspectives. The games in BrainNook are designed from a few prototypes to which specifics are supplied so that the Flex server can supply the required game on demand. It’s like keeping a substrate and either adding or removing stuff to get the desired product. One valid question was the design inconsistencies when it is laid open to developers who want to create a game with a different base prototype. Although the answer was not satisfactory, the game is only in its developing stages. So a lot can be overlooked right now.

After that, we moved on to the NoSQL session. Now, considering I’m not at all knowledgeable in RDBMS or any type of data management system, this was a no-brainer for me. But the session was really interactive and I came across a lot of tech jargon like JSON, schema etc. The basic thing I understood was that instead of data management that SQL does, NoSQL aims at decentralisation of data management and a more flexible data storage structure. Querying for patterns seems to be a problem to deal with. Although some explanation was given, it was beyond my plane of knowledge to grasp it.

After a little loafing around since we had no other session which was interesting, we went to the TEDTalk given by Siddhartha Jayakumar. Siddhartha suffers from Cerebral Palsy and has no coordination with this movements but still managed to get a job into RBS and get a CDCS certification and go into the documents checking section. Very inspiring talk, all in all.

The most interesting session was the next one – On the Android OS by Mr. Gajendran. The last time I attended a session on Android was in college and the ex-Amrita Motorola employee was not exactly very knowledgeable. Fortunately, when you are given a session by a man who hacked the bootloader of his nexus one on his own – as a hobby – you are lucky because he knows everything about the OS. The session was basically about how the Android framework is built and the interaction of applications within the android environment. Very very interesting to say the least.

After getting a T-Shirt (which I’m wearing right now 😛 ) and taking a look at who won the PayPal award for an innovative money making idea using the PayPal API, we left the building back home.

I was tweeting the whole while I was there and checking random laptops plugged into the #bcc5 stream in twitter to check my own updates appearing 😀

All in all, a very fun and productive day – definitely what I predicted it to be .. Or not! 😛

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