Saturday, November 15, 2008

BarCamp Saigon - A truly impressive start

I attended BarCamp, Saigon, RMIT, IBM, Vinagame, WPP,  Martin Sorrell, Advertising, New Media, BarCamp Saigon today with no preconceptions. No, that's a lie, I expected it to be boring. I figured I'd go for an hour and walk. From all I had read and seen on the Internet I envisioned a few rooms full of siliconmunist geeks, embroiled in their own laptops and discussing obscure programming language that only a Linux devotee could love. But this was my first BarCamp so a learning curve was in store for me. What I found instead, was many rooms full of many different kinds of people that was a perfect mix of Vietnamese, multinationals and a few Cambodians thrown in for good measure, discussing everything from New Media to "How to Start a Start-up" to "Sexy Cambodian Bloggers". It was fun, it was refreshing. It was interactive.

It was everything that the advertising business used to be, but doesn't seem to be anymore.Justify Full And that's a shame - for the ad business anyway. Over the last eight years, or maybe longer, the biz has been steadily eaten away by "New Media" businBarCamp, Saigon, RMIT, IBM, Vinagame, WPP,  Martin Sorrell, Advertising, New Media, esses, many represented by the variety of people in the rooms today and what I felt, in a more than general nature, is that this is where the business of creativity has moved for the future. Many many years ago, in the 1960s, Marshall McLuhan said, "The medium is the message" in reference to the burgeoning dominance of mass media in American society and today that statement was more than fact. McLuhan also coined the term "Global Village" and today was just part of the realization of his prediction.

To understand my description of the advertising business' decline over the last eight years one need look no further than to the current share price of WPP, the world's largest communications business holding company, at $26.50 today vs. $100 in the year 2000. I still own a few hundred shares. Ha! It's a sad, but real decline and representative of the entire industry. And a lot of it happened, because the ad business had tied itself to an old 15% commission model based on the purchase of mass media at a time when the masses were moving into more personal and segregated forms of media - and the ad agencies had no new media products or ways to charge for them. No, Martin Sorrell didn't make this happen - the consumer made it happen - because he/she wanted to consume his/her information in the new ways that were being made available in the day, and not in the old ways, where the company or government said the same thing to everyone and everyone had no choice but to hear it and sit down. The consumer began to not only have a choice, but a voice in their message channels and content. User- generated media was born. Over the last eight years New Media has enjoyed an upwardly spikey growth chart whilst television and mass media expenditures have declined consistently.

One of the most interesting comments of our BarCamp day came from a Cambodian blogger who said that in Cambodia "Blogs have become the most trusted form of receiving news because people no longer believe the mass media". This sentiment has been echoed by people worldwide over the last few years when, America, the former bastion of free speech, became the home of "embeded" journalism and government controlled media. By the time anybody in mass media checked the constitution, the bloggers of America and the world had already printed the stories of the day and citizens all over the globe had read them. I'm happy to have been along for that ride.

My Barcamp started at the registration table at RMIT University . The event was sponsored by RMIT, IBM and VinaGame. I was asked to sign a form and given a name bBarCamp, Saigon, RMIT, IBM, Vinagame, WPP,  Martin Sorrell, Advertising, New Media, adge and a program (iBarCamp, Saigon, RMIT, IBM, Vinagame, WPP,  Martin Sorrell, Advertising, New Media, n Vietnamese only) and informed that it was lunchtime so I could use a voucher for 40,000 VND inside my packet to have lunch. How cool. So the first thing I did was have a free lunch and a Pepsi. Sweet. My afternoon was full of bopping from room to room where I found active discussions, cool speakers and simple but interactive presentations. But the most impressive part of all was the interactivity. These audiences weren't the typical "sit and listen to the professor" type. Rather they weren't audiences at all but participatory bodies who drove the discussions into areas even the speakers hadn't considered. I've included the day schedule here. You can double-click on the images and make them large enough to read.

The afternoon finished around five o'clock with a wrap-up presentation in the auditorium. All the sponsors were thanked, and there we many aside from the three biggies, and we were given free t-shirts from the event and invited to an after-party with food and drinks provided gratis at a restaurant nearby. And unexpected treat. The RMIT team, a big one, came out jumping around and hugging each other to cheers from the crowd, camera flashes and spirits hitting a big high.

To finally wrap the event, cordless microphones were dispatched to the audience and we were each asked to state just one thing we had learned at BarCamp that day. The best comment came from a Viet student who said the following:

"Today I learned the meeting of Free. Free lunch, Free dinner, Free beer, but most of all Free Thought. We Vietnamese need to learn to speak more freely and share our ideas to build a better future and better businesses. Today I felt a Freedom of mind that I want all of us to continue in the future".

That comment illicited the biggest applause from the audience and probably the best feeling, all of us had had all day. The after-party was more fine conversation with a good solid dose of networking and a liberal sprinkling of food and drink for all.

A totally successful event I would say. Thanks to Kevin Miller, Thomas Wanhoff and the whole huge crew who pulled this off. (sorry, I don't know all your names)

For more on blogs, blogging and bloggers, check here:

Advertising People & Blogs - The Travis Diaries VI
How to Write the Best Damn Blog in the World
Throw That Blog a Bone!
If Blogs Are Free Are They Worthless?
What If Gutenberg Had a Blog?
If You Like the Blog, Read the Book>/a>
2008 Annual Report - The Wild Wild East Dailies
Blog Redesign WWED
BarCamp Saigon 2008
Attraction vs. Conversion - How to Power Your Blog
Are the Bloggerati Missing the Market?

For more on digital marketing and social networking see:

Xing vs. LinkedIn: Round II
Trial and Error: The New Normal
What's Wrong With My Social Networking? Xing vs. LinkedIn I
Low Tech Germany. Who Knew?
Advertising People and Blogs
How to Write the Best Blog in the World
What If Gutenberg Had a Blog?
If Blogs Are Free Does That Make Them Worthless?
Detri-Viral Marketing II: The Top 10 Social Media Blunders
Bright Lights, Big Internet and the WWED
Saigon Digital Marketing Conference Successfully Avoids Plumbers Convention
A Tale of Many Marketing Conferences
Detri-Viral Marketing I: How Web 2.0 Can Go Against A Brand
Marketing Predictions for 2009
Barcamp Saigon 2008
"Ignore Everybody" is Born: A Plug for Hugh MacLeod
Are the Bloggerati Missing the Market? Asia has Risen,
Into the Gapinvoid - Web 2.0 Social Networking Born 20 Years Ago


  1. Thanks very much, insightful and inspirational. Would you mind if we repost it on the website? :)

  2. If you had this preconception before starting I urge you to spend more time with vietnamese and less with western expats. It is true that Viet Nam is ruled by a single political party. But they know how to debate and argue endlessly over ANY subject. There's no subject people can't talk about.

    Been there more than 4 years and very often people will look bored in meeting because people are used to boring meeting. But give the vietnamese audience one inch of interactivity and you will see the vietnamese democracy in action... Much better than our TV over fed debates

  3. To Anh Hung Nguyen: Sure. Go ahead and post it on BarCamp. Cool.

    And to David t.

    My preconceptions came from the early promotion and description of the event. Also from visiting other Barcamp sites around the world. Many are miserably marketed and represented. My preconceptions were certainly not about the Vietnamese being boring or unable to discuss. And mine was not a political comment. I've taught marketing, branding and multi-media around town, everywhere from Vietnam National University to American International High School and have see the Vietnamese in action every day, so...basically, I get it!

  4. It's Rath, Sexy Cambodian Blogger. I really thanks again for attending my session and giving me a very nice comment on my blog.

    I really like this post, is it possible i can tag some phrases in my blog, and i will put author by you?

    nice day, David

  5. Dude, thanks for your kind words. It was so nice having you join us. Next time you should do your own session.
    Did it change your mind about Vietnamese developers?

  6. Hey Chip;

    I didn't have any bad impression about Vietnamese developers but an unclear perception of BarCamps in general. Read the Wiki entry and explain to me the "Bar" part and how that works into tech and communications. That could confuse anyone. But the site here did an excellent job explaining the event and everyone pulled it off wonderfully. I'd be happy to present nest time. Let me know!

    Cheers, David


The Wild Wild East Dailies

D a v i d E v e r i t t - C a r l s o n
Find me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Read my blog: The Wild Wild East Dailies and keep up on our efforts with aSaigon/CreativeMorning.