In 2004, I came across FooCamp, an invite-only, camping style meetup of great minds in Sebastapool, California. The event was restricted to the who’s who of the brilliant people doing cutting edge work. Its an event that I can only dream to be part of. However, I fell in love with the format of casual networking and learning from each other.
In 2005, when I began to hear about BarCamp and how it aimed to do a more democratic, inclusive version of FooCamp, I was fascinated. The fact that anyone who has the interest can organize one without the need for licensing caught my fancy.
I took up the initiative to organize BarCamp Chennai in 2006 along with other passionate volunteers (who have now become very good friends). The success and the joy of organizing this event totally changed my perspective of events. Some of the best talks at the event did not come from CXOs but from youngsters who would never have stood a chance to talk at any major conference. Everyone had a role to play in the event. People took up responsibilities. There were not attendees. They were participants. They felt ownership towards the event.. I’ve organized many events but never felt the joy I felt at this event. To me, this was an eye-opener.
One day, I went to Amazon.com looking for books on unconference and to my surprise there was none. At a time when unconference were a rage around the world, I was surprised there was not a single book on this subject.
I sensed an opportunity here. I always wanted to author a book and here was a subject that I loved. A great combination. I could finally strike out one from my bucket list. However, back then, I didn’t have the confidence of authoring an entire book on my own. “I figured why not use the very principles of Unconferencing to author the book”. It made perfect sense to walk the talk.
And so, with much gusto, I started the project in 2007. Bought a domain name. Created a website. Opened up a wiki. Started a Google group. Spread the word around. Wrote a blog post about my mission. Did podcast interview about the book. Found a sponsor. Even went ahead and designed the book cover.
The response was great. Within a short time, I have over 170 people who had shown interest in collaborating the book. While some came forward to help with writing, a few others offered help in editing, proof reading, wiki gardening and designing.
We were off to a great start. But pretty soon, I realized the impact of the 80-20 rule. 20% of the people had to do 80% of the work. While there was a lot of buzz and interest, over a period of time, the interest waned. A few months passed. Me and a few others who took on leadership roles, got busy and soon the book project went to the back burners. I learnt an important lesson that not all tasks can be crowdsourced.
Nothing happened for the next three and half years. Meanwhile, I went on to author three other books. Even helped my 8 year old daughter publish her short story. Then a turning point happened. I went to Amazon.com casually and searched for books on unconference. To my utter surprise, there still weren’t too many books on unconference. This woke me up. I told myself that this is my chance.
I restarted this book project. Nearly 3.5 years after it was originally started. This time I was absolutely committed to see this book through.
The book that you are seeing now is a dream turned reality.
– By Kiruba Shankar