BarCamp Omaha ’16


BarCamp Omaha 2016 was surprisingly great. I’d heard people rave about it and knew it was well-attended, but I wasn’t sure I would be blown away by it. I’m ashamed to say I wasn’t entirely sure just what it was. I only knew it was a conference and that lots of local creatives both attended and participated.

It was held at the Kaneko studio in downtown Omaha, and although there was a lot of construction going on – a new atrium and entrance is being added – the building was as impressive as ever. Large open spaces and minimalist design are always my cup of tea.

BarCamp is a user-generated conference that is held all over the nation. Anyone who wants to put one on is free to do so. The format is that anyone who shows up can give a talk for a maximum of 30mins on whatever topic they choose. The kicker is that signup for talk slots opens when the conference does. So there’s no pre-registration. BarCamp is typically held in a bar, and things are informal.

BarCamp Omaha is overseen by the local AIGA chapter, and while things are still informal, it all seems to have a certain degree of polish. I heard again and again that BarCamp Omaha is far superior to almost any other BarCamp nationwide. A little organization goes a long way.

Talks were divided among four rooms:

  • Creative – design, creativity and all things making
  • Technology – gadgets, software and web development
  • Entrepreneur – startups and business building
  • Kitchen Sink – any topic is possible

BarCamp’s format lives and dies with the community that supports it, and Omaha has that covered. It was a packed house. Talks were at all levels of preparation and polish, but they largely were driven by passionate and knowledgeable people.

I was also surprised by the tech used at the conference. The schedule was online and was updated to the minute. But the best part is that there seemed to be shadowy developers working on improving its design and usability on the spot. Color-coding was being adjusted to avoid some brand confusion, and a speaker name field was added partway through the morning. This was super impressive because you just don’t see that level of overwatch even at the big conventions.


Talks I attended:

  • Intro to CSS Grid Spec – Dylan Bauman
  • Things to Think About – Will Riley
  • Hiring a Junior Developer – David Hopp
  • Creative Coding, Math and Art – Jim Wolf
  • Urns, Heirlooms, Gnomes and Phones: The Importance of Things – Craig Hughes
  • 365 Days of Movie Quotes and Music Lyrics… Well Almost – Tory Burke and Ian Simmons
  • Intro to Illustrator – Cara Heacock
  • A Map, A Lead Plant and a Human Scalp – Mark Sorenson
  • Design with Canva – Sarah Harvey
  • FPV Dronez! – Justin Limoges
  • Unemployed to Silicon Valley – Mark Corrado

I also heard there was a public debate panel that had a very spirited session on whether a hotdog was considered a sandwich. (spoiler: according to democracy, it was indeed)

Did I mention it was one heck of a value? $16 gets you:

  • in the door (networking galore)
  • talks all day (9-5)
  • breakfast and lunch
  • a legitimately cool shirt (while supplies last)
  • a pre-party the night before (to meet all the attendees/speakers before the big day)

Well done guys. I will undoubtably be back next year.

*Images courtesy BarCamp Omaha