DemoCamp - Toronto's Best Unconference

While the term unconference hasn't yet been recognized by the gatekeepers of the English language over at Merriam-Webster, the novel and uber-participatory event format has been making waves in the Toronto tech and marketing worlds for at least a couple of years now.

Among the many unconferences that took place in Toronto in 2007 were TransitCamp, CaseCamp, FacebookCamp, PhotoCamp, StartupCamp, PodCamp and Open Cities. But at the top of the pack is the granddaddy of them all - and one that's been going strong since December 2005 - the tech/developer/entrepreneur oriented DemoCamp.

Keep reading as David Crow, blogTO's Best Web or Tech Evangelist, explains what DemoCamp is all about.

For those who aren't familiar, can you describe what is DemoCamp?

DemoCamp is an event. Presenters are given 5 minutes to demonstrate their product or present what they are passionate about. The goal is to engage, inspire or educate the audience.

You can do this by demonstrating what you've built or by giving a presentation. For a long time we had a "NO POWERPOINT" rule. We've relaxed this recently, because there are a lot of concepts and activities, like the efforts of the One Laptop Per Child, that are better with slides. We introduced a format where the presenter does not have control over the slides. Presentations are 5 minutes long, presenters are given 20 slides and each slide automatically advances after 15 seconds.

DemoCamp is a social event. It is a way for the Toronto community of entrepreneurs and developers to get together and see what other are working on. Albert Lai puts its brilliantly, "we don't offer crap -- except good company (in the form of demos from passionate developers and entrepreneurs)".

Democamp 2

How did DemoCamp get started in Toronto?

DemoCamp started in December 2005 after the BarCampToronto. BarCamp is a participant-driven conference, where the people that attend the conference determine the schedule and presentations. Conferences are a lot of fun, but they are a lot of work. Albert Lai and I were talking at the bar, and decided that we needed to do something lighter weight and more regularly to bring together Toronto's entrepreneurs, designers and technologists to share the things they were working on.

DemoCamp took inspiration from BarCamp, DEMO and TED. There are other events like Seattle's Ignite and Boston's Web Innovators Group that have provided lessons as we've grown.

What are some of your favourite DemoCamp moments or presentations?

My favourite moments. Avi Bryant and Andrew Catton demoing DabbleDB is still one of my favourite moments. Their demo is just what the doctor ordered. Damian Conway talking about the future of Perl using a custom written presentation engine, i.e., not PowerPoint. James Walker talking about OpenID. Sacha Chua's hyperactive Livin' La Vida Emacs presentation.

I think for me the best part of DemoCamp is always the people I get to meet.

Democamp 3

What influence do you think DemoCamp has had on the success of other unconferences in Toronto?

DemoCamp is a starting point. The success of FacebookCamp, PodcastCamp, StartupCamp and CaseCamp are all because of the people involved with each of those events. If DemoCamp had any influence on the people who organized these events, I hope it is just that there is an open creative community in Toronto that is aching to participate.

DemoCamp has served as a test bed for how to grow participant-driven conferences, for community-driven events, for companies, for people and for presentation formats. It's not perfect. It needs changes. But it's been a great foundation for people in Toronto to find others interested in the web, technology and participatory media. We're looking for people to present and participate, more information

What can we expect from DemoCamp in 2008?

DemoCampToronto started in December 2005. After 16 DemoCamps and one heart attack, it's time to augment the planning. Jay Goldman, Leila Boujnane, Greg Wilson and Joey deVilla have stepped up and will be helping to organize the DemoCamp. We're looking for participants, check out for details about getting involved.

I hope that the quality of the demos and presentations continues to improve. There are a lot of interesting things happening in Toronto. We just need to get better at demonstrating them.

All photos by brycej.

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