In what was an uncharacteristically warm Saturday for mid-November, roughly 250 BarCamp Philly attendees shuffled their way into an auditorium on the 16th floor of 211 South Broad Street in Center City, Philadelphia.
Standing before the packed room complete with attendees spilling out into the hallways, organizers J.P. Toto, Roz Duffy and Kelani Nichole took the microphone to kick off the event they had spent months tirelessly organizing.
“How many people are not from Philly?” asked Toto. Roughly 15 percent of the hands in the packed auditorium went up (most of whom turned out to be from Florida) to the sound of impressed whistles and nods of approval.
Toto continued: “How many people have never been to a BarCamp before?” Slightly less than half of the room raised their hands validating on what many had suspected previously: The Philadelphia tech scene is growing.
But with that growth comes a fresh set of issues for the city’s techies to tackle.
The seeds may have been planted weeks ago when Toto, with fellow organizers Duffy and Nichole, had to stop accepting attendees and began compiling a waiting list.
The packed schedule board Saturday was just the latest indication that the community is in its adolescence, ready to grow up. Dotted among the usual presentation topics were more serious affair such as sessions on legal advice, government grants and how businesses can use social media.
Compared to last year, the sessions were more diverse in subject. Classes on journalism, music, potatoes and a small handful of education-focused sessions helped create a break in the typical design/tech/gadget session topics that often dominate BarCamps.
As noted in Geoff Dimasi and Alex Hillman’s “The Philly scene: we’re not done yet” session, the problem of creating an identity and opening communication lines has seen significant progress and many people expressed a desire to begin turning their attention to more serious problems. Should the community get political? Why aren’t we seeing more companies coming to market out of the Philly scene? And why aren’t there more jobs?
The comments made in the session as well as the aforementioned fact that many of the attendees at this year’s BarCamp were out-of-towners indicated that, emotionally, the Philadelphia tech scene is ready for its coming out party. It’s ready for other cities to view it as a destination and it’s ready to produce some quantifiable results in the language of companies and jobs.
As the economy timidly emerges from the recession and the community is ready to build the momentum created by BarCamps and Ignites to startups and products, 2010 will be a year when the world sees what Philly is made of.