Barcamp Bangkok 4 preview interview with John Berns

Barcamp Bangkok takes place this weekend, starting Saturday, October 23. Having failed to attend any of the three previous events I’m hoping to make amends and get to my first BarcampBKK. I caught up with John Berns (@jfxberns), one of the men well known for spearheading the event, who shared his thoughts on what can be expected from Barcamp Bangkok and how he learned how to date Japanese girls.


1. For those that don’t know it, can you describe Barcamp BKK in five words or less?

This is the Twitter age, don’t I get at least 140 characters?

“Barcamp is an open forum for sharing knowledge and ideas. There are no speakers and listeners, only normal people actively participating.”

There, that was only 137 characters!

2. Do I need to be fluent in C++ to know what is going on?

Barcamp originated in the tech community so there are a lot of technical topics but barcamp is open to anybody with an idea or knowledge to share.  Some topics are very technical and esoteric, others are technical and made for people who want to get an introduction or overview to a tech topic.

Many are not even technical at all, they might be about marketing, business startups, art, social change, whatever you are passionate about.  We have had topics that range from “Continuous integration and automated test driven design with Python” to “How to Date a Japanese Girl, By a Real Japanese Girl.”  

I will let you guess which one of those topics drew a larger audience. 

3. How long has barcamp been active in Bangkok and what are some of the highlights from previous meetings?

Our first barcamp was in 2007 with 200 people attending.  Word spread, the next barcamp was 400 people, the next after that, 800 people.  This time we are planning for 1,200 people to attend.

The highlights, at least for me, are the things that are unexpectedly brilliant.  Last year one lady talked about how she travelled the world and lived off the money she made designing and selling virtual high-fashion clothes in the virtual world Second Life.  Another unexpectedly intriguing presentation was on how to cook the perfect egg. It sounded boring and trivial, but the presenter went into such exquisite detail on the physics and chemistry of eggs and how it all influenced the process of cooking the perfect egg… it was madly brilliant.

Still, my all-time favorite was “How to Date a Japanese Girl, by a Real Japanese Girl.”  It was illustrated with cartoon characters and so hilarious the whole audience was almost falling out of their chairs they were laughing so loud.  There’s a clip of it on YouTube here.

4. Mozilla is one company investing considerable time in this upcoming event – with three employees attending – what other companies will be there?

We have IBM Developer Works sponsoring and they will talk about cutting-edge distributed team software development.  HTC is sponsoring and they will be talking about Android mobile app development.  Trend Micro will talk about “security in the cloud.” Google is sponsoring as well as many local IT companies. Yahoo Developer Network is sponsoring a party Saturday night.

But most of the topics are just presented by regular people.  There will be a lot of tech discussions on topics like mobile phone apps and mobile marketing, social media and social media marketing, SEO and SEM, cloud computing, web development, starting a tech business, e-commerce, online marketing, open source software, blogging and programming.

But other topics include make up, language learning, football, how to have a happy life, micro-finance, travel writing, community building, using iPads in medical field, internet censorship, 3G in Thailand, electronic music, Japanese anime, innovation, food, dhamma, art, travel, education, sharks and my favorite: cupcakes!

It’s about sharing your knowledge, ideas and passions.  if you love something, there are other people out there in the community that love it too.  It’s nice to find others with the same passions as you.

5. For those who are thinking about coming along and still not quite sure, what are they likely to miss by not attending?

For me, the really great thing about Barcamp is the people you get to meet and interact with. Yes, you learn a lot by listening to people talk about their ideas, but after spending one or two days meeting and talking to smart, passionate people, you leave with a lot of new connections, new friends, new clients, maybe even a new idea for a business.  I know a lot of businesses that have been launched by people who met at Barcamp.

There are many really amazing people in Thailand doing really amazing things.  People that you might not have the chance to run into, except at a place like barcamp.

Barcamp is about sharing ideas, but it is also about building community, building a network of smart, passionate people that all, in some small way, want to change the world.  Barcamp may only last two days, but the connection to a vibrant community of innovators… that stays with you forever.

When you get so many smart, passionate people together there is an incredible energy.  It’s hard to describe if you have not experienced it, but it’s really exciting. 

If all that is not a good enough reason, you get a really cool T-shirt.  Oh, and it’s all free.

This is a great point, it is a rare occasion to catch up with a ton of people you may known from Twitter or blogs all under one roof. Then there’s not forgetting the free part which is the important (and great) part of the event!

John Berns

6. How can those not able to attend keep up with goings on at the event? Is there a Twitter-feed, etc?

People will be blogging, tweeting, posting photos to flickr and we will be taping selected topics to post online later.  We try to add the tag BarcampBKK4 to everything so people can search for it easily.

7. What else would you say about Barcamp for those who will be attending for the first time, or those thinking of coming along?

Barcamp is, in a way, magical.  When you take away limits and open yourself to possibilities, when you remove the distinction between teacher and learner, when you encourage and support regular people to share their ideas and passions, surprising things happen; things that you could never plan for, things that surprise and delight in ways you could never dream of.  Every time I attend a Barcamp I leave thinking “Wow, I am so glad I had a chance to meet and learn from those people.” 

Registration is free, just go to and sign up.

Thanks John.

Though I’m registered on the attendee list I’m not yet sure if I’ll be there, but if you’re in Bangkok, interested in technology and the web then I suggest you pop along… it will cost the grand amount of nothing to attend and you’re sure to meet a lot of interesting people from Thailand and beyond.