Hong Kong's web community is full of some really fabulous, energetic people. The first ever Barcamp Hong Kong on Saturday left no doubt about that! Ryanne (the photo above is from her camera) sums it up:
i found myself surrounded by people in firefox, linux and all kinds of web 2.0 shirts; people handing out moo cards, showing off their flickr/cc stickers, giving interactive sessions on ajax, facebook, open social, desktop apps, digital printing, web service scalability...whatever you can think of. free coffee, cookies, chips and sandwiches were provided. it's surprising to see so many talented and generous people in HK who came here to share their love. or just to learn...like why i was there.
Daisy estimates there were probably just under 100 people:
It seems to me that almost 40% were developers, 30% were from business organizations (project manager, start up owner), 10% were from NGOs and 20% were unknown (maybe bloggers just like me?). This is just my wide guess, I am sure that someone could give me a better answer.
In terms of nationality, 70% were HongKongers and 30% were Foreigner. However there must be Singaporean because I heard the accent. Language used during the presentations were English while I heard that offline discussions were mostly in Cantonese.
In keeping with the global Barcamp tradition, Saturday's meeting was run as an "unconference": No pre-organized panels or keynotes or invited lectures. First thing in the morning, participants are greeted by a whiteboard indicating timeslots and rooms. Anybody who wants to lead a discussion or give an impromptu presentation writes their subject on a post-it note and sticks it on the board. Similar topics are combined and consolidated, then away we go. With the mix of people we had, the result was a really nice mix of technical sessions, sessions about business, and more philosophical discussions.
I learned a lot from many people about the web startup scene in Hong Kong, the mobile web, online communities, search engine optimization, and many other things. But like most conferences the most important part was getting to know a great group of people, sitting around talking in the halls and sharing all kinds of ideas.
Since the meeting was hosted by Yahoo! Hong Kong, I felt compelled to lead a discussion on "user rights," the lessons all of us should learn from the Shi Tao case, and how should the web community constructively proceed if we care about protecting users' rights to privacy and free expression? (For the record the local Yahoo! folk were good sports about it.) It was exciting to see how many people came to the session and showed that they care about building responsible web businesses. There was an especially thought provoking discussion about where to host user data. One person said you should just host all user data in the U.S. so that governments like the Chinese government can't get at it. Others questioned whether this is a cop out for local businesses especially: shouldn't local companies push to maintain and defend spaces where the rights of users can be protected in their home jurisdictions? Don't they owe that to their users? There was also the question of whether users from here or anywhere else can really count on the U.S. government in the long run anyway - or any government for that matter if nobody is pushing back. Several people who work in web startups said they would really like to see common guidelines developed for the industry about how to deal with governments that pressure them to control user speech or make unreasonable user data demands. We also raised the need to do a better job at informing the public about how e-mail and user content-sharing services work, and with whom their data is shared. Several people said they hope to see more discussions like this in the Hong Kong web community. In response to that interest, I set up a follow-on wiki page here where you can find out more and sign up on a "Hong Kong user rights" google group.
Also, for anybody who may be interested, I'll be presenting a paper titled "Yahoo!, Shi Tao, and the Lessons for Corporate Social Responsibility" on Tuesday at the International Conference on Technology and Social Responsibility being held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. I will put the paper online when it's ready for public viewing.
(photo by Daisy Fung)