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My personal ups and downs at WebCamp Zagreb 2014

A WebCamp conference badge.

The third WebCamp. It was …

Tweet screenshot: If I say that #wczg was awesome, I would
be lying, it waas above and beyond. To everyone, I hope we
meet again soon.

A couple of people showed up …

Tweet screenshot: Around 800 people on first #wczg

And they mingled for a few minutes …

Tweet screenshot: A grand total of 450 liters of beer served
tonight. Thanks again to Google for making it a fun
night. #wczg

Yes, it was great. Words can’t express the feeling of meeting new people and catching up with old friends and colleagues—especially after me being away for a long time. But something else happened to me during the last couple of days and I would like to share it with you.

My talk

Tweet screenshot: @merlinrebrovic presentation
started #wczg #WebCampZg

The subject of my talk “Storytelling in design and engineering” is very interesting, but tough to work with. I picked it because I see a lot of value in knowing how to use it in everyday communication. But even with plenty of preparation, it didn’t fully convey the intended message, which is a bit ironic considering the title. The expectations were very high after the last two years and I feel I fell a bit short.

But something else followed that totally blew my mind. People approached me throughout the day, both close friends and total strangers, offering their thoughts about the talk. “We know each other for years, so here are my thoughts.” or “Hi. We don’t know each other, but I feel like I can tell you something and that there won’t be any hard feelings.”

I have to tell you, hearing an honest and constructive criticism was not easy, not at all. But it was good for two reasons:

  1. Everyone was positive, honest and had consistent feedback. It all pointed in the same direction, so I know how to improve it.
  2. I was totally floored by realizing that people feel safe around me and trust me not to take things personally. This kind of environment, where people can talk openly and with candor, is rare and invaluable. I believe it’s the only way a person or a whole community can improve and grow over time. Thank you for talking to me.

Writing openly and exposing myself like this is not comfortable, but I feel it perfectly describes the spirit of WebCamp community. The conference didn’t start with a profit in mind and there was no corporate agenda—just a bunch of enthusiasts wanting to create a place where people can meet and share their experiences. And it’s great to see that it kept its essence even after three years and huge growth.

Update 2014-11-26:
Based on received feedback, I’ve given a really good talk in Berlin and later published its contents in a separate post.

Tweet screenshot: Ovo su ljudi koji su omogucili da
ovogodisnji @webcampzg bude ono sto je bio. Hvala svima, bilo
je super :) #wczg

My workshop

Luckily, my “Understanding Git” workshop on Friday was a triumph. The attentive and curious group of 25 kept discussions smart and relevant, so we stayed overtime to cover extra topics. The atmosphere mimicked a comfy café—the chatting was relaxed and friendly. It’s not surprising the positive reactions went through the roof.

Tweet screenshot: …and @merlinrebrovic is already drawing
how #git works #wczg

And this is not just a happy coincidence. I’ve been doing Git workshops for three years now and I’ve tried a couple of approaches during that time. The workshops were helpful when I started, but some people didn’t seem to connect all the dots. I was smart enough at that time to ask for a LOT of feedback which formed the workshop into something that packs loads of essential information in just a few hours.

The main take away? Try, don’t be afraid to fail, ask for feedback, keep your ego under control and have an open mind.

Previous blog post:
Out of sight, out of mind

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