I'm an idiot. I've been writing this blog for weeks and I haven't written a thing about my bread and butter, one of the cloud's best practical applications: community building. Not building discussion communities that hash and rehash the pros, cons, and definitions of the cloud; not building standards committees, startups, or fanatics. I'm talking about the down and dirty, rapid, collaborative community organization the cloud can provide. Of all the people cheap cloud computing can benefit, who are more worthy than community organizers? It was my own most recent organizing effort that inspired this post.
Although several other organizers had planned on taking the lead, things didn't work out as planned and I found myself organizing BarCampAustin 4. I needed to plan an event for over 2,000 people in less than eight days. For the uninitiated, BarCamp is an un-conference -- an ad hoc, participant-driven gathering born from the desire to share and learn in an open environment. Organizing a BarCamp is fairly straightforward; organizing BarCampAustin is a different story. BarCampAustin takes place during SxSW, so the event takes on a life of its own.
I only had eight days to secure a venue and provide all the things that make BarCampAustin, well, BarCampAustin during one of the largest music and film festivals in the United States. I hit the phones to see who I could sucker into working on the event, and found a ton of folks who wanted to see BarCampAustin happen.
What we needed next was an infrastructure with which to organize ourselves -- enter the cloud. We used the BarCamp wiki (hosted by PBWiki) to organize the externally facing site, but we needed something more: internal tools, a space to collaborate, and a way of registering participants.
Google Apps was a no-brainer to get started, but what to do about registration? A quick tweet blasted my question to over 5,000 followers, whose responses quickly narrowed us down to Facebook and Upcoming.
I'd never thought of Facebook as a cloud app, but by most definitions it is. We set up an account for the event and could instantly invite and register participants. We toiled over graphics and frills for our landing page for about 30 minutes, but we had everything we needed within the first five. Same with Upcoming.
So what did all of this give us? Time. Time is the one thing we didn't have and every job we could "cloudsource" was one more item we could cross off of the to-do list.