This year, I attended the LaidOffCamp event in Miami. A truly tech event, it was started in a pretty ad-hoc way through social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. It's since grown into a truly worldwide event in which IT people of all shapes and skills come together to network, interface, and talk geek.
The buzz was about two things: how the economy was changing the face of tech and development and how Florida was planning to get into the venture capital game with a $250 million tech fund.
Feelings over that latter point were pretty mixed, though it's generally agreed that in the end, $250 million is barely a drop in the bucket as far as VC goes. Especially with the state's plans to split that up into smaller chunks for investment.
All that aside, though, the event itself was great. As with any event of this type, LaidOffCamp was full of characters, unusual sights, and a multitude of odd and bizarre people. The personal and professional networking opportunities were huge.
At one point, standing in a crowd moving toward the lunch line, I heard a small group on my left putting together plans for their new fantasy role-playing group while to my right, I heard three or four people talking about collaborating on a small web development project. Welcome to tech.
One of the Miami event's organizers, Rick Tuttle, says, "LaidOffCamp Miami was a blast. We have over 200 attendees who came looking to find job opportunities and learn new skills and the presenters did not disappoint. It was like having community barn-raising in the technological age where people from all walks of life came together to share and contribute."
He's right on that one.
LaidOffCamp wasn't just for the unemployed or the employer looking for new prospects either. As Jessie Figueroa, an attendee, put it: "LaidOffCamp was not only a unique way for unemployed, employed, and freelancers to come together to exchange knowledge and learn but to connect with helpful, friendly members in a society where collaboration is extremely important in order to be successful."
That pretty much sums it up right there. While Florida's attempt at boosting the IT workplace by getting into VC is a nice gesture, events like LaidOffCamp are much more useful and profitable for the tech community in the long run. Building those friendships and networking business relationships has a greater impact on the IT community as a whole, in the end.
Of course, what could have made LaidOffCamp even better would be if you actually got laid while at what one person called "GetLaidCamp Miami." I guess there are other types of networking to be had at these events too.