This article is written by Greta Doçi the representative of Open Labs and Wikiakademia at Balccon2k14.

Will a single congress change your life? Probably not. But it can feel like a magical portal to learning and meeting new people.

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Just a week ago, the 2nd Annual Balkan Computer Congress BALCCON2K14  was getting underway in Novi Sad, Serbia. I  had an amazing time meeting all of them, hearing  their speeches and learning a lot. I was so glad when the Balccon stuff told me that Open Labs was the first Albanian hackerspace being part of Balccon and more happy that representative of Open Labs was me.

 I am proud that I represented the working group “WikiAkademia”and  the only one so far representing Wikipedia Albania.

My first BALCCON!

For me, this became apparent the first time I attended. And my very first time in Serbia. After 20 hours of travel, alone from Albania to Serbia, finally I made it. I was looking forward to meet the other guys.

There’s a lot to be said about the details of a congress. Balccon had them, it has spoiled me for congresses, honestly but no amount of cake, meat, rakija and post-congress parties  can stand up to a great speaker lineup, so far Balccon delivered .

Topics for every situation about computers hackers,  people you’ve never heard of. Diversity and openness. Each talk/workshop felt as if it wove right into the next, creating the right atmosphere, the hacking and security world. I was impressed by the diversity of the speakers and speeches. And I loved the feedback that i got for my talk “Women in Wikipedia”.

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There’s a secret about congresses like this: the separation between speaker and audience is pretty thin. The only difference between the two is the direction they are facing within a given session.

 

Great congresses are people powered

The real value of a congress is in the people you meet. And, let’s be honest meeting people is hard. The discussion between the talks, workshops , and at lunch, and at the events, even at the after party, this is where the learning happens.

That’s the thing: You go to a computer congress . You hear them speak. You see them work, you work with them, You see them in the flesh. They are real. They aren’t scary content personalities,  they are just people who are nerdy about this like you are, like I am.

The number of girls participating on Balccon wasn’t that high. Girls you don’t need to be a developer, profesional computer security, or to have invented the computer of the future, you just need to love technology to be part of Balccon of any kind of Congress/Conference that had to do with Computers. But at Balccon it was OK, small number of female participants, that meant more attention for me :)

Congress/Conference  are made for learning. But they’re also for making connections. They are summits and forums for freely and honestly discussing the things we do and learning better ways to do them. They are for sharing knowledge. They are for sharing beers. They are for sharing ourselves.

This was what Balccon  was to me. This is what Balccon could be for you. No congress is going to change your life, but it can sure come close.

 

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