At first glance, Campus Party sounds like some sort of college event to the gringo ear. But in reality, it's one of Spain and Latin America's biggest technology events, drawing thousands of geeks and businesspeople and computer experts every year.
The event began in Spain in 1997 as a Lan party, connecting internet users throughout the country. Later, Campus Parties sprung up in Mexico, Colombia, El Salvador, and most notably, in Brazil. It was first held in Brazil in 2008, and just took place in Sao Paulo from January 25 - 31. This year, they had over 6,000 participants in the main event, where people brought their own computers and even slept over in tents. Well over 100,000 people came for the free events held at the convention center as a party of the main event.
Since Brazil is now one of the big Internet countries, where technology is ultra-modern, where Google dominates the market, where the base of Internet and computer users grows steadily each year, and where there's lots of money to be made, Campus Party is a huge networking event for entrepreneurs, businesspeople, designers, bloggers, and others who work with technology. Celebrities, academics, and computer whizzes alike come to the conference to give speeches, interact with the "campers," and exchange ideas. There are workshops, contests and prizes and all sorts of fun stuff. It's the cutting edge of the technological world, and the who's who of the Internet business in Brazil are expected to make an appearance. To give you an idea of how big of a deal it is, this year, two presidential candidates (Marina Silva and Dilma Rousseff) both made an appearance at the event.
For outsiders, it can seem a bit odd to see thousands of people sitting around on their laptops, especially when some are seemingly in their own world but are actually chatting with people across the room. But there's a whole lot more to the party than that, and I felt very jealous reading about friends at the event. It's really a one of a kind experience, and for geeks and Internet businesspeople, it's the place to be.
Were any of you at Campus Party this year?