BarCampMediaCity the after thoughts


Its Monday evening and BarCampMediaCity is still deep in my thoughts for many reasons.

It was a classic BarCamp with lots of incredible talks mixed in with a feeling of something new was happening.

As we opened the door on BarCampMediaCity, people started to making there way into the Quay house space and were impressed by what they were seeing. Everything was running smoothly with security plus registration and people were slowly spreading out through the 5th floor complex. By the time of the welcome talk we had just under 200 people in the room.

BarCampMediaCity Welcome talk

BarCampMediaCity Welcome talk

The make up of the 200 was a mix of new and old faces, but what was remarkable was the percentage of woman. Compared to other BarCamps I’ve been to, this one ranks up there with the likes of BarCampLondon in gender equality maybe. Quite fitting that we had the geeks of London (the people now running barcamplondon) producing this barcamp. BarCampManchester have always been slanted towards male but with the help of the Geeks girls in residence, BBC hosting it and lots of thought from the barcamp team, the results were incredible.


Not only that, the age range of BarCampers incredible! I had only seen such a diverse age range at BarCampLiverpool, now thats something BarCampMediaCity certainly beats even BarCampLondon on…

We had roughly 225 confirmed for the BarCamp after the original waves of about 300 public tickets over all. On the day we had just over 200 people come along over the course of the weekend.

During the welcome talk one of the team jumped in with a clarification on the overnight stay. This caused a disturbance, with people wondering exactly what the situation was. This came back to bite in a major way later in the night.

The event shifted along well during the day as the sessions kicked off.

I thought I’d put in my talk early in the schedule, in the end I decided to bring up the paper I’m about to start reading titled piracy is the future of television. I used as example of whats possible when you look at what the cutting edge/darknet/early adopters are doing. It was a nice session but I picked the wrong space for a good talk. I should have picked one of the spaces with a more intimate feel. Anyway a nice discussion kicked off with the diverse crowd, which included content producers, artists, early adopters, etc.

There was a nice, chilled vibe throughout the event which was great. Everything seemed to be going to plan. The talks were all really interesting and so diverse which was excellent. I went to talks on dynamic Bayesian networks for working out real smiles vs fake smiles (something I’m sure BBC R&D will be interested in), How to rob a bank, evil overlord’s guide to security, The culture of the dj, the true dubstep, a demo of future iplayer development, how to get a job at the BBC, hacking the kinect, What you don’t know about American TV shows, would you take your clothes off in public, mixing cocktails, etc, etc…

Looking at the session wall

Another series of talks centred around inspiring the next generation into the tech sector. Computing in schools was a theme for sure with at least 3 different talks around the subject. The most surprising was the code lab one, which was presented as an BBC initiative. In that talk I turned and looked at Simon and gave him the look of, “what on earth, do you know about this?”  to which he replied with a blank look on his face saying… “I know nothing, do you?” By the end we had tweeted about it and it had been re-tweeted to death.

Should kids learn programming in school?

It turns out, but we didn’t know at the time, it was a proposal rather than a commissioned thing. It was a little cheeky but you got to hand it to Alan O’Donohoe who was behind it and brought some amazing cookies to BarCampMediaCity from the kitchen of the school he works at. Actually its maybe worth giving the school a little plug on Alan’s behalf, Our Lady’s Catholic High School in Preston

A packed out Code Lab session

Its actually worth noting most of the talks at BarCampMediaCity were amazing, its well worth going into some details about some of the better ones. Here’s my favorite ones…

How to Rob a Bank

How to rob a bank from Tim

I can’t explain how amazing this talk really was. Tim’s energy drives you through the different problems you would encounter if you were going to rob a bank. Want to know what the answer is? Well Tim points out that a large percentage of robberies are inside jobs, so getting a job at a bank is maybe a very good start.

A little known fact about US TV (or, Why you don’t exist)

What you don't know about American TV shows

Katie one of the girl geeks in residence, gave a great talk an area of Fandom which I had never really seen before. She put up the talk notes on our lanyrd page thankful, so you can read the notes there and check out this massive interlinked map.

Since American TV shows love doing crossover episodes, it becomes apparent that if St. Elsewhere and Homicide: Life on the Street both exist in the same TV universe, so do many other TV programs. Nerds on the internet have established a network of over 280 shows (and counting) which all coexist, implied by crossovers, cameos or references – and when we delve deeper, some interesting facts can be deduced…

Mixing Free Cocktails

How to mix tasty cocktails

Following one of the most famous BarCamp talks ever – How to mix the perfect Margarita at BarCampLondon3 by Andy Budd

Chris Garrett decided to bring cocktails to BarCamp. He even went as far as creating a special version of El Presidente and named it the Ian Forrester *blush*

If you want to make your own Ian Forrester, have a read of Chris’s blog post

This would be my go-to drink when I lived in Bristol and spent far too much time in Haus Bar. A heady brew of White Rum (double measure, preferably of Diplomatico’s very good blanco reserva), a measure of triple sec (or Cointreau depending on preference), a measure of Vermouth and a dash of grenadine. Stir (don’t shake) with ice, strain in a cocktail glass and sip, slowly

I actually forgot to take any Vermouth with me to BarCamp, so ended up using Slow Gin in the El Presidente. I added in a dash of Mint Bitters too, and thus the “Ian Forrester” was invented, named after the Presidente of BarCamp.

Would you strip naked in public if I asked you?

Would you take your clothes off in public for an art project

This session was one of the funnest I’d ever been to… It was a Art project by a guy who wanted to see if woman would take there clothes off in public if he asked them. Yes you heard me right… When I heard about it, I thought it was a wind up but the guy seemed deadly serious. Listening to him talk about the project, I instantly thought about the end sequence of A complete history of my sexual failings.

Things started to unravel when a lot of people asked many questions about his art project. The main line of questions seemed centre around what kind type of person does he ask? For example does he ask Men? does he ask older woman? etc, etc… He said he only asks woman who he found physically attractive…! I think everyone laughed out loud at that moment. His justification was even more funny, comparing taking pictures of beautiful objects and landscapes with only asking attractive woman. “You only take pictures of things you find attractive or beautiful…”

I honestly hadn’t laughed so much recently!

What is happiness talk

Happiness session

Its another one of those interesting talks which you would only get by running an open event like Barcamp. Alistair kicked it off and a whole bunch of theories were thrown around about helping people understand happiness but no conclusion was hit.

There was plenty of food but not a wasteful amount, everything which was put out was eaten and lunch, dinner, etc all went down well. Unforgeable I had to drive to a Chinese takeaway near Manchester to have dinner at 11pm because the curry had coconut in it and the veggie curry had chickpeas… I didn’t fancy eating even more carbs, specially if I was going to survive all night.

There was plenty to do for night time entertainment, including a massive gaming rig complete with xboxes and kinects. We had planned to set up the virtual maestro but with help from others, we still couldn’t get it to run correctly. Simon Lumb played a dj set in the cafe area, which set up the mood for the night. Unluckily I didn’t get a chance to play because I didn’t really have much chilled stuff and I had to make the trip out to the Chinese. Andy Mace, who was instrumental in helping us setup the Intenet connection for Will of Nexus Globalnet to setup the Wifi  on top of. And frankly the wifi was flawless all weekend once it was setup and running late Friday night.

BarCampMediaCity werewolf game

About 2330 we did an announcement to tell people who planned to stay late that the last tram will be leaving soon after midnight. What we should have done was made it clear what the situation was, and that might have been ending the event for the day.

Officially we could have people stay over if they don’t fall a sleep but unofficially if people fell a sleep security would give them a little nudge and ask them to have a coffee, redbull or go get some air. They would also have preferred people to stay together with active people, meaning people can keep an eye on each other, while they did close there eyes. Unforgettably this wasn’t communicated well and so a terrible rough night of trying to stay awake, finding hotels, sleeping on other peoples floors was had by about 30+ people.

I can say personally I am deeply sorry to everyone who had a terrible experience on the night, it was never meant to be that way and even I had brought my sleeping bag, indoor tent, change of clothes and towel to take advantage of the showers. I can’t put my finger on exactly what happened but its being taken very seriously and we are contacting everyone affected.

It did cast a shadow on a excellent event and I totally understand some of the questions people have been asking about the organisation of the barcamp. The Geeks of London are not to blame for this error of judgment, they delivered an excellent event, our job working as the hoster was to supply a canvas they could work on.

I always said the event will be a one time deal, I’m hoping next year Salford University become the hosters? But this is the end of my running barcamp experience. I had always wanted run one at the BBC and maybe 5 years of trying had warped my perception of risks and potential problems to the detriment of friends and participations. 5 years is a long time and like BBC Backstage maybe its that time…

Adrian and Mark

So looking back, at the event. I will always remember Sunday morning and seeing the tired, angry and disappointed looks on friends faces. But I also remember Lalita D’Cruze’s face when she saw herself on a internal BBC flyer and when she took to the stage to replace the hired comedian and did a excellent job. Turning to Nicola and saying “Wow she’s really really good!” Seeing Katie Steckles present the total inside baseball Fandom which goes into tracking references to other TV shows inside of TV shows, (didn’t write down the site!) Feeling very proud of the massive audience Matt from BBC R&D got to his talk on Saturday. Loosing one of my werewolf cards on Sunday morning only to later have Mick give me his entire werewolf set because he enjoyed barcampmediacity so much. Slightly nervous why we didn’t know about BBC Code lab, specially with all the work Ant Miller had done in this exact area?

I did enjoy the event even with the Sunday morning problems. It was a great event and serves as a great introduction for a lot of people into the BarCamp/Unconference field. If we got more people interested in BarCamps, then great stuff. Hopefully some of them will go to other Barcamps and tell there friends, maybe a couple will even consider setting up there own?

Without the great sponsors the event would never go ahead…

Bytemark BigV hosting platformOpen Labs at Liverpool John Moores UniversityIndigo clothing who supplied the Tshirts which I didn’t get before they were all gone, Techsmith who supply the excellent screen capture software Camtasia Studio and TEK systems a recruiter of tech people globally


Great event which will go down for its excellent talks, fantastic location, great atmosphere along with the lack of clear signs about staying over.