BarCampManchester5, you missed out sorry…

BarCampManchester number 5 happened last weekend and I’m still feeling a little tired following a hectic weekend.

I have always said BarCamp is a special thing and recently I have seen less and less of them. I mentioned this in justification for why it must happen. BarCampManchester2 was the last one I was involved in and since then, its gone back to the 9am-5pm events. I have always said its a real shame for a great city like Manchester.

My hope was always to bring back some of the life and joy into BarCampManchester. And I believe we did this… Extremely well. BarCampManchester5 was arranged by myself with a small team of organisers. Those organisers were Claire Dodd and Dave Mee. I felt both would have the network and drive to continue the event onwards and upwards afterwards.

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Theres all the usual difficulties with picking dates for the BarCamp weekend but in the end we settled upon the weekend before Mozilla Festival, something I kind of wished wasn’t.  Regardless, it came together nicely thanks to our wonderful sponsors and the hard work Claire put into organising most of it.

Don’t get me wrong, we all played our part but Claire reminded me of myself at BarCampLondon1 and 2. Running around trying to manage most things. I learned pretty soon, to relax and embrace the chaos (somewhat)

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My only regret was the amount of food and drink wasted, we had a large drop out of people. Larger than I’ve ever had before. So the food orders came through and unfortunately we had to chuck quite a bit of it. We did our best to give away as much as possible to a homeless charity but in the end quite a bit went into the bins. At least no body was upset about the food, as we had food for every dietary type including strict vegans.

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Through out the weekend we had talks about a number of subjects, and there was lots of rooms to suit everybody. We had 6 session/spaces in parallel and although they weren’t always in use, there was plenty of room to chill and chat away along side the sessions.

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There were some great talks and the spaces really worked as a whole. For example the boardroom or as we were calling it the captains quarters, ten forward and observation lab encouraged intimate discussions about identity, sexuality, sleep tracking, dating, etc. While the engineer lab, bridge and holadeck encouraged less discussion and more presentations. All except the captains quarters had a projector and “ten forward” was even in the same space as the kitchen!

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After the evening feast, the traditional of werewolf started with 2 parallel games. Quite a few games past before we were down to 1. Some fun games and before long it was late and there was not quite enough people to play on. We had about 10-15 people stay over and sleep but the feeling of no pressure to go home or push off did stay with people. The last person pushed off about 2:30am.

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Sunday was quieter as usual and the bacon/sausage/egg butties did go down well but once again too many. We were able to change the order for lunch a bit so the amount of food wasn’t as bad. The sessions started to fill up the board and before long the board was full. Obviously people had decided now was the time.

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I did a number of sessions mainly on Saturday, and my favorite one has to be the paxman style interview with Tim Dobson about love and dating. Somewhere in the interview I suggested I would date anybody (I’m sure I said something different) and that got taken and twisted into a prize for the ending raffle? Go figure? Why and how I have no idea but Claire was very keen to send me off with one of the barcampers. In the end Chris picked up the star prize.

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Other talks worth mentioning included…

Journey to the centre of the gender sphere, Sleep session, Interactive Fiction, Create your first Bitcoin wallet, Can video games be a force for social good and my favorite How to sell without selling out. Especially liked Tim and Josh’s journey of discovery into a more ethical way to sell serverhosting.

Thanks to the sponsors who came through for the event… We even got a special cake for the platinum sponsors – Autotrader. Something to think about if you are thinking about sponsoring next year. Damm the cake was sweet!

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Talking about next year… I have said again that I’m hanging up my organising boots. But my hope is Claire, Dave or somebody else is inspired enough to run the next one with their own team. Hopefully BarCampManchester6 in a similar vein as this one. My thoughts is with time, a community of barcampers can/will grow and the demand will call for a new methods to insure the drop out is never as bad again.

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Something James suggested to me when I mentioned the problem of drop out in barcamp. Is a pledge to donate to a charity if you fail to show up or cancel you’re ticket in time. Using social pressure is something I don’t really like but actually in this case, it can be explicit on the website and ticket site. Those who don’t do so would have to live with the guilt or could be named and shamed? This seems to abide by BarCamp rules and shouldn’t be off putting for those who really want to come. Heck if you cancel the night before thats better than not at all (we were releasing tickets to the waiting list right up to the last few hours).

I always said it, Manchester deserves a decent barcamp and hopefully this is the start of wonderful things to come….

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.

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