BarCampBerlin3, too many thoughts

Twitter live at BarCampBerlin3

Finally on a flight back to the UK, unfortunately I got the GMT times mixed up and so ended up missing the only flight back to Liverpool and it would seem the north of england. Because of this I had to buy a another airplane ticket and go to London Luton instead. This means a very long journey back to Manchester tonight. If it wasn't for the head conference, i would have just waited till tomorrows flight to Liverpool or stayed over in London with some friends. Oh well…

So BarCampBerlin3 was massive, I think the list was meant for 600 people and about 500 showed up through-out the two days. Two days you say? Yep two days no sleepover and worst than that, kicked out at 6pm so no chance to even attempt a game of werewolf. The venue was at Tmobile which is like/equivilant to BT in the UK (funny enough BarCampLondon2 was in BT). Right so were in a huge venue and there are only 8 rooms and every session is 45mins long. I mean holy crap think about the maths behind this.

Lets suggest Saturday you have 14 hours of time and Sunday 9 hours. 16hours then you throw out all the time for lunch and breaks, your now down to 10 hours and 6 hours which is 16hours or 960 minutes. Right split that up into 45mins slots, which is roughly 21 slots. Then times that by 8 equals 168 slots. Geez even if you cut that down to 30min slots thats 32 times 8 equals 256 slots.

My point is that half the people in the room will never get a chance to present or run a session. I personally find this distasteful and the opposite of a unconference like barcamp. What made things even worst was the choice to put 30min breaks between every single 45min session. So most of the event was spent walking back to the board and then waiting for the next session to start. Someone explained to me, this is the socialising part of the barcamp and a lot of people want this. I say fine I may even understand but its painful for someone from outside germany. Ok not quite finished with schedule yet. On top of the scheuling, people would leave gaps..Further making it difficult for people to give a talk. In the end I actually gave 3 talks because I'd change a empty spot to one of my talks. On Sunday I got there late and I walked in when people were writing down the talks and added my “death to the ipod” talk to the last empty space before even taking off my coat. There seemed to be a strange system where you say out loud to everyone what your session is about. Nicole told me later its to work out which space to put the session into. Maybe but this strikes me as dead bate for anyone whos terrified of public speaking. Plus in my mind it indicates to people that your talk should be popular and that seems anti-barcamp in mind.

The layout of the rooms were another problem. There were about 5 rooms which were seperated by thin 2m high partitions. This meant you could easily hear both speaker next door. When people are talking in a non-native language this is painful to follow. I have no idea what it must be like for those who understood very little English. Maybe that was the reason why some speakers just opted for German.

Other noticable things were the lack of food (drink was ok, but nice to have more choice that water, jolt cola or apple/orange juice). stupid amount of sponsors, distance to toilets, talks advertising products and general lack of interesting talks.

Ok I've been pretty negative about the whole event, but I don't want to be. The twitter screen was wicked. The venue was great, and could have been setup much better to better show it off but good stuff. Some talks specially on the second day were good, the power and wifi were all good through out the days and there was a buzz about the whole event from start to end. I don't want to weigh in on what a barcamp is or isn't but this was well on its way towards a conference. I still can't understand whats the point of having so many sponsors if you can't cover the basic things like food for everyone? I think there is something which was started with BarCampLondon5, dual or even triple barcamps on the same day. So rather that have one huge barcamp of 500+ people, why not have two smaller ones. This also would fit because you can have one which is 2 standard days with sleepover and the other one a one or two dayer with no sleepover. Those up for the sleepover go to one and those not so bothered can go to that one instead.  How did BazCampLondon1 go by the way people?

I got a feeling the BarCamp and BazCamp concept seem to fit around major events like FOWA, Web 2.0 Expo, etc. So maybe the next big London BarCamp I might get somewhat involved in…

As you may have seen already my pacemaker talk went down really well, with a full room of about 70 people (almost none I actually knew) and my boxee/xbmc talk went down well too. Well enough to attract the attention of the famous hardware hacker Fabienne Serriere. Shes written for Hackaday, Engadget and worked directly with people like Jason Calacanis while at Netscape and AOL.

The best talk I attended, I got to say was from Candid Wuest who worked at Norton (one of the sponsors). The talk was centred around the changes in threat writing to a professional self organised system all about making the most amount of money from people as possible. Its all stuff we know but its good to hear it at a barcamp. I've been wanting to run a session about things I've learned about computer security and networking but never done it. I really need to upload the rest of my photos of the event.

Generally it was worth going to and I met a few new people during the day. Looking forward to what changes there might be in the next one. Maybe same time next year.

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Author: Ianforrester

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