The joy of BarCampLondon6

So I attended BarCampLondon6 and actually sponsored it too via BBC Backstage. This time it was at the guardian's new offices just past Kings Cross station in London. The new office are pretty with lots of glass and part of the floor just for meeting rooms alone. When I first got there I was a little confused about how the layout would work specially with coffee so far away. Well I just ended up not getting coffee only once the whole weekend which was a shame. But then I couldn't bear to be too far from the action and buzz of the barcamp.

Session wise, I ended up doing three completely different sessions. The last one of the day I missed 10mins of because I was having connectivity problems with my laptop (I still have but at least I worked out how to fix it every boot up). It was ask the BBC anything, which was a last minute addition to the Sunday board because I felt there should be no empty slots (more about this later). Luckily Rain, Jonathan and Ben were there, so the only BBC person missing was Sheila. The questions were varied but mainly focused around the future of the BBC in a world where people are watch all types of programming on multiple devices at anytime. Lots of good things were said which is great but also there was a note of caution that we need to be even more open with our content. Luckily I have a little bit of news about that soon.

My 2nd session was about Persistence of Vision Raytracer, what was frustrtating was my lack of connectivity again, so I couldn't even show some of the neat scenes or resources available. Next time I'll be a lot more prepared and be able to show the true difference between rendering, raytracing and radiosity. And then show some of the advantages of raytracing with a actual examples. This talk only pulled in 4-5 people but this was fine, its hardly a subject most people are interested in. My other talk, last thing on Saturday night was about Sex and that attracted a huge crowd. If you cast your minds back I did the same talk at BarCampLiverpool and actually it went down really well for super childish reasons. This time however it was a much more mature and sophisticated affair but still really good. Actually people were quite open about talking about the subject and we covered a lot ground including why as geeks we don't talk about feelings. I have to give it up to the guy who in the middle of a talk about homosexuality said he had no problem with it but still finds it hard to watch two people of the same sex snogging. It was very honest and certainly not a popular thing to say in the middle of the debate. Also worth noteing no one jumped on him, instead people tried to gentlely unpick why. There is something I've said about geeks for the longest time, its to do with there enlightened nature.

So this was the first barcamp by the London barcamp team, and I'm sure there after much feedback specially from someone whos been there and done it a few times.

So first thing, and I know a lot of people have said this. The whole event too organised. There were helpers everywhere and then some of them were wearing radios and so it felt even more professional. Now this seems like a good thing but actually barcamps are slighly against the professional nature you get at swanky conferences, there more grassroots and earthy. So things don't always work out as expected but thats fine, its a barcamp. The other side of this coin is if its seemed to be too professional, it will be a invisable barrier for others who want to setup a barcamp, specially in and around London. Anyway I'm sure it won't happen, theres more that enough people who would like to try running a barcamp and won't be put off by the upmarket feel to BarCampLondon6.

The guys behind BarCampLondon6 also tried a couple of new things including spliting the group up at the start into smaller groups and giving them lego to build the letters B-A-R-C-A-M-P out of. It was certainly fun but I don't know if totally transformed the welcoming part. But I think with a little tweaking it could be a interesting way to start a barcamp. Good on the guys for trying something new.

The room names followed the great London rail stations which was a nice touch and the wall schedule times was also a talking point. Each slot was 30mins with 15mins or was it 20mins time between. I felt this was a shame because in actual fact, everyone was so close, that you could easily have ran out of a session and checked the board and been in the room ready within 5mins. In actual fact there were some really nice places to put the board rather that where it was put. Sometimes the board was impossible to see because it was so low down and small. Always put boards in places wheres theres tons of space like BarCampBrighton's or use height so people can see most of the board while people gather. There was some talk after the barcamp about improving the barcamp experience for newbies and someone new suggested the berlin method of tags sessions with attributes. To be honest, I don't see a problem with slightly more structured session cards. Those who don't want to fill in all the detail don't have to, but if your doing some obscure, the extra details might help communicate to other people your session better.

Food at BarCamps can be hit or miss. I have to say this one wasn't too bad. There was lots to eat and I think I was the only one who moaned when the pies came out on Saturday evening. Mainly because I hate mash potoato, can't stand gravy and am not the biggest fan of pies unless there cornish or not far from it. Saying all that my steak and cheese was fine. I do remember dinner being very early like 6pm or something, which was strange because then the 3 sessions afterwards were less attended because just wanted to chill after eating a pie and mash. After the 3 sessions, there was a quiz by your northern friends The Hodge and Tom Scott. It was entertainment and I guess if you didn't want to be there you could have just walked out and did something else. But I expect most people were there. I guess its like powerpoint karaoke and delicious salted use to be, crowd gathering fun. Maybe the geek equivilent of xfactor. Anyway I remember by 10pm I was getting hungry again and I wasn't the only one. By 11pm quite a few people were on the hunt for food and it was revealed there would be a special supply of donuts at midnight. Unfortually it was the Crispy Cream type so I avoided them. Its all about the real thing, not the fatty american cousin. On the Sunday for lunch we went back to the old skool barcamp menu of pizza which went down really well.

Werewolf was played, 2 games in parallel but to be honest I decided this would be my first barcamp where I would sleep offsite because the hotel was so close and I just needed something comfitable sleep on for 2-3 hours. Actually this barcamp I took it really easy, little redbull, no coffee and no staying up till 6am to then sleep on a hard floor in a undersized sleeping bag. Something has gone wrong, will have to make it up at the next one *smile*

The whole event was filmed for a documentary which should go online at some point in the near future. Emma warned everyone that it was happening but for good reason. The original barcamp video from BarCampSanfrancisco1 was looking out of date and BarCamp has evolved, so it was about time for a change in video too. The hope is that other BarCamps will use the video for explain to there participtions BarCamp which I beleive is in its 4th year now.

So overall great BarCamp guys, I really proud of you guys. You certainly felt the pain of setting one up but now you feel the ecstasy of making it happen. I think you'll be suprised at how much easier number 2 will come to you. The pure amount of newbees was great to see. But watch out BarCampLeeds3 or is 4 is at the end of May and is promsing more. BarCampNewcastle2 could be a suprising little joy if it gets the numbers this time. BarCampBrighton4, BarCampBournemouth are certainly up and coming. And of course I'm hot on the case for a BarCampManchester2 and I can tell you all that I don't settle for 2 days, its got to be sleep over or nothing. So look out, BarCamp is coming at you…. Now lets spread this thing…!

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Author: Ianforrester

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