Geek history worth keeping

Early in the evening

While talking to Martin, Sam, Chris and others over the last few weeks. I have been thinking how things have been forgotten.

The history of geek culture seems to get forgotten too often. Recently a discussion about the tech community in Manchester with Martin raised a bunch of questions in my mind.

How much of geek history is still available now? What do I mean?

Great people have said….

“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”

And to be honest I’m seeing the same thing over and over again in the limited time I’ve been around the geek scene. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing necessarily wrong with this… But no one seems to be documenting the past… Which seems crazy with the amount of social media or in the past user generated content created. But the issue seems to be putting it all together. For example if you search geekdinners on my blog, theres quite a few posts. But its a mishmash of stuff. Look for the same on Flickr (assuming you knew flickr was where most geeks uploaded stuff in the past and flickr had not gone dark) and you get a mishmash again. If your smart you might try the clusters and find the London geekdinners. is actual up for sale at $2.5k. But this isn’t so much my point. In the past we would write blog posts about events (don’t get me started on the blogging) but this is a bit like throwing a pound in a tip jar. Whats need is something to aggregate the blogs, tweets, photos, videos, etc together. Tell the whole story in long form. This is what me and Martin were discussing, and the natural place seems to be wikipedia and

I had a discussion recently with Tom Morris who is very knowledgeable about wikipedia. I was discussing the recent addition of a page about myself. But it got me thinking Wikipedia is a great place for the type of thing I was hinting at before.

So I’m going to start filling in pages on Geekdinner, LondonGeekdinners, BarCampLondon, BarCampManchester, Geekup and Over the Air. Hopefully people who go on to write pages about Technights, Social Media Cafe, Tuttleclub, etc will link and reference. Then we can start to trace back events and community efforts. Give attribution where its well deserved and encourage more people to get more involved in shaping the future of geek culture.

The next few months are very busy

I knew September onwards was going to be busy but this is getting a little out of control…

As you can see a whole bunch of them take place within or close to Manchester, so luckily i won’t have to go too far… However I’m also looking to finally go to Le Web for the very first time and maybe the Media Festival again.

Its cranking up to be a hectic autumn but hopefully a decent one full of lots of great experiences and people…

BarCampLondon in .Net magazine

.net magazine

Paul Annett's article on BarCampLondon made it into issue number 156 of .net Magazine (hits the newsagents tomorrow – 18th October). You can see some previews on his flickr stream. But not everything is rosey, there was a miss quote by some freelance sub-editor who rewrote a sentence by Sarah Blow, who wrote the whole lot up in a good blog post. Paul has a response…

Apologies to girls who came for the bit about “token” girl attendees – this was re-written by the mag after I submitted the article, and is not my words. It's disrespectful and goes completely against the sentiment of the paragraph, which was about encouraging more girls to attend – now it sounds unwelcoming, as if there was only one girl and her attendance was worthless.

I look forward to seeing Future Publishing's official response to this. But according to a brief chat with Sarah earlier today. .Net Magazine may be sponsoring a girl geek dinner as an apology for their mistake in the print of the last BarCampLondon female representation. Good on you Sarah…

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Events planned for Friday and the next few months

at media social

So I've been very quiet about my Backstage job on my own blog, according someone I recently spoke to (yes you who just got a new flat, you know who you are). But its not because I don't want to talk about it or because I can't. Its because I'm so damm busy! This is a good thing because everyday there is something new to deal with and on going projects which were just kick starting.

Along with my new job at, is event planning. Being the public facing developer network which backstage is, this will mean lots of events up and down the country (yes not just London). Its not a problem to give you an insight into some of the events were planning. Yes this is a good chance to get them in your diary or calendar so you don't miss them…

So first up is the Geekdinner with Molly which has nothing to do with backstage at all. This is shaping up to be a large geekdinner with at least 70 people signed up to come. I'm going to have a word with the pub manager because actually were going to take over the whole bar if it rains or is cold outside. In the past, we've been able to use the benches but in late October this may be a problem. I may also have to invest in a microphone and speaker setup because with so many people it may be a problem hearing Molly, although being from New York shes use to making herself heard.

On October 31st we got the same venue for a great game of Werewolf, and what better day to play it? If you've never played before, don't worry come along its easy to pick up and ever so much fun. Specially when everyones been drinking. Don't drink too much or you may turn into a real werewolf…

Now were heading into new waters. On Monday 6th November were going to have the first new Backstage meetup to go with the backstage widget contest. The venue is not confirmed but it looks to be somewhere in the city maybe moorgate? We were thinking Fireworks but couldn't find a venue where we could set off fireworks (kidding!).

Now were certainly in new waters. I've contacted most of the groups and communities around London like Swedish Beers, Girl Geekdinners, etc and asked if they would like to take part in a large scale Christmas Bash. The Christmas Bash looks like it will happen sometime between Wednesday 6th December and Saturday 9th December. The venue is still under lots of consideration and partly depends on the amount of london groups who agreed to take part in the bash. But honestly it looks to be a good one, so please keep that part of December free if you can.

Hummm I've missed something? Ah yes, BarCampLondon2. Yes I'm still working on it and I might know soon what date and where it will be. I'm still going for late November but I don't have any more details to give quite yet sorry. Once I know anything all those who asked if they could help with the next one will know and I'll announce it to the world soon afterwards.

So yes quite a few London events, but fear not. I might have news for other parts of the UK soon. The best way to keep up to date with my events and others is using upcoming and also now the google calendar

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Werewolf night on 31st October?

Witching hour

So I'm planning a whole night of the game (thanks for the idea Francies) which Simon Willison introduced the London geek scene at BarCampLondon. Werewolf…

Werewolf is a game that takes place in a small village which is haunted by werewolves. Each player is secretly assigned a role – Werewolf, Villager, or Seer (a special Villager). There is also a Moderator player who controls the flow of the game. The game alternates between night and day phases. At night, the Werewolves secretly choose a Villager to kill. Also, the Seer (if still alive) asks whether another player is a Werewolf or not. During the day, the Villager who was killed is revealed and is out of the game. The remaining Villagers then vote on the player they suspect is a Werewolf. That player reveals his/her role and is out of the game. Werewolves win when there are an equal number of Villagers and Werewolves. Villagers win when they have killed all Werewolves. Werewolf is a social game that requires no equipment to play, and can accomodate almost any large group of players.

More information about the game and some tactics can be found on wikipedia page Mafia

Because the game requires between 8 – 25 people, I've set a limit of 30 people and decided to try and use for a signup tool. So please sign up there. I'll stick the event on geekdinner later in the month.

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BarCampLondon – overview from others

So moving forward from my last post which I didn't quite finish. I've been keeping a close eye on what people have been saying in blog posts and I've seen hardly any negativity to the event.

Aral Balkan has a nice review of all the presentations he attended. He ends with

BarCampLondon was a blast! Over the course of a weekend, I got to meet some amazing people, catch up with friends, learn some great stuff (including a new game called Werewolf) and get inspired.

No thank you Aral, I'm still not a fan of Flash, but I agree my view point of Flash exist in the Flash 4 and 5 era. I look forward to seeing if Adobe will take the biggest step and open source the Flash Player. I still think its not going to happen but we shall see.

During my time at BarCampLondon and the geekdinner the night before, I rubbed sholders with quite a few people but Nicole Simon sticks in my mind. She blogged and read a lot too. Her last post on BarCampLondon has a list of things which shes picked up on.

Looking over the reports of the last days of Barcamp, I notice some things popping up more than usual

  • the usual topic of lack of women on such events
  • the amount of user interface designers and flashers
  • I am not a werewolf or I want to jot down a list of things to actually read out at the beginning of such events to have a consistent knowledge of the rules
  • and last but not least: marketers are not evil and programmers are not gods

Good points but it doesn't stop there.

Developper focus is something which was – for my taste – a bit too much. For example driven by Ben Metcalfe who “disturbed” the talking crowd to force them to do mash pits – when most of the people just where waiting to play Werewolf. /images/emoticons/wink.gif

It may be a good idea to call it DevBarcamp if you really want this to be programmer centric but if you don't say so, people will show up for more than just the programmer centric topics.

In this regard I would like to ask if those flash people actually counted for programming or not? *gd&r*

To be fair, it was on the schedule and yes we did kind of force mashup-pit on everyone but we felt if we didn't people might just hang around and get boarded till the dinner came. Then we might have people asking why we were not doing something about it. I think the point I'm getting at, is that we were not trying to force mashpit upon people, just suggesting things people could do. Werewolf was on the list too.
Nicole moves on the lack of women.

Again, of course, there were only few women although I found there where quite a lot. Until I started counting from memory – naa, not that many. We had a longer discussion about this and especially Ian was very keen how to make this work for women.

Without falling for the “let's get women in here just for the sake of it”. To which I agree totally. We can start passing on those messages to our networks and it may even be a cool idea to add to such a Barcamp description a bit more information for example about the camping part. (This Barcamp started out with having a boys / girls room but ended up with having a snorrer / non snorring separation.)

But in general I think we someday have to draw the line. I refuse to run after women all the time just to get them to such meetings if they dont also at least voice their opinions on why they did not come or where not feeling like coming. You cant complain about the cake but eat it too.

Yep I decided it was best to have the snorrers like myself in the main room away from everyone else. Nicole is right, I'm very keen to have more women involved in BarCampLondon, and maybe next time I will work a lot harder on making the event a lot more accessable to women, but not at the expense of others. BarCamp requires a certain amount of get up and go, a certain amount of passion. I know there are a lot of women with this passion but might have been put off by the over geekness of the event in past? And I think thats the point which Nicole quotes from Sarah Blow. Women don't want to be treated as special cases, just show them what there missing. Which is why flickr pictures really help in this case.

James Aylett covers a quite a few sessions including the missing presentation which I recorded but gave up to Paul Hammond.

Paul Hammond's half-presentation, half-discussion called Foo, Bar, Baz, on where future London unconferences and similar events might go, based in part on the strengths of FOOcamp that BarCamp might not be able to mimic easily. I didn't come away with a clear idea of what the future might hold, but I'm convinced that the UK has more than enough smart people to be exciting, even if most of us aren't going to make millions out of start-ups; we'll leave that to Silicon Valley. (And hey, their million is smaller than ours, so we'd have to try harder.)

Well put and I'm looking forward to putting that footage up online so others like Sarah Blow can get an insight into what was said and talked about in that 30mins. James also goes into depth on Sofia Kallin's (Ben Metcalfe's wife) rant about the differences between geek culture and mentality. This is a session I recorded and put up on, but I can't seem to find it right now.

Then Sofia Kallin challenged a bunch of people to persuade her that social networking software is a good thing.

The main thought that I came away from this session with was that there's a huge (and probably growing gap) between the top technologists, who are inventing and building all the sites which (to us) seem really cool; and the people who make up 99% of the world, and really don't care that we've used microformats, or that we have a table-free design, and who just want it to work.

There's a element of truth to this but catering to the masses is not always the best idea if you want to think outside the box. I won't go into the alpha geeks, cool merchants, early adopters stuff but there's got to be somewhere for the niche markets.

Other good blogs worth mentioning include the ones here and…

Like I've said many times now, thanks to everyone who helped out in little and big ways. Good luck to my partner in crime Ben Metcalfe whos now state side. Thanks to Murray, whos a true party animal, has world domination plans and a awesome team to back him up. And finally Sarah (my wife) for backing me up and letting me go off for a whole weekend to camp out with my peers and friends. Not many wives would give up there husband for a weekend.

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d.Construct 2006 tomorrow

d.construct programs

Tomorrow I get to sit back and relax while someone else arranges a conference. Yep d.construct is upon us and this time around, I have a ticket. So I'll see some of you there. In the usual way, I'll hopefully take tons of photos and some videos if my batteries last long enough. After the day of conference speaking comes the social events and it looks like the beach side location is going to be a great ending to the day.

Jeremy Keith, that famous podcaster has tons of details about some pre-event happening right now and some open street mapping happening Saturday. I'll only be down for the Friday, but might be convinced to getting the first train to London if people are up for a all-nighter. There is also a Microformats picnic which looks to be good. I'm also thinking about doing some little interviews with some of the guys I met at BarCamp. Hey and lets not forget to get a game of Werewolf going at some point. Maybe Werewolf on the beach around a small camp fire with a full moon? You know really get into the mood.

Andy did ask me if I wanted to run a geekdinner after d.construct on the Saturday, but finding a venue in a city I don't know well on a Saturday night was a very tall order. Specially with all my time taken up on BarCampLondon at the time. Next year, for sure…

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BarCampLondon – an incredable weekend for everyone involved…

Playing Werewolf

I have been reading tons of blogs talking about BarCampLondon. I don't know what else to say about BarCampLondon which hasn't been said. So I'll do my best to comment back on everyones blogs and round up the best parts in this blog post. So onwards and upwards…

So first up, Sarah Blow from the Girl geekdinners, decided to have an exclusive girl geekdinner in the middle of BarCampLondon. It was great stuff and I think we had a really good conversation about women and technology. Sarah with her brand new Toshiba Tablet PC (2 generations ahead of mine) recorded the whole session and we would have carried on if not for the Pizza delivery (thanks Yahoo for that). I didn't attend the mystery session but thats also up and online. Good work Sarah, I look forward to listening to both of them.

Sarah Blow

Simon Wilson introduced everyone to Werewolf while the Mashpit started in the main room. Mashpit started off with a range of topics but slowly filtered down to a very small amount of people. Rob, Sheila, Tom and myself were around one switch talking interchangable about XSL, Ruby on Rails, pipelines, etc. I think while me and Rob argued about frameworks, Sheila and Tom had settled into a session on learning XSL. Now Tom's well into XSL.

Simon explains WerewolfMashpit or Werewolf

Sheila also taught me how to use XSLT. It's so unbelievably cool!

Sheila and Tom

Me and Ben had not planned to be attending many of the sessions because we thought we'd be too busy cleaning up and directing people to the right place (or something). This was certainly not true, specially on Sunday. But to be honest, it was all to do with the helpers we had. People just helped out and for example at 4:45pm on Sunday the place was pretty much cleaned in 15mins flat. Yep 5 meeting rooms and a reception just needed a hover and a polish here and there. It was truely awesome and ended the conference perfectly. Unfortually I made the mistake of recommending a pub which was actually closed down, so people did carry on but it was over for me. It was a shame because I should have phoned Sarah Blow or someone. Damm it! *smile* Don't worry guys I'll make up for it all at d.construct this Friday.

After BarCamp drink

Nicole and others make a really good point about the lack of post-conference support. I hoped that the wiki would be used more but we're still having the lock problem with PB wiki so now people are using Ben's Wiki. Ideally we would have something like the Backnetwork, but you have to remember its a unconference so nothing can be planned beforehand. However it would have been great to have all the presentations online so I could revisit the ones I missed.

Don't worry folks there's lots more to come…. once I finish writing up the rest.

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Who’s game for Werewolf hunting on Friday night?

Me pointing the finger

While I delay my rather large post rounding up BarCampLondon, I've been thinking about Werewolf the game. I'm thinking about doing a game at the next geekdinner, as I think it could go down really well. Check out the Videos I posted from BarCampLondon and one from FooCamp by Tara Hunt 5 days earlier. Honestly the game is as adictive as Poker but can be played with more people and has that key thing I love about poker. Reading people…

So who's up for it after d.construct on Friday?

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I live for weekends like this! BarCampLondon

BarCampLondon starting session

I'm almost in tears writing this, why? I don't know its really stupid but while driving back from BarCampLondon a few minutes ago and it hit me, we just had a near perfect BarCamp. Its hit me hard and I'm just overjoyed and tears are slowly running down my face now. Sheila asked me afterwards if I had a good time? And I answered with a kind yes but now I'm thinking fuck me, we just pulled off the first British BarCamp, it was an amazing event and everyone loved it. I don't know one person who complained about anything this weekend. Everyone was glowing with praise about the event and now I'm getting it.

Thanks to everyone who attended and made this one of the best weekends I've ever had. So much was learned but I'll get around to the sessions in another blog post. Till then please do check out Blog posts on Technorati, Pictures on Flickr, Bookmarks on Delicious and Videos on Blip.TV

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Geeky week and ever so geeky weekend


Yesterday (tuesday) was the very successful girlgeekdinner which was great as usual (pictures here and here). I recorded the talk and will upload it to tonight, so keep an eye on this url. The quality isn't great because it was so dark and I hadn't played with the best settings yet.

Friday looks to be a busy day but will be a quieter geekdinner with Ben Metcalfe, which is maybe a good thing because of course the rest of the weekend is BarCampLondon.

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BarCampLondon is on, 2nd – 3rd September 2006


Its what many of you have been waiting for… The first british BarCamp is happening in September, BarCampLondon 2006 is go.

What is BarCampLondon? Think of it as a way to get the tech/geek community together in London at the end of the summer. What will happen during the event? Only one thing is certain: It's up to you to decide. The most important thing you should take away from the event? Relationships with other geeks! (You can find out more about the BarCamp movement and the rules and principles of being an attendee on the RulesOfBarCamp page. Please make sure you understand what a BarCamp is before you sign up!)

When's it happening?
Saturday morning, September 2nd to Sunday early evening, September 3rd 2006. Exact hours to be confirmed. There will also be an accompanying GeekDinner on Friday 1st September, although you will have to find your own accommodation between Friday evening and Saturday morning.

Where will it happen?
Yahoo! Europe's London office. We would like to thank Yahoo! for making this happen by offering us a venue.

Yahoo! UK Ltd
125 Shaftesbury Avenue

Yahoo! MapGoogle MapMultimapStreetmap

Getting there?
The best way to get to the event is via public transport.

Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road underground stations are nearby. Covent Garden is also close by, however it gets very busy and often exit-only at weekends (thus best avoided!). Bus numbers 24, 29 and 176 stop close by (map).

You can also use the TfL Journey Planner to obtain specific travel advice from your location (use destination postcode WC2H 8AD).

Please Note: There are no car parking spaces available at the venue. If you are coming by car we would suggest either parking outside of London and traveling in by Tube or using one of the pricey NCP-type car parks nearby (P icons on map)

Who's organising this all?

How do I sign up?
We have a separate page for attendees: BarCampLondonAttendees. Please sign up there!

Sponsors and Sponsorship opptunties
BarCamps are free events, organised by volunteers. With this in mind, there are some associated costs with running such an event – and it is customary for local BarCamp organisers to find sponsorship for these costs.

BarCamps offer sponsors a unique and cost-effective way of increasing their exposure to the London geek scene. Most sponsorship packages are £350.

BarCamp attendees are usually either industry professionals or IT students.

If you think you might be able to sponsor this event, please visit the BarCampLondonSponsorship page.

We would like to thank the following companies who have already kindly agreed to sponsor BarCampLondon:

Yahoo! UK, who are providing us with a venue and connectivity

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