Archive for the ‘BarCamp’ Category

on sxsw panels, conversations and how to get me out of bed

My favourite sessions at barcamps tend to be those which are (directed) discussions on topics ranging from sex and gender to rural broadband. I love to engage with other participants during these moments, often playing devils advocate so that ideas and concepts are deeply justified and thought through. Oh, and I love to get my opinion across too! I always walk away from these sessions with a feeling of satisfaction, even if no conclusions have been reached and often feel both inspired by what other people have said, and hopeful that I have had some impact on others too. It really doesn’t matter if you are leading the discussion or not, everyone should have a chance to speak their mind.

On the flip side what seriously frustrates me about panels is that I have to watch a discussion take place, and despite the ability to ask questions I do not have a chance to engage in actual conversation with either panelists, or more importantly other attendees. I only attended one panel at SXSWi this year “What Guys Are Doing To Get More Girls Into Tech” (#moregirlsintech) and the frustration experienced by many attendees was evident through the hash tag stream on the giant screen. Many of us wanted to engage in discussion but had to resort to venting our frustration and disagreement through twitter.

Perhaps it’s the physical layout of the room. In the core conversation I attended “How Geeks Grabbed Philly By The Balls” (#geeksgrabbedphilly) the two core conversationalists were on the same level as the attendees, physically much closer, and encouraged to disrupt the process, whereas in the panel the panelists were on a raised platform at the front. That physical separation makes it much harder for the audience to become participants and engage with the panelists.

I’m fairly certain that this is not an issue of the conversationalists of panalists themselves. My amazing friend Alex Hillman was key to the Philly conversation and the panelists were also incredibly fascinating people, as was the modertor who did a very good job of fielding twitter queries where she could.

The panel I was on “Don’t Stop Believin’: How karaoke is going to change the world” (#dontstopbelievin) (slides) was not a conversation panel, but rather a set of 7 short and sweet presentations followed by questions and karaoke – and I think they key difference here is the presentation aspect. Let conversations be conversations and presentations be presentations, even if they have 7 people presenting. Panels muddy the water. They give you a taste of a conversation you can not be part of, and that frustrates me.

So my request to SXSWi 2011 is that they significantly ramp up the number core conversations they have by switching out some of the panels. There is no reason conversations can’t be guided and focused by a group of key conversationalists, nor is there any reasons presentations can’t be presented by several presenters. This is an interactive conference after all, so let’s get interactive where we can. Turn panelists into conversationalists by bringing them down to floor level and into the discussion. Minimise the gap (physical and virtual) between them and the attendees, and overall increase engagement. Everyone will benefit from this. And you might actually encourage me out of bed and into a session or two…

BarCampLondon6 Accounts

I know these are about 9 months late, but here they are.

As a summary, BarCampLondon6 raised £5600 in income, and spent £5300 on running the event, leaving a surplus of £300 which will be put towards future BarCampsLondons.

A more detailed budget can be downloaded (and now in text format too).

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in contact.

The BarCampLondonPlanningAssociation (BCLPA)

The BarCampLondonPlanningAssociation
We set up this association whilst planning BarCampLondon6 as a body to hold a bank account and assets to simplify organising future BarCamps in and around London. By no means is there any implied overlap between the membership of BCLPA and the planning team of any BarCamp. The BCLPA has no authority over anything, but is there to be used as a resource by anyone who wants it’s help. It is able to provide the following:
- assistance in terms of experience and support of people who have been involved with the planning of BarCamps.
- banking support for BarCamp sponsorship so you don’t have to set up your own bank account
- reusable items such as power strips, ethernet cables and spare items such as post it notes and index cards.
The BCLPA is not a group of people who are specifically planning any future BarCamp, nor are it’s members the only people who can use the name BarCampLondon – that is something anyone can decide to use. There are, however, a number of members who are interested in running future BarCamps, but they do this individually not as members of the BCLPA. Membership of the BCLPA is only indicative of your interest in how BarCamps are planned and run.
To clarify, the role of the BCLPA is purely advisory and assistance to planners of Camps in and around London. We actively encourage people to go ahead and plan BarCamps (including future BarCampLondons) without being a member of the association. We are sorry if there has been any confusion over this.
If you are organising a Camp in or around London and you do want some of the assistance that the BCLPA can provide, or you are interested in becoming a member to help out others please feel free to contact Emma Persky (emma.persky@gmail.com / @emmapersky).

We set up this association whilst planning BarCampLondon6 as a body to hold a bank account and assets to simplify organising future BarCamps in and around London. By no means is there any implied overlap between the membership of BCLPA and the planning team of any BarCamp. The BCLPA has no authority over anything, but is there to be used as a resource by anyone who wants it’s help. It is able to provide the following:

  • assistance in terms of experience and support of people who have been involved with the planning of BarCamps.
  • banking support for BarCamp sponsorship so you don’t have to set up your own bank account
  • reusable items such as power strips, ethernet cables and spare items such as post it notes and index cards.

The BCLPA is not a group of people who are specifically planning any future BarCamp, nor are it’s members the only people who can use the name BarCampLondon – that is something anyone can decide to use. There are, however, a number of members who are interested in running future BarCamps, but they do this individually not as members of the BCLPA. Membership of the BCLPA is only indicative of your interest in how BarCamps are planned and run.

To clarify, the role of the BCLPA is purely advisory and assistance to planners of Camps in and around London. We actively encourage people to go ahead and plan BarCamps (including future BarCampLondons) without being a member of the association. We are sorry if there has been any confusion over this.

If you are organising a Camp in or around London and you do want some of the assistance that the BCLPA can provide, or you are interested in becoming a member to help out others please feel free to contact Emma Persky (emma.persky@gmail.com / @emmapersky).

BarCamps are not just for techies

I’ve been following two events recently, Unsheffield and TweetCamp. They’re both BarCamp style events with high levels of self organisation, and I’m really pleased that people are taking the time to run events like this. Unfortunately, they have both taken the line that they are moving away from or different to Barcamp because Barcamps are aimed solely at the tech community. And this frustrates me.

I’m fed up of people perpetuating the myth that BarCamps are just for techies. Seriously fed up. Yes, there are a bunch of technical folk who attend these events, and yes they may be the majority, but that majority is not large. Out of all of the many BarCamps I have ever been to I have rarely been to a “technical” talk, and only myself given one that was in any way technical (that was demonstrating my dissertation project and was seriously cool). 

By segregating “geeks, hackers and core techies” from regular people you are only diving apart the community of people who desire to “share and learn in an open environment.” And yes, we are one community, with members from all sorts of backgrounds. Our community is defined by our desire to share and learn, and not by the types of activities we do (hack, paint, fish, etc.). Anyone, from any walk of life, any background, and profession and or any experience level should be comfortable being a member of this community. 

Did anyone honestly find BarCampLondon6 too technical? In fact, there were some people who complained that it was not geeky enough, lacking a dedicated hackspace or way for hackers to get together, but I do not see BarCamp as a hackspace. BarCamp has been and should always be about sharing knowledge, whatever that knowledge is. BarCampLondon6 had sessions on Reflexology, Sourdough Bread Making, Tai Chi, Making your own drop spindle(spinning wool with a potato), and other BarCamps have had similarly diverse sessions.

I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be other events, there should and needs to be. Nor am I suggesting that TweetCamp shouldn’t happen, though I am of the opinion it would be better off with less structure. To fully engender the experience of Twitter in the real world I think it is necessary to duplicate the experience as closely as possible. Since Twitter is a fully unstructured environment, perhaps it would be beneficial to have a TweetCamp in a bar or a park or a coffee shop without the (self) organisation of BarCamp style sessions.

I applaud the efforts of the organisers of Unsheffield to see the potential to engage more people. Reaching out to different communities by re branding and widening your event is a great thing. But peddling false rhetoric about the technical basis of barcamp is unjust. If you want to separate yourself from BarCamp then you should, but denigrating it to increase the potential of your own event is just petty. Similarly, justifying TweetCamp by saying that BarCamp is not for “regular” people undermines all of the work many of us put into uniting this community of open minded knowledge seekers. 

BarCamps are not exclusivley for “geeks“, and similarly *Camps and Unconferences are not just for “regular” people. They all exist for anyone and everyone who has a desire to learn and and a passion for sharing.