Barcamp London 8

My first Unconference

A few days a late maybe, but I thought I'd do a post about my time at Barcamp London 8.

For those that don't know, a barcamp is an "unconference". Anyone that goes can do a talk, but it's not mandatory. You choose a time and a room on what's known as the "grid" (basically a timetable), and then spend the rest of your time seeing other peoples talks. Anyway, I'll start from the beginning.

Saturday

Getting up at 5:00 to get the 6:10 train wasn't nice, but a McDonalds breakfast helped slightly. I'd never been to a barcamp before, and I was being forced to talk (part of my contract, cheers Tim), so I was fairly apprehensive about the day. I planned most of my talk on the train up, which proved difficult with the 15 mins free internet I had. I decided I'd talk about HTML5 and how to degrade gracefully.

We arrived at half 9 ish, got our free swag (the custom made Spreadshirt t-shirt was the best, along with Global Personals Werewolf cards (more on that later) and an Adobe flask amongst other things) and had the intro talk.

I then went and claimed my spot on the grid (smallest room, mid afternoon), and planned which talks I was going to see. I was very impressed with the range of talks being given, there was never a time where I didn't want to see anything, and it wasn't all tech related. The first talk I saw was about keeping bees! Throughout the day, I also saw talks on CSS, security (@glynwintle), Flash/HTML, jQuery (@Jack_Franklin and @mheap), Jetpack and British Sign Language (@lallyd, probably the best talk of the weekend.)

My talk went well, the (small) room was full, and people seemed interested. It didn't help that someone did a talk called "Why I'm not using HTML 5" at exactly the same time as mine!

After all the talks beer was brought out, and @GlennPegden and I spent a few hours chatting about various things and completely managed to miss the Haye/Harrison fight.

We were then invited to play a game of Werewolf upstairs, a game which I'd heard a lot about but never played. The basic rules are to find out who the werewolves are and lynch them before they eat you. I don't know if it was the general atmosphere, or the copious amount of free alcohol everyone had consumed, but we all got really into it, and I'd definitely recommend playing it!

Sunday

After an OK night's sleep on the floor of a classroom, I had a nice breakfast and went straight back into the talks. Sunday's talks included sushi (@proactivepaul), more security (this time Glyn was joined by @alecmuffett, and they both preceded to scare me so much I never want to buy anything online ever again), old social media (@GlennPegden) and realtime notifications (@tnash). There weren't as many talks as on Saturday, but still enough to keep me occupied and I was never stuck with nothing to do (they even had a Kinect set up to play on).

And that was it, after all the talks we had a little outro presentation and it was time to go home. I know i've written a lot, so if you've made it this far I congratulate you but there's still so much I haven't mentioned. From the amazing amount of free food throughout the weekend, including a large supply of Kinder Eggs (the toys are rubbish now), the overall great atmosphere, the awesome new people I met, and how smoothly the whole event was run.

Final Thoughts

Barcamp is great, if the ones in the rest of the country (Leeds, Manchester, Bath, Brighton, they are all over) are half as good, I'll be pleased. I'm really glad I did a talk as well. I enjoyed it and it definitely helped boost my confidence. I'd recommend a barcamp to both geek and non geek alike, it's a great place to meet new people, learn about interesting things, and have a good laugh. This tweet pretty much sums up my experience:

Want to let me know what you think of Barcamp London 8? Why not leave a comment, follow me on Twitter , or !

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