So this was my 6th BarCamp. It doesn’t feel like that. It doesn’t feel like that at all. I still feel like such a newbie at these events, mainly cause I have no idea what to talk about. I’ve held a session at almost every single one of them (except for Berlin, because the schedule was completely full), but never something that seemed useful/professional/barcamp-worthy. I know that I know stuff, but I have no idea if people would be interested in anything I know.
Putting all that aside for a moment though, the third BarCamp Brighton was fantastic. Great venue, great sessions and a lot of interesting people. Like last time, it was held at the Student’s Union of the University of Sussex. It’s a lovely location for this type of event, with a nice selection of different types of rooms and enough space to hang around and chill in.
I woke up at 6am that Saturday morning. Cristiano, Dan and I were able to get a ride to Brighton from Emma, but that meant being at her place at 7:30ish, which meant leaving our house at 6:50. Ugh, way too early. We ended up arriving later than we initially expected at 10:15. After a long introduction round, where every single person had to introduce themselves with three tags (my tags were facial expressions, machine learning and werewolf), people started filling up the board with their sessions.
The first session I went to was Cristiano’s talk about HDR photos. I already knew what they were (High Dynamic Range photos), but not how to make them. The idea of HDR is that you take multiple photos of the same thing, but with different exposures, and then combine them into one image. Some cameras can do the first part of this (taking multiple photos with different exposures) automatically, called exposure autobracketing, but you can also do it by hand, if you place the camera somewhere stable. A handy Mac app that can do the second part is Photomatix Pro. It takes multiple images as input, merges the photos into one and then offers tone mapping to select the right colours, shadows and highlights.
Ask The BBC Anything
I then went to the Ask The BBC Anything session with Ian Forrester, Rain Ashford and Ant Miller. I didn’t take any notes, so I don’t remember all the details, but some interesting points were raised about how the BBC has to deal with copyright. There was one anecdote about an orchestra concert, which was held at a BBC venue, played by BBC employees, music was in the public domain, but somehow because of the conductor, the BBC still didn’t own the rights to it.
Rubik’s Cube Solving
One skill I’ve always wanted to have is to be able to solve a Rubik’s Cube. After this workshop with Seb Lee-Delisle, I’m one step closer to that goal. We didn’t have time to complete the tutorial, but I understand more about it then before. The most important thing to realize here is that the six middle points on every side (so square #5 of the 9), all remain on the same location the entire time. I won’t try to explain it further, cause my babbling won’t make it any clearer (there are loads of tutorials available online if you’re interested).
Who doesn’t know what powerpoint karaoke is? The idea is simple: a victim gets to present a set of powerpoint slides which he has never seen before. The result can be very funny (or if you’re not lucky, very boring). There were hilarious presentations about cannibalism, bacon and genetically engineered trees.
This presentation from David Hayward was one of the sessions I enjoyed the most, mainly because part of it was a different perspective to theory I’m reading up on for my own research. The uncanny valley is a hypothesis about the response from humans to robot or CGI characters (anything that’s supposed to look and act human). The theory goes that right before they look and act completely believable, there’s a huge dip of repulsion: they just seem creepy and weird (like The Polar Express and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within).
I’m not one for quick retorts; my mind just goes completely blank in those moments where I would love to be witty and sharp. I think though that maybe with enough practice I could teach myself how to do that. This session from James Aylett helped already a bit. He took us through a series of games/exercises, aimed to loosen up people and make them less self-conscious, while slowly building up the reflexes of thinking quick on your feet.
Content, Content and Pop Culture
In this session Relly Annett-Baker presented what happens when companies give free reign to their fans and actually pay attention to what they (the fans) are producing. She gave examples of the Ace Attorney games for the Nintendo DS and the popular Japanese manga Prince of Tennis, which both have a vast assortment of merchandise. The presentation also touched such topics as slash fiction (guy-on-guy fan fiction, Angel and Spike swoon…) and hentai (tentacle sex!).
What would a BarCamp be without Werewolf?
In this game Emma, some newbie and I were the Werewolves. The game started with about 20 players, and us Werewolves went for a kill the non-newbies and non-experts strategy (so those who had played more than once, but not a lot). When there were around 10 people left, I (as a Werewolf) declared myself as the Seer. There wasn’t that much resistance, until one point where I should have accused a newbie of being a Werewolf. Instead I told everyone he was a Villager, which destroyed my brilliant plan. The only option was killing myself that night, after trying to explain to Emma during the night round with a series of weird hand gestures which next steps she should take. She didn’t follow my advice, but the Werewolves still won anyway.
Of course, after the game I previously played, I fully expected no one to believe me. And, of course, I had to pull the Seer card that game. To make things worse, no one died the first night and people straightaway wanted to lynch me. I had no choice but to declare as the Seer myself immediately. To make things even more annoying, some newbie declared himself as the Seer (while he was in fact the Healer!!). The Villagers believed me though and we lynched the newbie. Two rounds later I discovered a Werewolf, but he managed to turn the game around on me. Almost everyone believed him and the Villagers lynched me. The one person that believed me though succeeded in convincing everyone to lynch the Werewolf the next round and he discovered who the other Werewolf was. The Villagers won!
This game was great, but very uneventful. Natalie Downe, Phil Hawksworth and I were the Werewolves and the entire game nobody suspected us. Cristiano was the Seer and apparently had checked me during the same night that we Werewolves killed him. The Villagers kept suspecting and lynching each other; all we had to do was not act too suspicious. We won with no Werewolf casualties!
There was one more game after that, where I was finally just a Villager. I got quickly killed during the night though, because Cristiano was one of the Werewolves and didn’t want to risk me figuring him out. By then it was already 4.30 am, so it was time to attempt to sleep anyway.
After 5 hours of sleep, I woke up half an hour before my own session started. Eek!
What is the Definition of Geekiness?
I thought I’d do a discussion session following my blog post from last week about how to define geekiness. It went as okay as a session in the early Sunday morning can go. Most people are barely awake (including me) and still flaking out a bit. I did get some people to talk though about the differences between geeks, fans and academics, but most tended to agree with me. Then again most BarCampers do see themselves as geeks, while I think the most contrasting viewpoints come from those that don’t think they’re geeks.
Illustrator for Non-Designers
I’m reasonably proficient in Photoshop, but never took the time to learn a bit about Illustrator. Adam Mills did a quick introduction into the basics of Illustrator, explaining stuff like how the pen tool worked and how the workflow and setup differs from Photoshop. It was really a useful session; I’m thinking I should redesign my blog logo based on what I learnt here.
Cristiano had a second talk explaining photo histograms to newbies and the cool things you can do with them. Most people that showed up though already knew what histograms were (if you don’t, check out his presentation on SlideShare). There were some cool things though, like a image of the New York skyline, of which the histogram was shaped like the New York skyline (some people have too much time on their hands). Next to that, Cristiano created a useful bookmarklet that will generate a histogram for any image within the browser.
Pen and Paper Japanese Puzzles
I love pen and paper puzzles, but I tend to get obsessed with them: once I start one, I have to finish it. This presentation showed 17 newish Japanese puzzles. Most of them I knew already, having played a lot of Brain Buster Puzzle Pak on the Nintendo DS and some puzzle set on the iPhone. There were some new ones in between them though, like Futokoshi and Engima.
Ideas in Typography Related to Experience Design
I met Rebecca Cottrell two weeks ago at the London Girl Geek Dinner anniversary, and she wasn’t looking forward to having to give a BarCamp presentation. Suffice to say, she was surprised when it turned out her session was so popular, we had to move to a larger room. It was an interesting presentation about typography and design, and kicked off some interesting discussions (like typography on mobile). Check out Rebecca’s blog post, it’s worth the read (she’s got her slides on SlideShare and has added her presentation notes).
I’m not the healthiest person; I’m not overweight or anything like that, but sitting behind my computer all day, just doesn’t feel too good for my body. But I always thought that yoga would be a bit flaky or spacey, and not something I’d ever do. After this session though I’m completely turned! The instructor Jenny taught us some very basic positions and exercises, focusing on how to breath, move and relax at the same time. I’m definitely going to keep up doing these small things I’ve learnt and (once I’ve got a real job) eventually find a yoga place somewhere here.
The day ended with an interesting talk from Tantek on buildering. Buildering is the sport of climbing buildings, inside and outside. After a quick presentation (Rule #1: Don’t Die), he proceeded to show some places within the BarCamp venue that were suitable for buildering. That included interrupting another talk, because the walls in that room had gaps in them which worked perfectly as hand and feet grips. I would have loved to try it out myself, but didn’t want to ruin my pretty shoes and dress.
All in all, I had a fantastic two days! I’m looking forward to BarCampLondon5 at Ebay in 3 weeks time. And this time I’m going to present something real!