I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of blogging, but it’s so tricky. I’m not sure how I used to manage to write 3 posts a day; I’m now struggling with only writing one post a day! We’re already 9 days into November, but I thought I should write up a post on the events I’ve been to the past months.

Charity Hack 2011

Back in September I attended Charity Hack, another two day 24 hour hack competition, where developers have to “hack” something together for charities. I had been the past two years and both times had been a lot of fun. Last year me, Cristiano, Dom and Caius even won the first prize  (an awesome trip to San Francisco, I can’t believe that that all happened a year ago). So of course I had to attend this year’s one as well!

Again I teamed up with Cristiano, Dom and Caius to work on a hack: CharitySite. The idea was to create a simple CMS for charities, with which charities could setup their own simple site without having to tweak too much. They could create and manage pages, posts and events, show photos, manage their own mailing list and more. The judges liked what we created and we ended up coming 3rd place, each winning an Xbox and a Kinect!

Truffle Making

Great British Chef’s Truffle Making Workshop

Who knew it was so easy to make truffles? I didn’t. Great British Chefs organized a lovely truffle making workshop at Homemade London with one of their chef’s recipes. I made an awesome batch of Earl Grey (bergamot) flavoured truffles. It’s super easy to make truffles and I am definitely going to use that recipe again!

Ladies Who Code

Ladies Who Code is a new meetup group for, well, ladies who code. I went to their second meetup, and it was great meeting other female developers and sharing our experiences. Girls do tend to be outnumbered by the guys at hackdays and other tech events, and events such as Ladies Who Code is a great way to get more girls along. I spoke a bit about organizing events, going to hackdays and some of the hacks I had done in the past year.

My Little Robot

Unruly Media Tech Night

I’ve been using Unruly Media for a while now (occasionally you might see a post with one of their videos) and a couple of weeks ago they organized a tech night for bloggers. Everyone got to make a cute little “robot” out of toothbrushes, batteries and other random stuff. Mine looked adorable (if I say so myself), but I glued some of the parts wrong, so it couldn’t move that much.

TweetCamp II

TweetCamp is one of those events that I’m not sure I completely get. It’s an unconference about Twitter. Right. Okay. So we’ll sit around and talk about Twitter the entire day… It’s the type of event that does attract social media douchebags and if you go to the wrong sessions, you’ll end up with a really bad experience. I managed to go to the right type of sessions for me though; I went to discussions about using Twitter for events, and how journalism has changed because of Twitter.

Tags: Events, Other

Two years ago I wrote a blog post that started with these words: I’ve kind of sort of recovered a bit from BarCamp London 7 last weekend (part of me is cringing at the sound of that sentence. Seriously, 2009 me? “kind of”, “sort of”, “a bit”?!?). That was the first big event I helped organized. It was manic and stressful and intense, but in the end so so worth it. I guess it’s like running a marathon: you put yourself through hell, but it’s for a good cause and afterwards you can’t help but feel happy you did it.

It’s now two years later, and I haven’t stopped with organizing “big” events. Together with Kevin and Cristiano, we’ve done HackCamp, BarCamp London 8, LinkedGov Data HackCamp and the Big Geek Trip. All two day (or longer) events that require more organizing than you’d realize and lots and lots of running around and shouting delegating to people. Plus a bunch of one-day and evening meetups next to all those. The mother of them all though remains BarCamp London, and this year’s one was as manic and stressful and intense as ever.

So I’ll start this blog post with the same words as I did two years ago: I’ve kind of sort of recovered a bit from BarCamp London 9 last weekend. *cringe*

If you’ve somehow stumbled on this post, but have no idea what a BarCamp is, here’s a short explanation. A BarCamp is a two-day weekend unconference, where all attendees are speakers. Instead of pre-announcing speakers, we have a huge grid of session spaces and time slots, where each attendee specifies what they will be talking about. Sessions can be about anything: most attendees will be from the web community, so many talks will be quite “webby”, but I’ve seen a good deal of non-webby stuff to (some of which have been the most interesting sessions I’ve been to). Saturday night the venue remains open, with attendees staying awake through most of the night talking and playing games.

Even though a BarCamp is an unconference, there still needs to be a lot arranged. The unconferenc-ey bit comes from there being no pre-announced speakers; everything else though still needs to be managed. With BarCamp London that comes down to three major elements: venue, sponsors and food/drink.

With the venue we were lucky again this year: City University were happy to host us for a second time. Typically you have to pay to use their venue, but we’ve worked closely with City University to get students involved and interested, and for them BarCamp is very much a “free learning” event where attendees are willing to learn and share what they know with others. For them it’s an internal as well as an external event, so they’ve been able to cover a lot of the costs that we haven’t had to (like security, cleaners, etc). It’s amazing to have such a great venue on board, who understand what BarCamp exactly is about.

BarCamp is completely free to attend, so we need sponsors to cover all the food and drinks that are consumed during the weekend. I wasn’t that involved with finding sponsors this year, mainly because I was still busy working on my dissertation. It most of the time takes 4-6 weeks to get the sponsoring through with companies, so you’ll need to be looking for sponsors at least 4-6 weeks before the event. I tried emailing some companies 2 weeks before the event, but by then it was already too late: most companies aren’t interested any more in sponsoring that close to the date. We had great sponsors this year though (check out the sponsor page); without them BarCamp London wouldn’t be possible.

Barcamp London 9 Day 2 Closing

The last element that needs to be arranged is food and drink. Easy, right? Just order some food and be done with it. Well, no. At BarCamp we do lunch, dinner and midnight snack on Saturday, and breakfast and lunch on the Sunday. Besides that we provide a ton of candy, crisps and drinks during the event. For the main meals, it’s always tricky to find a good deal: we’d love to give attendees something awesome for each meal, but we’re pretty restricted by our budget. Next to that, we try to predict the number of attendees that show up and order the amount of food accordingly, but that involves quite a lot of hassle.

For me, BarCamp preparations started two weeks ago. A couple events ago, Kevin had created our own check-in system, called Retain, where we could track attendee responses and turnout. I’ve been heading registration for most past events though, and realized we could do with some added features. So two weekends ago at the Autumn Hackathon, I mainly spent my time working on that. That weekend I was also trying to arrange a proper breakfast and lunch for the Sunday (hot bacon!) with a pub that shall not be named, but after four days of emailing back and forth with them, they decided they couldn’t do it. Shame.

Proper preparations started on the Thursday and Friday before BarCamp. Badges need to be printed, laminated and punched. Rooms need to be photographed (so we could put them back as they were), rearranged and checked. Posters with room names and directions to those rooms need to be hung up (and figure out where we need to hang those up). Food and drinks need to be bought, driven back to the venue and dragged into a crew room. Registration desk and help desk need to be set up. Swag needs to be sorted out and put out somewhere. Halloween decorations needed to be put up. There was a ton of stuff to do and not a lot of time to do it in.


Now I should explain a bit more about Retain. We’ve got more than 1,000 people signed up to the BarCamp London mailing list. Most BarCamps London venues are only allowed 200-300 attendees. That means: a lot of disappointed people who don’t get a ticket. And yet… even with past BarCamps there will still be people who don’t cancel their ticket and then don’t show up. It costs about £30 for the food we buy per attendee, so if you don’t show up that’s £30 down the drain. If 50 people don’t show up, that’s £1500 down the drain…

So: Retain. For the past couple of events, five days before the BarCamp we’ll send out an email asking you to confirm whether or not you’re coming or if you’re cancelling your ticket. If people confirmed their ticket, we definitely knew you were coming. If you cancelled your ticket, we definitely knew you weren’t coming (and could give that ticket away to someone on the waiting list). If you didn’t confirm or cancel your ticket, we gave you a 50% chance of actually showing up and ordered the amount of food accordingly. Then on the day itself we could see in Retain who had confirmed and who hadn’t, and who had shown up and who hadn’t. It made ordering food a bit more exact.

For the past events this system has really worked well. And we’ve gotten food orders exactly right. This time around though… of the 250 people who had a ticket, 240 of them confirmed 5 days beforehand that they would come along but 50 of those did not show up. 50 people. It could have been £1500 that we wasted. Luckily it was a bit less than that, as because the pub food for Sunday had fallen through, we were forced to buy food on the Sunday itself (meaning we could get those numbers at least right). Still the food on Saturday was ordered for 250 people, and we wasted money and food, because people didn’t bother to show up. How much effort is it to cancel your ticket? Some people did cancel their ticket on Saturday morning, but by then it’s too late; the food has already been ordered.

Most of my Saturday morning I was heading registration, scanning attendees in and keeping track how many people we had in the building. Each attendee badge has a barcode on it, and with laptop + barcode scanners we can check people in and out. The university needs to know exactly how many people are in the building, so we needed to scan everyone that goes in and out. I managed to go to 1 talk that morning, before having to help out with lunch setup.

Barcamp London 9

By Saturday afternoon we realized we were “missing” 50 people, and Kevin and me discussed what we could do to help that. We first sent out text messages to the No Shows whose mobile numbers we had, and got some replies (some with family emergencies, some who said they show up tomorrow). It didn’t seem most of those would still show up though, so we also released extra tickets to the waiting list. Only 3 people responded.

The rest of Saturday afternoon was reasonably quiet, up until dinner. The pies we had ordered from Square Pie arrived half an hour early, and were already a bit on the cold side, because the driver couldn’t find the place. Argh! We quickly needed to set up dinner to make sure the pies were in the hands of attendees as quick as possible. Turned out though that all the boxes were mixed up. There were 7 types of pies in total plus jacket potatoes for vegans and dairy free people, but everything was through each other. We quickly needed to sort everything in the right piles, so that serving them wouldn’t be complete chaos (and that the vegetarians and vegans ended up with the right stuff).

What I didn’t realize was that at the same time, a delivery guy showed up with the ice we had ordered… but he was 2 hours early. Kevin dealt with that, while me and 10 or so volunteers were dealing with the dinner. Somehow though two deliveries were screwed up, causing only more problems on our end.

Later that Saturday evening Kevin wasn’t feeling well, so we forced him to go to sleep. It didn’t help, about an hour or so later we found him in the food room counting stuff. We again told him to go sleep, and I would take over and arrange all the evening stuff. Not much to be done, I thought… I was wrong.

Absinthe Session at Barcamp 9

At about 12, we needed to order pizzas for the remaining attendees. I did a quick head count to see who hadn’t gone to sleep yet, and realized our system was off by about 30 people. Oops. We needed to know exactly who has in the building in case of an emergency. First, I ended up running back to where the pizzas were ordered to lower the amount we were ordering. Then I had to do a second proper head count. This meant asking every single attendee if I could see their badge and re-register them. Including the people who had gone to sleep already. We kind of forgot to specify a designated sleeping area, so somehow attendees managed to go to sleep in every single session room. I ended up having to wake up people and ask if I could see their badge. Not an experience I’d like to go through again.

By then the pizzas were about to be delivered and as I was the only one available with a Geeks of London debit card, I had to wait outside in the cold with a couple of other volunteers, waiting for the delivery guy to show up. I realized at that moment that was first time that day I had been outside; I had stayed for over 16 hours straight in that building. Of course the debit card machine wasn’t working properly, and we got charged an extra £10. The manager of that Dominos was supposed to call us back that night to make sure we got the money back, but I think that still hasn’t happened.

After that I needed to merge the night head count I had just done into our system. It turned out that attendees had been leaving with their badges, not bothering to be scanned out and messing up our system completely. Of course, Retain didn’t show a list of attendees currently in the building (I forgot to add that bit), so I needed to manually go through all attendees and cross-check their presence with the 2nd list. Not something you want to do at 1 in the morning.

Then it was time for the candy round! I think that might be one of my favourite bits of BarCamp. Sneaking in to the Werewolf games and giving out chocolate and candy to “sleeping” Villagers. Especially handing out Kinder Surprise Eggs is so much fun; the eyes of attendees just light up and you realize some people haven’t had them since they were kids.

Finally at about 2:30, Cristiano forced me to go to bed. I found a nice couch, but it wasn’t exactly the quietest of places, plus my mind was still reeling, wondering if I had done everything right and if I hadn’t forgotten anything. I think I finally fell asleep at 3:00.

Barcamp London 9

Three and a half hours later, at 6:30, Cristiano woke me. His turn to sleep. After a quick shower, I headed back to the main area to see what needed to be done. The first thing we needed to sort out was breakfast: how many people were there still in the building and required breakfast. After that head count last night not much had changed, so we had a pretty accurate number. Kevin and some other volunteers went out to get breakfast, while I arranged for the registration desk to be set up again.

Around then I found out that my laptop was acting up. Seriously? Right when registration was about to start again? I managed to get my hands on another laptop, and spent the morning trying to figure out what the hell was wrong with it (a fresh install seems to have fixed it).

Sunday lunch was a little bit stressful. We somehow managed to get the numbers wrong again and didn’t buy enough lunch. Crew was asked not to eat, so that all attendees at least would have gotten something. It’s so tricky getting this number right though. One time you buy too little, the next you buy too much. How the hell are you supposed to get this spot on? Crew ended up getting food later though, so it wasn’t too bad.

Before I knew it, we had the closing talk! It’s an awesome feeling, seeing all those attendees and knowing (well, hoping) they had a great time. After that, it was clean up and break down time. We had about an hour to pack everything up and out of the building. As I said before, we had a lot of “food” (mainly cans of drinks and candy) left over because of no shows, and needed to pack that all up and bring that home. It took a good hour to break everything down. We ended up with two cabs of stuff that needed to be brought home: one cab to Kevin’s with all the stationary, hardware, etc, and one cab to mine and Cristiano’s with all the food leftovers.

And that was it. That was yet another BarCamp we had organized.

Barcamp London 9 Day 2 Closing

There are a couple of things I am regretting. I only managed to go to 3 talks. Looking at the grid now makes me annoyed about how many interesting things I missed! This time I actually checked the grid a couple of times, but kept forgetting which talks I wanted to go to and got distracted by doing other stuff. Next time around I really need to come up with a way that the main members of crew get to see the talks they want (and get poked by other crew to make them go to those talks).

Besides that I don’t think there’s a proper photo of me during the entire BarCamp. There are a couple where I’m sort of in it, but none with really me as a focus. I’m kind of disappointed with that, especially cause I had full on witch makeup and hat on for Halloween!

Sometimes I wonder why I put myself through it all. Most people seem not to realize how much time and effort we put in to these events, and we always get flak for doing something or other “wrong”. It’s stressful. And super intense. And afterwards I tend to feel sad and under-appreciated. But I don’t think I could ever stop organizing events now. Even now, when I should be “recovering” from the previous BarCamp, I kind of just want to jump right back in and organize the next big thing. Yeah, I might be a big crazy…

A couple of things before I wrap this up. If you’ve got a ticket to an event and can’t make it, please, please, cancel. This mentality of it being okay not to cancel has somehow got to change. It’s one of the worst issues event organizers have to deal with and this has got to change.

Finally, I want to thank everyone involved with this BarCamp. Thanks to City University and Kate for hosting us yet again. Thanks to the awesome building staff (security guys, tech/AV staff and cleaners) who had to deal with this weird bunch of crazy people. Thanks to all the lovely sponsors for enabling us in feeding our attendees. Thanks to all the volunteers who helped out the entire weekend and did anything we asked them to.

Thanks to Kevin and Cristiano and the other organizers for making this another fun, even though it is stressful, experience.

And thank you to everyone who attended and participated. Without you BarCamps wouldn’t be BarCamps.

If you’re interested in hosting, sponsoring or helping to organise future BarCamps, you can contact me at melinda@missgeeky.com.

It’s that time of the year when events season kicks into full gear. The past two weekends I’ve been at two hackdays, and the upcoming ones will be just as busy. I think I’ve got something planned for every weekend up until November! More about those upcoming events in a later post.

Last week I attended Over The Air, a free two day mobile developer conference and 24 hour hack competition, where developers have to “hack” something together. It’s the fourth year the event has been held and each year it’s been great. I’ve been to all the previous three years, sometimes attending the more conferency side of the event, other times actually hacking (and maybe creating rather silly videos). This year there was a change of venue, with the entire event being held at Bletchley Park.

Photo by ahousley

Now, I hadn’t really heard of Bletchley Park before moving to the UK and it’s only recently that I’ve looked into its history. It’s pretty freaking amazing. In short: Bletchley Park was the base of major codebreaking during World War II and was responsible for decrypting the German’s ciphers and codes. Of the 12000 people stationed there during the war over 80% of them were women… it’s most probably the place where a girl like me would have ended up during the war.

So to be there for two days, attending programming talks, learning from each other and working on our own little projects… the atmosphere couldn’t be more perfect. You just couldn’t help but wonder that 60 odd years ago a similar group was gathered together, attending programming talks, learning from each other and working on their own little projects. Although I bet they didn’t complain about the wifi.

As with most hack weekends, Over The Air is an overnight event. Most of the time I just show up with my sleeping bag and mat, and find some quiet corner or beanbag to sleep in. This time around a bunch of us thought this would be the perfect place to actually set up tents and camp outside. So we did. For me, it was my first ever time camping! Surprisingly, I didn’t suck at setting up a tent (although, come to think about it, I shouldn’t have expected me sucking at that, I am awesome at actually reading the freaking manual).

For most of the Friday I spent the day outside in a beanbag, basking in the sun and enjoying the only bit of proper summer I’ve experienced this, well, summer. And working on my own little project, of course (but more about that later). I ended up only attending one talk, but that seems to be my recurring problem at Over The Air; it always turns into a choice between “hacking” and “watching presentations”. Plus, it was also a choice between “sit in a warm room filled with sweaty geeks” or “bask in the sun”. The sun won.

Over The Air 2011
Photo by Tim Whalley

Friday evening brought lovely lasagna and pizza, which were hungrily nommed. After dinner were some Ignite talks; presentations of 5 minutes, 20 slides, 15 seconds per slide. I especially enjoyed Alistair’s talk about his Metro Simulator, and Terence’s talk about QRpedia, QR codes that link to Wikipedia (and can be used in museums and other interesting places). The rest of the evening I spent working on my hack, until I became too tired and needed to sleep.

Saturday morning: more hacking. Until 10:30 that is, when a tour around Bletchley Park started. It was great hearing about the history of the place, and seeing all the code-breaking machines they rebuilt. I loved that the tour guide at a certain moment went “Most of the time at this point in my story, people’s eyes glaze over. But not with you lot!”. I really want to go back again and explore the place more fully (sidenote: Bletchley Park was just awarded a £4.6m grant to restore the place. Awesome, awesome news. I can’t wait to see what they’ll do with it).

Saturday afternoon the hacking ended, and those that wanted to submitted their hack for the presentations. Each team then got 90 seconds to present what they created. Now I guess I should explain what I worked on: MuDo’s! I’ve been living in London for almost 5 years now, and while I’ve been to most of the big well-known museums, there are tons of smaller ones I keep forgetting to go to, and museums I didn’t even know existed. So my idea was to create a To-Do-list/check-list for museums: you login with you Twitter account, select which museums you want on your to-do list, and then can share it with your friends. And you can see what your friends have on their check list. I’m still working on it, but I want to make it live as soon as I can. I know it’s something I’d like to use, and I’ve had people come up to me after the presentations that they’d like to use it too 🙂


So I presented my hack during the presentations and (as usual) I thought I did horrible with the presentation (forgetting parts of what I wanted to say), but most people seemed to like it. There were about 25-30 hacks (I think, I don’t remember exactly) with some really cool ideas. I loved QuickeR, which used a video of a series of QR codes to transfer data. For an entire list of entries, check out the Over The Air blog. Much to my surprise I ended up winning a prize! I wasn’t really expecting to, cause my hack didn’t really fit in any of their categories. My hack won Most Cultural Hack, and I got 3 iOS Programming books. Yay! I wanted to get into iPhone/iPad development, so these books are a perfect place to start.

I know it’s a free event with tons of stuff to be arranged (and I loved the event), but I just wanted to comment on some things that could have gone better. The wifi is an obvious place to start: hackdays depend on wifi a lot. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s super tricky to create something without internet access. Even if you’re working on something not even web related, there will be stuff you’ll want to look up online. For most of the Friday the wifi at Over The Air wasn’t working and the event really suffered from it. There were people who abandoned their hacks because of the lack of wifi, and those who didn’t had to struggle through it.

I know the organizers did their best to get the wifi working. And eventually it did. On some locations. And that brings me to my second point: there wasn’t a real space setup as the “hacking” area. There was a small bit in the mansion, but by the time I got there all spots were taken. All other rooms in the mansion were being used for talks during the day. Then there was a big marquee outside, but that was constantly being set up and broken down for different things (lunch, dinner, talks, etc). It would have been nice to have one area where you could stay and work.

Overall I really loved Over The Air this year. The vibe of Bletchley Park was awesome, the camping outside was a lot of fun, and the general atmosphere was just great. Good hackdays always leave me feeling more inspired and more knowledgable. Kudos to the organising team of Daniel AppelquistMatthew Cashmore and Margaret Gold for putting this together again!

Tags: Events, Other

Event: Movie Geeks of London

February 15th, 2011

Last month’s Gadget Geeks of London turned out to be lots of fun! I was nervous for most of the night though, mainly because I was doing one of the presentations. My presentation went really well, and after I finally had done it I could relax a bit and enjoy the evening. I still have to write up a proper blog post of that evening (but it’s been busy as usual).

It’s time though for our next meetup: Movie Geeks of London! It’s less than two weeks until this year’s Academy Awards and we couldn’t resist organising an Oscar themed meetup.

The idea of the evening is to discuss the Oscar nominations with other movie geeks. And we’ll be holding our own award ceremony on the night, where attendees can vote for their favourite Oscar nominations. Make sure you sign up on the site, cause we need to know how many people are coming along!

Tags: Events

Last weekend I started a little side project visualizing the UK box office. I was at Culture Hack Day and the UK Film Council had provided some cool data to play around. It contained info on movie screenings over the UK, not only “real” cinemas, but also screenings held in universities, galleries, etc. And it would have screening times, ticket prices, geolocation and more cool stuff. Only… that data wasn’t actually completely available yet. So instead I started looking at the box office data from the UK Film Council site, and whether or not I could do something with that. Eventually I want to use that advanced data though and merge that into what I’ve created now.

I started off with a ‘simple’ overview of 2010 (see here for the actual version):

It shows the weekend gross per weekend for the 50 highest grossing movies of 2010. It’s interesting to see how well some movies perform in comparison to others. I also made a larger version with 100 movies where you see in a bit more detail how the movies are doing.

I then had a look at the highest grossing movies of 2010 (see the full version here):

Not much surprise there, although it’s a bit depressing to see how much money bad movies can make (Twilight, Clash of the Titans, Valentine’s Day…).

The next step was making a similar graph as the first one, but only for the last couple of weeks (see here for the full version):

The current week is still missing (waiting for the UKFC to update their website), but it’s great to see the jump The King’s Speech made last week.

Finally I made charts for every week I had, showing the percentage of the box office each movie took (see the full version here):

I really like these and the different patterns you discover. Like Valentine’s Day was the highest grossing movie in the week of Valentine’s Day, but only by 2% (with Avatar beating it the next week).

This is only the first step in this project; I really want to do more with the data I have. The next things I’m focusing on are making the graphs embeddable, adding notes and interesting dates to each graph (like when bank holidays were, or important events that might influence movie-goers etc), grabbing more data about the movies (like director, actors, writer, etc) and being able to show that data when you click on a movie.

I’d love to hear though what you all think of the graphs, and what type of stuff you’d like to see. It’s been fun working on this and I’m hoping I can do more with it!

Tags: Events, Movies

Event: Gadget Geeks of London

January 19th, 2011

We’ve finally gotten around to organizing the next Geeks of London event! 2011 is going to be an interesting year for us, cause we’re going to try to organize at least 12 events in 12 months. It’s going to be great though, and we’ve got some interesting meetup ideas in mind, including laser tag (squee!) and an Oscar related Movie Geek meetup next month.

This first 2011 meetup will be next Thursday the 27th and will be all about gadgets. The idea is to bring along and show off cool new gadgets you got at Christmas, or weird old stuff you still have lying around. Plus we’ll have some drinks and food sponsored by Nokia!

What's In My Bag?

The awesome thing though and something I’m still quite nervous about: I’ll be one of the speakers! I’ll be holding a short 10 minute presentation about gadgets during the event. Eek! On one side I’m really looking forward to speaking there, on the other side… I used to get really flustered and terribly nervous during presentations and it’s something I know I still have to work on. What better way than to jump right in though, right?

You can find more details (including how to sign up) on the Geeks of London site. You can also follow us on the Geeks of London Twitter account.

Event Report: Dexter Live

December 2nd, 2010

I got invited last week to a special event for the UK dvd release of Dexter’s forth season. To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting much of it. I thought it would just be the usual: a screening of one of the episodes, hang around a bit with other bloggers and enjoy some free food. I was even thinking of cancelling, but then the day before the event I got an email finally revealing where the screening was held…

The Old Abattoir. Ooh, spooky. So last Thursday I made my way up to Farringdon (surprisingly the same street as where we held BarCampLondon 8 a couple of weeks ago) to the Old Abattoir. The fun already started at the entrance when we had to duck under yellow crime scene tape and plastic sheets to get into the building. Led by a friendly “cop” with a torch, we were led down the stairs into the basement where a murder was just committed.

Dexter Live 9

The atmosphere was awesomingly spot on. The entire place was dimly lit with tons of smoke half obscuring the body in the corner and the CSI agents working on analyzing the murder. Cuban music, red wine, donuts and a hot dog stand were all provided for and fitted so well in the Dexter theme. After half an hour we all settled down to watch the final episode of season 4. It was great seeing the episode again, but seeing it in that environment made it so much creepier!

The night wasn’t over though. Within seconds of the episode ending, a woman suddenly started shrieking. Someone had been killed! It turned out to be a guy who I’d been talking to earlier who was a huge Dexter fan and had been so happy that he had won tickets to this evening!

Here’s a video about the event:

I can’t believe the amount of effort the PR team put into this event! It was so much fun and not what I was expecting at all. More screenings should be like this!

Update: I’ve extended the signup date till Tuesday 14th (mainly because I won’t have time to send out the emails before then anyway). Don’t forget to fill in the signup form!

Some of you might remember that last year I organized a last minute Secret Santa for bloggers, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. There were about 16 people signed up and it was great reading about the different gifts people had received. Well, let’s do the same this year, but on Twitter!


So here’s the plan (for those of you who don’t know what Secret Santa is): all of the participants will be randomly assigned another Twitterer to send a gift to, and these assignments are kept secret until the gift has been delivered. So no one knows who their gift is coming from! The idea is to get inspired by your assigned person’s twitter/blog/whatever presence that person has online and get them a suitable gift.

Here are the “rules”:

1. Sign up and fill in all your details in this form before Sunday 12th 23:00 Tuesday 14th. Only sign up if you really plan to do this; I’d hate someone not ending up with a gift.

2. You must be a UK Twitterer with a public account. There should be enough “info” about you online for your secret santa to get you a present.

3. Gifts should be kept under £15 including shipping costs.

4. You’ll get an email around Monday 13th Tuesday 14th with the details of your assigned Twitterer.

5. Make sure your gift(s) are sent out before Christmas. They don’t necessarily have to arrive before Christmas, just sometime during the Christmas holidays.

6. Tweet about the cool gifts you receive! Use the hashtag #SecretSantaUK so that we can see the different presents people have received. If you have a blog, blog about your presents and tweet me (@mseckington) or email me a link (melinda@missgeeky.com). Also if you haven’t received anything by the 1st of January, email me and I’ll try to sort something out.

7. After your person has received and tweeted about their presents, feel free to reveal your identity. You don’t have to, if you don’t want to, but it would make it so much more fun if you get to connect with this person!

8. If you have any questions, email me at melinda@missgeeky.com.

That’s it! Feel free to Tweet, blog, spread the word about this; it would be great to have as many people as possible participating.

I’ll also be joining in on the fun of this. We’ve got a piece of software that should sort out the assignments automatically and send everybody the right emails. Plus I’ve got a Christmas Elf on hand to help out with the background details and check if everything runs smoothly; I won’t see who’s paired up with who or who has gotten me.

Have fun!

Tags: Events

My Trip to San Francisco!

November 9th, 2010

I’ve been now almost a week home and still hadn’t blogged properly about San Francisco! This might be a bit boring to some, but I thought I at least needed to write this all up somewhere, just for posterity’s sake.

San Francisco

The first two days in San Francisco I went to the PayPal X Developer conference, the reason why we got flown out in the first place. We decided to enter the hackday they were running during it with something completely new (unlike some of the other teams that just entered some product they already had with an added PayPal feature to it). The idea was to make an Affiliation app where PayPal sellers who already used the PayPal “Buy It Now” button could easily turn it into an affiliation button and we’d do all the affiliate tracking and money splitting magic for you.

Again another evening and morning of hard work (although most kudos go to Cristiano and Caius who were doing all the difficult stuff, and Dom for coming up with the idea, I just helped out where I could) and we finished a rough version of the product. We already knew there wouldn’t be a lot of entries and we were right: only 15 entries, 4 of which would win $1000… During the final keynote we found out: we WON! Yay! $1000 shopping money (well, split 4 ways so $500 shopping money for me!).

San Francisco

The third and fourth days we visited a couple of the big tech companies in the area: Apple, Yahoo, PayPal, eBay, Google and Mozilla. I ended up getting tshirts at Apple, Google and Mozilla, although I was pretty annoyed that Yahoo’s “code like a girl” tee was only available from size XL or higher! It was pretty fun having a look at the different campuses these companies had and comparing them. And it was great catching up with people who I hadn’t seen for ages.

The final three days we spent sightseeing and shopping. Of course with our luck, on Saturday when we did most of our sightseeing it was rainy and wet. We started that day with a ride in the cable car; Cristiano, Dom and Caius got to hang outside on the car, while I got a great spot standing behind the driver. It’s pretty cool to see how they have to operate those vehicles. Plus I had the perfect spot to snap photos!

San Francisco

We got out at Lombard street, the “crookedest street in the world” (it’s pretty twisty, but is that really THE crookedest street?). After taking the obligatory tourist snaps, we walked towards the bay to see Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. I can see that it could be interesting on a nice, warm summer day, but it all seemed pretty dreary and miserable that day. After that, Cristiano and I took the bus to the Palace of Fine Arts. It wasn’t as impressive as it I thought it would be, although we couldn’t walk actually in it, cause of renovation works. We then started a stroll along the beach to see the Golden Gate bridge, but actually ended up walking completely to the bridge. Pretty glad that we did, cause the view there was awesome!

On Sunday and Monday I mainly did shopping (shoes, books, clothes and makeup!), but we did take some time out to do one of those guided the tours. We chose Ride The Ducks, an amphibian bus that gave a tour part on land and part on water. I wasn’t too sure about it when we started, but the tour was hilarious! Our “Captain” was awesome, giving cool facts about the sights we saw, but also mixing it up with hilarious and silly jokes. I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get to go in the water near the Golden Gate, but it was still awesome to do.

San Francisco

I’m kind of annoyed with the amount of photos I took during the entire trip: only 240 for the whole 7 days! And most of them aren’t even that good (I ended up uploading about 70 of them). I’m really regretting not having taken more photos. Also: I always hate it when people take photos of their food, but I kind of wish I did in some cases. I ate sooo much during this week, and there were some great restaurants we went to (I think that deserves it’s own blog post though).

My trip to San Francisco was awesome, and I’m still so chuffed that we got to go! Thanks again to PayPal!

Tags: Events

Back In London

November 4th, 2010

So… yeah, my cunning plan of blogging more while in San Francisco didn’t really pan out. I’d like to blame it on the stupid sucky wifi (which really was stupid and sucky), but it was really me just being too lazy and attempting to enjoy San Francisco. I haven’t replied to most of my emails or done any work since the Monday I left; it’s actually felt like a proper vacation!

Me in San Francisco

San Francisco though was an interesting experience. Somehow with how some people described the US, I always imagined I’d have the same reaction to it as I had with London: that after a couple of days I could imagine moving and living there (I had the same with Paris and Rome actually, but the language thing has always stopped me from actually really wanting to do that move). But that didn’t happen. While it’s great to visit, both San Francisco and Silicon Valley don’t feel like something for me. During the trip I really realized how much I love living here in London.

So: happy I finally went on holiday for the first time in 4 years! But also happy to be back home!