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

BarCamp London 7

October 30th, 2009

I’ve kind of sort of recovered a bit from BarCamp London 7 last weekend. My legs, arms and back are still aching, my thighs are still completely bruised (I got squashed between the security gates… again. The same thing happened to me at the previous BarCamp at The Guardian offices. Ouch!) and I’ve still quite some stuff to sort out and finish off, even after all the planning from the previous weeks. But in the end: so completely worth it!

As regular readers of my blog might know, I’ve been going to BarCamps (and spin-off Camps) for more than 2 years now and have participated in a fair share of them (12 actual BarCamps in total, plus 7 spinoffs). At the past London one, I helped out on the weekend itself as a volunteer, but thought it was about time to actually contribute a bit more and give back to the BarCamp community. So this time around, I joined the group of organizers to help out with the planning and preparations in the weeks leading up to the event.

Although BarCamp is an “unconference”, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done before the event itself. The non-conferencey bit of it lies mainly in what happens on the day itself: there is no preordained schedule, everyone holds a session or participates in one form or another, and everything (and everyone) is quite informal and relaxed. To get to that point though, everything else needs to be arranged; BarCamp is a free event for all attendees, so this means taking care of food, drinks, venue, and sponsors to cover it all.


Now with BarCamps in other cities this might be a bit more simpler, but in London it’s trickier than most might think. For starters, finding a venue. Yes, London is way bigger and will have more potential places to use, but there is a negative side to that which some people don’t even consider. Because it’s ‘London’ a lot of the potential venues know they can be used for conferences, conventions, etc, and will ask a ridiculous amount of money. Besides that, most venues have delicate insurance policies, that don’t allow overnights to be held in their buildings. Believe me, we’ve had quite a bit of companies contact us interested in hosting a BarCamp, only to hear later on that they don’t own their building and can’t get permission for the overnight. And without an overnight, a BarCamp just wouldn’t be a BarCamp.

We were really lucky in getting IBM as a venue. Basically on the day of our deadline of finding a venue for the date we had planned (six weeks before the actual event), we heard that IBM was willing to host our BarCamp. Yay! And their venue was gorgeous; lots of sessions rooms, lots of space for lounging and just general hanging around, it was exactly the type of venue we were hoping for.

Then, food and drinks. Again not as straightforward as it might seem. First of all, there’s the matter of what the venue will allow: can we bring in our own food and drinks, can we use the internal catering, can we have alcohol? Whatever the answers to those questions are, they all lead to the next issue: how many people are we expecting and how much should we order from everything? I’m sure it’s not a London-only thing, but it’s always difficult estimating how many people will show up to your event. I know from experiences with the Geek Dinners it can be really tricky; one time you’ll have a 50% drop out rate, other times only 10%. How can you get a good estimate of the numbers you’ll get?


So, that leads us to the third issue: ticketing. There are so many people interested in attending BarCamp London, that we can’t give a ticket to everyone who wants one. And yet… there have been London BarCamps in the past where the showup rate wasn’t that good. Such a pity, cause a) tons of other people who wanted to show up and could have showed up, didn’t get the chance to attend, because someone didn’t cancel their ticket, and b) the added problem of too much food being ordered and wasted.

This time around there went quite some time into thinking of ways to prevent a low showup rate, like asking for confirmation, blogging about tips and tricks for newbies, and considering the different ways tickets can be released. And it worked. Although we still have to do a final check of the numbers, I think we had a 95% showup rate! This also meant we were pretty spot on with the meal numbers. We got to use IBM’s inhouse catering, so all we had to do was give through the amounts and the menu, and they arranged everything for us. Plus, the food was good (I loved the chili for Saturday lunch and the curry for dinner, although I suspect there was mango in the curry and I got an allergic reaction).

And finally: sponsors. Not much to explain here, right? You find a company, ask them for money, they give you money, done. Well, no. Not exactly. I was the main person responsible this time around for arranging everything with each sponsor, and there goes much more time and effort into it than I initially believed. Especially with the number of sponsors we had this time (17 in total). First off, it’s finding companies who are willing to sponsor, explaining to them what a BarCamp is, and what’s in it for them (negotiating the terms, basically). Then it’s setting up invoices, contracts, and with the bigger companies going through the process of getting a PO etc. And finally it’s organizing all the extra things for the sponsors: so allocating sponsor tickets, getting info and logos from them for blog posts and banners, arranging schwag to be delivered for the goody bags, etc. It’s not that much when you consider 1 sponsor, but multiply it by 15 and you’ll get an idea of what we had to deal with.

Barcamp London 7

We couldn’t really believe it when Friday finally came to setup stuff at the IBM venue; after weeks of preparation the BarCamp was actually going to happen! I was amazed at the number of crew and volunteers we had that Friday (and Saturday/ Sunday; to name them all: Kevin, Cristiano, Zoe from IBM, Alice, Caz, Leeky, Tom, Dan, Tobes, Mary, Paul, Sharon, Reinier, Joost, Improbulus, Sam, Chris, Dom, Tim, Carolyn, Alistair, Judith… am I forgetting anyone?) and with so many people we got through most of the setup pretty quickly. A couple of people were put on laminating the badges (ah, the smell of burnt plastic), a couple more were put on filling the goody bags with schwag, some were put on re-arranging the furniture and some went to get fizzy drinks, juice, snacks and sweets to stock up the cafe area. Simple menial stuff, most of it, but it had to be done.

Saturday morning started early for Cristiano and me; we met with Kevin at 8:00 at the venue to handle the final arrangements. This included going over security regulations from IBM, and fine-tuning the registration process. We tried to make the registration as smooth as possible, seeing as there was a sort of double registration: we needed attendees to go past IBM security, get their IDs checked and get a visitors badge, but also through our own registration and badge collection. We managed to come up with something that was hopefully tolerable for most of the attendees, and it turned out to work out pretty well. There were practically no queues at all, and registration was quick and painless. The main thing we did right was have attendees print out their confirmation emails which had unique barcodes on them. For a quick registration, all you had to do was hand in that print-out. Later on, when it was quieter, we scanned in all the barcodes to create the final overview of who attended.

Most of my first half of Saturday was spent on registration and keeping track of the number of attendees who turned up. Up until lunch I was a little bit stressed, wondering whether we had enough/too much food. In the end there was no real need to worry: we had ordered food for 200, and we had 195 people (so we invited the nice guys from security to eat along too).

Barcamp London 7

Afternoon was spent on sorting out sponsor stuff. Vodafone had sent a box of schwag tshirts that had gone “missing”, which I had to hunt down (turned out they had ended up in the IBM internal post room) and labs had arranged some special afternoon snacks (cream puffs and weird Japanese sweets) which required some setup. There were tons of other thing I was doing too (can’t remember what though), cause I was busy with stuff until about 17:00. Then it finally all calmed down a bit, and I got to do some normal BarCamp stuff.

So, it was about at that time that I finally got my first chance to even look at the grid. Damn. I should have looked earlier. Tons of interesting sessions that I wanted to go to! The Future of Wayfinding, Recovering from RSI, Stuff You Shouldn’t Tweet That I Have, Hack Yourself A Cheaper Train Ticket, Teaching Journalists to Code and Coders to Write,, Design in Lost (the TV show). I wanted to go to all of them! I’m still a little bit gutted that I missed these; next time around (and yes there will be a next time) I’m going to force myself to take a look at the grid earlier and choose some sessions to go to. As one of the organizers, you know you can’t make it to all the session slots, but we should have at least each picked out a handful of ones to go to and give ourselves a little break.

I finally made it to my first session which was The Art of Improvisation from Willem van der Horst (hippowill). It was a funny session, even though I realized half way that I had only joined halfway (he had booked a double slot). After dinner, I remained in the realm of improv, with first going to the “An After Dinner Game” session, where groups of 3 had to hold short presentations, each person only saying one word (me and my team failed miserably), and then Powerpoint Karaoke, which always turns out fun.


After the after-dinner sessions, began the party! There were free drinks for everyone, and tons of games and stuff going on. We had a massive round of Urban Terror going on in the cafeteria, plus board games like War On Terror, Muchkin and Carcassonne, and of course, BarCamp’s obvious game of choice: Werewolf. I joined in one game of Werewolf this time, even though I said I’d never play again; there were enough newbies and people who I hadn’t played with that often to still make it fun (my problem with Werewolf lately has been that people don’t trust me anymore. So or they kill me off early in the game, or they keep me around, but won’t listen to anything I’ve got to say, because I’m potentially *dangerous*. Yeah, it’s no fun when you can’t actually say anything!)

I managed to stay awake till 3.30 or so, playing games and catching up with people. I’m still not exactly sure which 3.30 this was. This weekend the clocks went back, so we got an extra hour for this BarCamp (while the last one at The Guardian we lost an hour). So I’m not really sure what time I went to bed (I think 3.30->2.30). With how early I got up that day, I’m still baffled that I lasted that long. When I finally did go to ‘bed’, it didn’t take long for me to fall asleep. And after 6 hours sleep, I was fully refreshed for another day.

Sunday was slightly less hectic for us organizers. We had to do a bit of a registration in the morning, giving back badges to those who had left during the night. But the rest of the day seemed a bit more quiet. Looking back now, I only managed to go to 2 sessions, so it wasn’t actually that much less busier, it only seemed that way (less running around, but still quite some things to setup etc).

Sugar Rush

The first session I went to that day was about NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. It takes place every November, and everyone who takes part has to attempt to write 50.000 words that month, that’s 1667 words a day! I’ve always wanted to do something like that, but I’d have no idea where to start in writing a novel. I like writing and with every blog post I think it comes more naturally to me, but novel writing? That’s a whole different ball game.

The second session I went to was a discussion about Failure, lead by Ben Reyes. Some good points were made, but it seemed a lot of the discussion was focused on failure at work. How about failure in other aspects of your life, like relationships? Also, it seemed most were talking about ‘how to accept failure and get on with life’, but always treating it still as something negative.

Around lunchtime things got slightly busy again. Kevin and Dom had the brilliant idea to turn the coffee seating area into a ‘picnic’ area with a Duck pond in the middle. So the PayPal blankets we got as schwag were spread out throughout the room with the packed lunches already setup over them.

Down By The Duck Pond

Also, somewhere during the day one of the toilets began flooding. It didn’t seem much of a major issue at first; IBM got a guy in to solve it and we thought that would be the end of it. Nope. More toilets began flooding and we had to ‘evacuate’ the help desk (well, unplugging all electronics just in case the water reached that far). The IBM staff were all on hand to sort it out, and thanks to them I think most attendees didn’t even experience the whole incident. Later on we found out what caused the blockage: a male g-string. Ehm… right. *giggle*

Before we knew it, the end of the BarCamp was in sight. Cristiano held the closing talk (with Kevin and me adding some bits), thanking all the attendees, sponsors, etc. It ended with a huge round of applause from the attendees thanking everyone involved in the BarCamp. That alone was worth going through the past couple of weeks; the response was staggering!

With the help of all the attendees, the tidy-up went pretty quickly, although there were things only us crew could do (like dismantling our “war” room). Slowly, people started disappearing to the pub, until only a handful of organizers and IBM staff were left. By that point it was all kind of surreal: we had done it, we had organized a BarCamp, we had put so much work into this, and now it was over.

Swag Bags

The final thing that had to be done that day was figure out what to do with the stuff we had left. This included leftover food/drinks, schwag, but also crew stuff for the next time (laminators, lego, cables, etc). We quickly figured out best option was bring it to Cristiano and my place: closest to the venue and enough space. We still have to figure out a permanent solution, but for now I’m sharing my living room with a huge pile of stuff.

And that’s it. That was my first real BarCamp experience from the other side. There are still a couple more things that need to be done before I can put BCL7 finally to rest, but the main stuff has been done now. I think this might have been the longest blog post I’ve ever written (and I’m wondering how many of you will even take the time to read my ramblings), but I mainly had to get this all down on ‘paper’ for myself.

One more thing: thank you to everyone who was involved in this BarCamp. Thanks IBM for allowing us in your great venue. Thanks Zoe for being a great contact and force within IBM. Thanks to all the IBM staff and volunteers for helping out on the three days. Thanks to all the sponsors for contributing and providing us with the means to make this all happen. Thanks to the catering and security guys and gals for putting up with this weird bunch of crazy people. Thanks to the rest of the organizers, especially Cristiano and Kevin, for making this a fun (albeit slightly stressful) experience.

And thank you to everyone who attended and participated. Without you guys BarCamps wouldn’t mean anything; it would be yet again another normal conference.

If you’re interested in hosting or sponsoring future BarCamps, you can contact me at Oh, and if anyone is missing a g-string…

Photos courtesy of Flickr users alicebartlett, martin_88, philliecasablanca, and rugbymadgirl
Tags: BarCamp

Two weeks to go! I can’t believe it’s only two weeks until BarCampLondon7. I’ve been putting so much time into organizing this lately, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out. We’re releasing one final round of tickets TODAY (Friday 9th October) in an hours time. 13:00 on the dot. Check out the BarCampLondon blog for more details.

BarCampLondon logo

If you have been unable to get a ticket for BarCamp London7 so far, don’t despair, loads will be released today. Like previous BarCamps, this will be on a first come, first served basis so be prepared for high demand and make sure you are there refreshing your browser to snap a ticket!

Good luck!

Tags: BarCamp

BarCampLondon7 – Lottery Round

September 30th, 2009

So you may noticed, I’ve been busy with organizing BarCampLondon7 (and my studying) that I haven’t found as much time to blog here. I’ve written about BarCamps before (see here, herehereherehere, and here) and attended more than my fair share (I think I’m on #11 or 12 now), but now I’m finely helping with organizing one myself. It is a lot of hard work, but it’s so much fun! I can’t wait to see how this Barcamp turns out.

BarCampLondon logo

If you’re interested in coming along, we’re giving out the second wave of tickets for BarCampLondon 7 through a lottery. It is now live, and you’ll be able to enter it between midday on 30th September and midday on 3rd October. Check out the BarCampLondon website for more details.


April 29th, 2009

Last Saturday I made my way to Wallace Space St Pancras for the second London SocialMediaCamp. It was a great day with interesting sessions, interesting people and lots of interesting conversations. One of the disappointments though was that there were a fair number of people that didn’t show up. Besides that only half (!!) the session slots were filled. Kat has got a great blog post (with lots of different views in the comments) about whether or not everyone should present. I do agree with her though and there’s one line from her post that sums it all up:

I feel very strongly that there’s something wrong with the social media industry if those who are supposedly building it don’t even bother to make an effort, to step up and to do something new and scary, how can they expect the rest of the world to join in?

Most of the sessions that were held though were pretty great; I’m just disappointed that there were so many more interesting people there who could have contributed their own interesting angle. Anyhow, here are a couple of sessions I went to:


SocialInnovationCamp sounds like a great event: developers and designers are brought together with people with a great idea to make a prototype over one weekend. A couple of previous prototypes were presented and showed how that weekend was the start of actual viable websites. The next SICamp will be held in Glasgow on the 19 of June, and  you can submit your ideas for a prototype until the 22nd of May.

PR Agencies Want Your Soul

Vero held a nice discussion session about the do’s and don’ts for marketing agents when contacting bloggers. The attendees of that session were a nice mix of bloggers and marketing people. 

Free cake!

Free Cake

Cake! To be specific: Broken Biscuit Cake. Neil Crosby had a fun session on how he made this cake and let us all sample it. The recipe is also on Neil’s blog and I know I’m going to give it a try some time: the cake was delicious! 

How I Met My Troll

This was a great talk from Joanna Geary about how she met her troll in real life. While working for The Birmingham Post, she came across a regular commenter, “Clifford”, who was very criticizing about The Post. After a while she wanted to meet him in real life and see what type of person leaves those type of comments. Turned out in real life, he was a very polite and nice old man; and he was oblivious to the image he had online. Read more about Clifford on Joanna’s blog.


Surprisingly I found this one of the most interesting talks of the day. Max (hawkida on Twitter) gave an introduction to LARPing, how she got involved into it herself and the rules and ideas behind it. It’s much more complex than I had imagined it to be; it’s like a real life Dungeons & Dragons session where you have to memorize every single move and statistic of your character. I don’t think it’s something for me (the whole camping thing is not my style), but I’d love to try it out at least once in my life.

After all the sessions there were some free drinks and some prize draws. I won a weird PC game called Chuzzle. I still had some energy left, so I decided to join the Photo Scavenger Hunt organized by Kat. It was great fun, but more about that in a later post.


April 2nd, 2009

Wow. Just: wow. This BarCamp was completely different than all the previous ones I’ve attended. Why? Because instead of being a regular attendee, I offered to volunteer during (and one day before) the event. Instead of that diminishing my BarCamp adventure (which I think most people would expect), it has only intensified it and heightened the overall experience; this BarCamp felt so much more greater and satisfying just because I was finally able to give something back to the wonderful Barcamp community.

Uber kudos have to go to the amazing BarCampLondon6 team! Emma, Kevin, Dan, Caz, Leeky, Tom, Cristiano, Dirk, David, Eva-Lotte, David, Mary, Paul and Jan have all been working for the past 4 months on creating such a great event. My two-day contribution is minor compared to the time and effort they’ve put into this and without them this BarCamp would never have happened.

BarCamp Lego Logo

For me, this BarCamp started on Friday evening, when I headed with Cristiano to the Guardian offices to help with setting things up. Together with some others I was appointed the tasks of arranging the swag bags: filling them with goodies, hanging name tags on them, adding the personalized Spreadshirt T-shirts and alphabetizing it all (not an easy and quick task for 150 bags and more than 1500 “goodies”).

Part of this work carried on to the Saturday morning; it’s a bit blurry to remember exactly which of this stuff happened on the Friday and which on the Saturday. After that I was set on the registration desk for 3 hours, checking in people and keeping track of the overall number of attendees. There was a fantastic turnup; I’m guessing things like the personalized Spreadshirt T-Shirt, the donations and the ‘confirm you ticket’ email, all helped to combat the no-showiness of people. 

The rest of the two days I could easily attend sessions, interspersed with bouts of helping out during food deliveries, clean up and stuff like that. Here are a couple of the sessions I went to:

The first session I went to was Cristiano’s and mine joint session about how to play Carcassonne. We had a great turn out and were lucky that Sheila showed up with her box too. We split into two groups to explain the rules and managed to get both games finished within the time.

Playing Carcassonne

Social Games
I went to this session thinking it would be about Werewolf and those type of social games. It wasn’t, but it turned out to be an interesting discussion about games that allow you to portray and play with relationships, like Facade or The Sims.

Miracle Berries
Reinier had brought special miracle berry tablets with him that alters your taste; after sucking on them until they dissolve, everything you eat tastes sweeter. Lemons aren’t sour anymore, off-season strawberries taste delicious and no-sugar yoghurt tastes sugary. At least in theory: it seemed to work for everyone but me. The lemons were suckable, but everything else for me was pretty much the same.
While I’m still pretty skeptical about “treatments” like this, I have to admit my body felt better after this session. I’m almost convinced that it’s because of this session that my legs didn’t hurt at all during the entire two days. 

Ancient Techonology
Jane described this session to me as an experiment with a potato and a pencil. How can you not go to a session like that?! It was all about how to create your own spindle: stick a pencil through a potato, wind some string in a certain way around it and start spinning! Jane had actually brought wool with her too, so everyone was spinning and spindling as crazy.


The Saturday evening was of course spent playing Werewolf and other games. Tom and Dom held another of their Geek Quizzes, this time it was tricker than the one my team won in Liverpool. We also managed to convince more people into playing Carcassonne and it seemed like everybody enjoyed it. I only got to play two rounds of Werewolf this time, and of course the one round where I was a werewolf I got lynched because of my past reputation.

The entire weekend was great fun and I’m sure I haven’t even covered a quarter of what happened in those two days. Next week (this Saturday) we’ll be heading down to BarCampBournemouth, which is sure to be great too. I’m already psyched though for the next London; hopefully I can help a bit more this time. Anyone else interested?


December 10th, 2008

Besides BarCampBerlin last year, I’ve actually only been to BarCamps in London and Brighton. Most of the time it’s just too much of a hassle to make it to unconferences in other cities, cause it’s so expensive (wishing the train ticket prices here were like in Netherland; then again, the distances here are much further) and too difficult to get there. Thanks to some of the sponsors though at this Liverpool BarCamp, Cristiano and I got offered to get our travel expenses covered (being BarCamp veterans has it’s perks). Besides that, Alistair and Caz were so great to let us stay at the apartment they were renting. So last Friday, we caught the train up to Liverpool, visiting another part of the UK we hadn’t been to before.

This barCamp was held at the Novas Contemporary Urban Centre, a great venue with loads of rooms and space. It also had it’s own bar down stairs, so later on in the evening we all moved there for the “party”. The food wasn’t exactly fantastic (again cold pizza), but for once there were other drinks besides only fizzy stuff. 


Here are a couple of the most interesting talks that I went to: 


This talk from Alistair was a great introduction to everything Geocaching. Although I’ve already gotten the Geocaching bug and have found some caches myself, there were still quite some stuff I didn’t know about. For instance, I kind of knew what travel bugs and geocoins were, but hadn’t seen or dealt with any of them before. Besides that I’m hunting caches down with pen, paper and a printed out Google map, while the “proper” way is to actually use a GPS device; it was great finding out a bit more about that too. Later that afternoon we skipped two of the sessions to go geocaching in Liverpool.

Game Design – Player Motivations

This talk was about the different player archetypes within video games. There are 4 types: 1. the Achiever, who want to collect, unlock everything (totally me!), 2. the Explorer, who wants to understand the map and discover new and hidden features, 3. the Socialiser, who plays with friends and to make new friends, and 4. the Killer, who screws other people over. Basically most video games are designed while targeting one or two of these archetypes. We had to figure out from 5 games which archetypes they were targeting (Gears of War, Geometry Wars, Mirror’s Edge, Left 4 Dead, Word of Warcraft).


Quiz Spectacular!

Because I went geocaching, I missed the first round of this game, but was still able to join Cristiano’s team, the Awkward Silences. The second round was about guessing the keyword that connected 4 other words, each word appearing after a couple of seconds. I scored some points by guessing the keyword that connects “The Lion King”, “Bernard and the Genie”, and “Love Actually” (I won’t give it away, can you figure it out?). The third round was pretty similar, but here you had to guess the 4th keyword in a sequence (I liked the George, Timothy, Pierce one). The fourth round were Google search questions and I scored some points again with the name of the wife of the 14th president of the US. Finally there was a showdown between the two highest scoring teams, one of which was our team! The team nominated me to go up and play the game, which was basically guessing a list of words based on the descriptions by my team mates (kicking myself that I didn’t get William Shatner, because I thought Cristiano said “Actress in Star Trek”). 

Bitchin’ Pitches

The last session on the Saturday was a one minute pitch session. I wasn’t really planning on presenting anything; I mean, I don’t have a startup or anything actually developed, but right at the end of the session, I thought I’d go ahead and pitch the idea that’s been spinning in my head for ages (a book reading habits website). Much to my surprise, I got chosen to do a 5-minute pitch later that evening at the party, in front of a panel of judges. Eek! My presentation didn’t go that great (but then I hadn’t really thought it through yet), but a lot of people were interested in my idea. Plus I won a Bluetooth marketing dongle (I still have to figure out what this exactly does, but I think this means I can spam people) and a £50 Amazon voucher (yay!).


There were also more great sessions on the Sunday, but to be honest I was still feeling fairly hungover at the time so wasn’t participating as much as I wanted to. Again, thanks to everyone who made this trip possible; I had a fantastic time!

Tags: BarCamp

SocialMediaCamp London

October 15th, 2008

As I said in a previous post, two weekends ago I went to the first London Social Media Camp. I’m a regular BarCamper and I love the atmosphere surrounding these type of events. But there are a lot of events out there calling themselves “blabla”-Camp, without actually embodying the whole BarCamp mentality. I had previously gone to two MediaCamps and while they were interesting days (I met a lot of great people), they didn’t have the right to call themselves a BarCamp.

Social Media Camp London 08

So I had my doubts before this SocialMediaCamp, but I shouldn’t have worried. Vero had organized everything so perfectly, it truly felt like a real BarCamp. I think the only thing that was missing was that it wasn’t two days (and thus no overnighter). For the rest though it was fantastic. I think we even had better food here than at BarCampGoogle! 

During the first session slot, I didn’t go to any presentations. Friends kept dripping in late and I got caught up in catching up with all of them. I am regretting that tough, because I heard a lot of good comments on Tom Whitwell‘s talk about How To Write Awesome Headlines. I already had missed it during the eBay BarCamp the week before and now I missed it again. The rest of the day though I made sure I went to a presentation every session. Here’s a quick recap:

Native to a Web of Dudes

I saw this session on the board at BarCamp eBay, but because of the unclear name decided not to go to it. During the SocialMediaCamp breakfast I talked to David Thompson who explained to me what it exactly was about. I told him at the time the title really wasn’t working for it. Anyhow, it turned out to be an interesting session on microformats and how relationships should be represented online.

Social Media Camp London 08

TV Branding

I then went to a session about TV branding for the digital era. It was all about how to build brand equity through aggregation, placement and promotion. Some cool things were mentioned like TV tie-in ARGs (like Heroes and Lost).

Alternate Reality Games

I repeated the session I held at BarCamp eBay, and this time I had 15 attendees! Like last time, I hadn’t prepared any slides, doing more of a show-and-tell of the websites and games I had played. It was interesting to see the questions and discussions during this talk take a different route than the previous time. Here a lot of people were interested in the marketing/business side of it all.

Managing Your Online Reputation

This session from Vero was about how to manage your online identity and reputation (as the title says). It quickly turned into a discussion with everyone chiming in with their own point of view. Should employers be allowed to judge their employees based on Facebook updates? 

Vero describes what she'll do to the next PR to send her a crappy impersonal email and press release

Social Media – How Not To Get Fucked

Zoe aka Girl With A One Track Mind gave a short presentation about losing her online anonymity (for those of you who don’t know her: she was an anonymous sex blogger and her real identity was revealed in the press). This also turned into a discussion and it was a nice companion to Vero’s talk. Here though it was more about maintaining different personas. You act differently for family, friends and work and now with the “online” world, there may be even more types of groups.

Blogging Breakdown

Another session I missed during BarCamp eBay, so I was glad to catch it here. Annie Mole from London Underground blog talked about being under pressure to write a blog post. She also mentioned some cool facts about blogging, like the state of the “blogosphere” and research into why people blog. Her slides are up on slideshare if you want to check them out. 

Social Media Bingo

The day ended with a cool game of Social Media Buzzword Bingo. Emma and Utku had written tons of buzzwords on a couple of white boards and everybody had to go around creating 4×4 bingo cards made up of those buzzwords. Then one by one every player had to come forward to create a pitch for a web startup for the three buzzwords they pulled. I went twice with “Creating an algorithm to calculate statistics of people commenting by email” and “Developing a proof of concept for the lifecasting of a werewolf hunter”. 

In conversation with...

Afterwards there were free drinks and time to mingle and chat with people. I talked briefly with a bunch of people (most of whom I didn’t get a business card, so sorry, but no idea anymore who you all were). After a while everyone thought the tab ran out (it hadn’t, but everyone thought it had), a group of about 13 decided to grab some dinner together, All together it was a great event and I’m looking forward to the next SocialMediaCamp!

BarCampLondon5 Ebay

October 3rd, 2008

Me: “Hi, my name is Melinda and I’m a BarCampoholic.”
Everyone: “Hi, Melinda”

Seriously though I love going to BarCamps. Last weekend I went to my fourth one of this year (7 in total) and I still can’t get enough of them. They are like the perfect event: great sessions, great conversations, great people, but most of all a great atmosphere. I always come out of a BarCamp feeling as if I’m capable to do anything I want.

So how did BarCampLondon5 compare to previous ones? Pretty good, great actually. I still haven’t had a “perfect” BarCamp, mainly because there are so many different aspects that can make or break for you. For instance, BCL3 at Google had the best food and a great venue, but I didn’t choose the right sessions to go to, so it didn’t feel as if I really learnt anything during that one (plus there wasn’t enough Werewolf!). The opposite has also occurred though: sessions yay, food bleh. So like all previous BarCamps, this 5th London one also had it’s highs and lows (although I might be a nitpicky).

The Venue

This BarCamp was held at the eBay offices in Richmond, picturesquely situated by the Thames. I loved the layout of this place for a BarCamp. On the upper floor there were a couple of smaller proper session rooms with projector, lots of light and big meeting style tables. Downstairs were the more quirkier type rooms, with bean bags, flashy chairs and couches. I must admit I was a bit disappointed there wasn’t a “working scale replica of the Enterprise bridge from Next Generation” (yeah, I can be a bit gullible), cause I was hoping for another swede! A great surprise were the showers in the basement (there’s nothing worse than smelly geeks), although it would have been nice to have known that beforehand; practically nobody had taken towels with them.


Enough with the pizza already! Why is there almost always pizza as dinner during the London BarCamps? I mean, I’d actually be fine with it, if it arrived nice and warm and steaming, but it’s always, always cold. Blegh. The rest of the food though was pretty good. During both days the lunches were sandwiches and bread rolls, with lots of brownies added as extra (I might have been one of those people who first grabbed 4 brownies and then went on to the normal food). The Sunday breakfast provided by myMuesli was delicious, although I think I’ve discovered that I’m allergic to mango (another post will follow). I love that there was actual orange juice available during breakfast, but I’d prefer that too for the rest of the day instead of only fizzy drinks and coffee. All in all though, great food!

Geeks Demolish Pizza


I have to make a point out of this. Neil already wrote a blog post about this and I fully agree. From the 150 who had signed up, more than 40 people didn’t show up. Seriously?! Guys (or gals) have at least the decency to cancel your ticket and let someone else go in your stead. The tickets for BarCamp are so coveted; there’s always such a fuss of making the cut and getting the ticket. And then people don’t show up?! Sorry, but that just pisses me the hell off.  


Free stuff! Most events have a goodie/schwag bag, but with this one two things stood out to me. For starters, the eBay picnic blanket. It’s cute and small with velcro to fold it up in a neat little bundle and perfect for on the couch! Secondly, the t-shirts. Now some of the previous BarCamps also had t-shirts, but I think (correct me if I’m wrong here) this was the first one with girly sized tees. Woot! I’ve been complaining with previous events that you’ll always get this weird oversized floppy guy t-shirts; perfect as pajamas, but unusable for anything other than that. Here though there were comfortable lady sized shirts (I’ve even worn mine outside already). My only nitpick here though is that they had way more S than M or L. To put it in perspective: I just fit into the M size. Who would have fit into the S? 


This was the second time I decided to leave my laptop at home and I really like not having it with me. The first time I left it because of hardware reasons (the rubbers that are supposed to keep the hard disk in it’s place came out while replacing it and now the hard disk is kind of loose), but since then I’ve noticed I’ll enjoy a BarCamp more without one. That’s mainly because instead of playing around with my laptop, I’m paying way more attention to the sessions and throwing myself more into them. I know it won’t be for everyone, but give it a thought before your next BarCamp.


Introductions & Wrap-Up

Unlike a couple of previous ones the introduction session was great: snappy, to the point and no-longer-than-needed. Some people have complained about the point of the three tags round (every single attendee introduces themselves plus three tags), but I’ve always found it pretty interesting. Especially for newbies, it’s a great way to make clear that EVERYBODY participates. The wrap session though… Well, let’s put it this way: for me there was no wrap-up session. The last session was supposed to last till 16:00, so we stayed put until the end. Only to discover when we came downstairs that they already had had the wrap-up and clean-up. WTF? True, we had been warned 15 minutes earlier by another attendee that they were rounding people up, but we didn’t think that it would be that quick. We also had no idea if there were any plans on going to a pub for post drinks or anything like that. It just ended so abruptly, it really ruined the afterglow of BarCamp. 


Because of all the people didn’t show up, the board also felt strangely empty. On the other though, there was always something interesting every slot, so much so, that I was hard pressed to find a slot for my own session that didn’t collide with another I wanted to go to. The session slots were one hour here, but with no real breaks in between (so from 14:00 till 18:00 there were non stop session). I would have preferred that they’d break that down, like the previous Brighton one, with slots of half an hour and 15 minute breaks between every session. An hour just feels way too much, plus by breaking it into smaller slots you end up seeing more presentations. Here’s a short recap of all the sessions that I went to:

Hacking the Moo API
A quick introduction by Stef Magdalinski on how the Moo API works and some cool examples that were already made with it.

Impro 101
The second time I’ve gone to one of James Aylett’s Impro sessions, which combines a bunch of games/exercises to loosen up your mind and make your mental reflexes work quicker. Most embarrassing but funny moment must have been pretending to be monkeys:

Monkeying around

Great discussion led by Rain which started about why there aren’t that many (barely any) woman conference speakers. It quickly turned into more of a discussion of the confidence of woman in tech in general, which of course will influence their readiness of being a speaker or not. If you want some more info, Rain’s got a great summary of it up on her blog. 

Developing iPhone Apps
Cool mini workshop from Simon Maddox on how to develop an iPhone app (and why his wasn’t accepted into the App Store). I already was interested in Cocoa development, so this was a nice add-on.

Food You Can Create Under 5 Minutes
Delicious food-tasting! I thought this session was going to be some simple recipes shown in a slideshow, but it was an actual hands-on “lets cook some stuff” session. We had: Microwaved Salmon on a bed of Mashed Cannoli Beans, Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, Thai Chicken Shrimp Noodles (created with Pot Noodles!), Eton Mess, and Salmon/Avocado Sushi rolls.  

BarCampLondon5 - Food 

Alternate Reality Games
I was planning on holding a short session about Operation: Sleeper Cell (again another blog post will follow some time this week), but decided on the day itself I could easily blabber on about all the different ARGs I’ve participated in. So I talked for an hour about The Dark Knight, We Tell Stories, The 7th Syndikate and Operation: Sleeper Cell. First session I’ve held at BarCamp that I’m actually proud of!

Building For The Web of Data
Interesting session from Dan W about how data should be structured on the web. Sites such as IMDB and should take care of their respective subjects and act as Data Silos, which other types of apps like Viewers can access when necessary. Check out the slides.

Bring Your Own Gadgets
This was a small session hosted by Cristiano, where everybody just showed up with their own gadgets and was allowed to play with other people’s gadgets. I brought my Nintendo DS with a couple of the games I own. I ended up “playing” with Sam’s laptop, just checking my email/twitter/etc.

Architecting Human Behaviour
Okay, I definitely have to check out the Open Bibliotheek in Amsterdam now. Andy Budd‘s session was all about how certain buildings are designed to affect people in certain ways. For instance, all these little tricks that are done in Las Vegas casinos so that you’ll end up spending more: 

I ended my BarCamp with a great session of Karaoke singing. It wasn’t only singing; we were beta-testing the new app from Lucky Voice. We might have scared a couple of people away though; it wasn’t our singing, honest!

All together, it made for a great BarCamp. Kudos to eBay for hosting and organizing it and all the sponsors for making such an event possible. Next up: SocialMediaCamp this Saturday! I can only hope it’s a good as this one.

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.

Sunday's talks


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.

HDR Photos

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. 

3 down, 3 to go

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). 

Powerpoint Karaoke

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.

Uncanny AI

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). 

Impro 101

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? 

Game 1

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. 

Game 2

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!  


Game 3

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. 

A sea of Macs


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).

Geek Yoga

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.

Buildering 101  

Buildering 101

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!