MonthOctober 2009

Barcamp London 7

Barcamp London 7

Over the weekend of 24th/25th October 2009 I attended Barcamp London 7 at IBM South Bank, London. This is a write-up of the weekend.

Originally I wasn’t going to sign up for this event due to the very high demand for tickets, again going within seconds of the release time, but this time the Barcamp London planning team had tried a few different ways of releasing the tickets.

The first round of tickets were given away through a game of Hide and Seek in the city, which involved the team giving out various clues and coordinates of their whereabouts. The second round of tickets were released through a lottery style draw and the third round of tickets were released using the usual release and everyone rushing for them, however this time there was more emphasis on new attendees who had signed up.

Now considering I wasn’t going to sign up at first, I thought this event would be far too good to miss, so I thought just for a laugh I’ll put my name into the lottery draw and see what happens, If my name didn’t get picked then so what there will be more in the future….

It was to my surprise that I received an email the following Saturday informing me that I had won a ticket, I sat there and thought “Now what?” as I wasn’t expecting to get a ticket at all. I confirmed as I thought it’ll be rude not to go down and booked a return train ticket (£80) for the weekend.

Saturday 24th October

Saturday morning started far too early for my liking as it involved getting to Durham train station for the 4:45 train to London Kings Cross.

3 hours later I had arrived in London, the next challenge was to get from LGX to IBM Southbank with no knowledge whatsoever of London, The Underground or any streets for that matter. I worked out the Tube map and headed over to Waterloo Station using Victoria Line, then Bakerloo. As a first timer in London I was very impressed with the Tube and how quick it can be for getting over London in a short space of time.

I arrived at IBM (after asking 2 helpful PCSOs where it was, they then pointed out it was the building in front of me) around 8:50 which was far too early as the registration didn’t open till 9:30, so I decided to play tourist for half hour and headed down to the London Eye.

Returning to IBM around 9:20 people had started to gather, for the doors opening. Doors opened at 9:30 and after checking past IBM security and handing my ticket over I had finally arrived at Barcamp London 7. The morning had been a complete blur till this point!

Barcamp London 7

I caught up with a few people who I knew and started talking to few people I’d never met whilst grabbing a couple of coffees (sponsored by Starbucks). Once everyone had been signed in we then headed around to the large seating area for the opening talk given by Cristiano, Kevin and Melinda.

Following the opening talk people were placed into different rooms for a team building challenge: To build bridges…out of Lego, I think this worked really well as to go round a room of 200 people to get names and interests would have taken too long, but by doing it this way in small groups it was easier to remember names etc.

After the ice breaking session, the rush was then on to put sessions on the grid. 9 rooms were provided over the 2 days which allowed for an immense amount of sessions to be held. I didn’t have a session prepared, but I had thought of a one during the train journey down which involved photographers rights in the UK. I thought it would be a good session to bring up at a London event as I had read previously that police officers and security guards etc had been hassling photographers in the city for looking “suspicious”. I placed this on the Sunday grid as it would give me the Saturday evening and Sunday morning to put something together.

Barcamp London 7

Sessions started around 12 noon, which included a session aimed at Barcamp newcommers to give them the low down on what the events are all about and how to get involved.

I decided to skip the first set of sessions as I was still getting myself sorted out and just chatting to other attendees.

Sessions I attended through the day:

#themineproject – “asocial” software. Use social software to interpret private sharing

The talk from Alec Muffet gave a demonstration of the project and how people can use and share information both privately and publicly using online data and relationship logistics. More information about the project can be found here: The mine Project.

Duck 365 – A year in the life of Mr Duck… Or a photography project gone very very wrong (Mr Duck and Alistair) by Mr Duck and Alistair:

I’ve been following Alistair’s Duck 365 project since it started now and it was good to see a talk given on the project, how it has evolved, the relationship between Mr Duck and the “Hippy” and where it all began. However this talk started a small theme for the weekend…Ducks (More on that later).

SEERS – Standardised Bug Reporting:

Anthony Kennedy gave a talk on how we should use a set of rules and abide by them if we want standardised Bug Reporting for websites and applications, and how companies should embrace these if they want to increase Bug fixing productivity.

Stuff you shouldn’t tweet that I have:

Dominic Hodgson talked abit about himself and some of his blog posts which he has published. He also demonstrated some of the things you really shouldn’t tweet about!

Barcamp London 7

Google Wave WTF!:

I’ve heard a lot of stuff about Google Wave and I just wanted to know what all of the fuss was about. The session revolved around people trying Google Wave live in the room, how we could make things better and how we could use it for the likes of Barcamp communities by using APIs etc.

Presenting time on the web (time, urls, linked data):

Jonathan Tweed from the BBC talked about how we can present date and time in a variety of different ways and how we can use dates/times in URLs and with linked data.

Release London’s Data – Feedback from #londonsdata:

Unfortunately I didn’t really understand much of the talk as I think it revolved more around people living in the city rather than people living outside of it.

Balsamiq Mockups (Got some free licenses to hand out!):

I have been looking into Wireframing tools recently and unfortunately not found many free ones out there. You have to pay for Balsamiq, but it is relatively cheap and it looked a decent product. Cristiano gave a brief talk and demonstration about the basics of the software and how designers and developers can liase with one another and the clients.

Barcamp London 7

Sex and other things we don’t talk about:

Ian Forrester from BBC Backstage held an open discussion about why we don’t talk about sex and other such things in day to day life. Some interesting questions were brought up in this session including “If you asked to produce a website of adult nature by a client, would you turn it down?”. The discussion also included the recent happenings with Yahoo and the Open Hack day in Taiwan.

Why I give web clients no control over their project (and why they love it):

Alex gave a talk about why he doesn’t let his clients have any control over their project. All content for websites are written by himself and websites are normally of small size, but give a lot of important information over a few pages. He also talked about how well he is doing and how the companies are doing by taking this no control over the project approach.

During the evening a number of games were held in the communal area, these included Werewolf, Munchkin, Carcassone, and a LAN game organised by Dom. It was nice just to sit back and chill out after the day full of sessions. Most of the night I just hung around and talked to Alistair, and Caz also taking a few photos in-between. Pic & Mix was provided and Pizzas were ordered in around 1am.

Barcamp London 7

One thing which turned out a bit of a coincidence at this event was the changing of the clocks. At Barcamp London 6 earlier in the year, the clocks went forward an hour. At this Barcamp they went back an hour.

Theme – Ducks

By the end of the weekend, a theme was running through the Barcamp and that was ducks. Earlier in the day, Alistair had presented a session about his Duck365 project and after this ducks just took over the IBM building. Plastic ducks were turning up everywhere, in the plants, around the lego and even in the toilets. Alistair got rather freaked out by all of this and everywhere he looked there seemed to be a duck!

I finally dragged myself to a floor for some sleep around 2:30am as I was on my last legs after being up so early on Saturday morning back at home.

Sunday 26th October

I managed to get a good couple of hours sleep on the carpeted floor (A lot more comfortable than Barcamp Brighton) and woke up around 5:30. I grabbed a coffee, got changed and set about putting my presentation together for later in the day.

Whilst having breakfast later in the morning, I processed and uploaded the photos from Saturday to Flickr whilst waiting for the Sunday sessions to start.

Sessions I attended through the day:

Mono: Running .NET on Linux/Apple/*NIX:

This talk revolved around what Mono is and how we can use it to run .Net on Linux /Apple and *nix platforms.

Barcamp London 7

Polishing a turd:

This talk, given by Adrian Long gave ideas and what we can do when inheriting a monstrosity of a web project which you arn’t allowed to start over. Tips were given for not just when you get bad code, but bad Information Architecture, bad UI, and bad ideas.

Barcamp London 7

Growing the Developer Community: How can we get more people, more events, more conversations – and less confusion?

Dylan Beattie had paired up with Sebastien Lambla for this talk. They talked about LonDev an Information source for software developer community events in London. They also talked about the likes of AltNetBeers and other ways and means of getting the geek community involved.

Barcamp London 7

Developer Happiness:

This was an open discussion by David Flanders about what makes developers happy either at home or in the work environment.

Photography is not a crime (Know your rights as a photographer in the UK):

I did a small presentation bringing up important rights which photographers have in the UK. I also showed a short video which was filmed in London, again about photographers rights, but it also brought up some important points about photography in public, security cameras and the Big Brother state. An open discussion was held at the end of the session and some important points/subjects/ideas were raised by the attendees.

Lightning Talks:

A number of 5 minute sessions including Dabbr, Travel Expense Calculator, Retro Hacking, Mobile Wikipedia without the Internet and MyFi via IPhone.

Teach Me How To Run A New BarCamp – Cultures, Languages (BSL):

A very interesting session about running a Barcamp for the deaf community. What is needed and the best way to go about things.

Devs vs Ops – Good vs Evil:

A role play of Operations teams getting in the way of Developers and Developers getting in the way of the Operations teams in companies.

Barcamp London 7

Tom and Dom’s Big Quiz – with ultimately disappointing prizes!:

Tom and Dom’s quiz spectacular with no spectacle guaranteed! Very funny and would suggest anyone to turn up to this at future Barcamp events.

Barcamp London 7

After the quiz had finished, the closing speech was then held, Cristiano thanked everyone for such a great event, he also thanked the organisers and the sponsors.

A massive thank you and a big shout out should go to the following people and sponsors for such a great weekend of fun.

Cristiano Betta , Paul Brannigan, Mary Rose Cook, Tobias Kunisch, Robert Lee-Cann, Caz Mockett, Tom Morris, Kevin Prince, Melinda Seckington, Dan W, Zoe Slattery from IBM, Security staff, and of course the ATTENDEES. (I know I’ve probably missed a load of people off)

IBM, Nestoria, TechSmith, The Team, Be Broadband, The Proactive Accountant, lastminutelabs, Nudge Social Media, Vodafone Group,, JISC, Nexus Globalnet, Starbucks VIA, PayPal, Guardian Open Platform, myMuesli and Nokia.

Some people have already blogged about this event, and you can find them here:

Photos of the event have also been uploaded to the London Barcamp Flickr Group.

Barcamp Blackpool 2009

Barcamp Blackpool

On Saturday 17th October 2009 Blackpool hosted its first ever Barcamp event organised by Gemma Cameron at the Paradise Rooms in Pleasure Beach.

This was only a one day event, so I decided to drive down early on the Saturday morning. I arrived at the venue around 9:15, signed in and started helping getting things ready for the day.

Once people finished arriving, Gemma gave her opening speech and welcomed everyone to the event, in typical Barcamp style everyone then went rushing to the session grid to secure a session slot and work out which sessions they wanted to attend. People were hesitant to take up the first session slot, Kian Ryan was asked if he wanted to take one of the first slots, his response was “No because I haven’t yet written the source code for my session yet!”, I think this is one thing that attracts me to Barcamps, the whole “rough around the edges” atmosphere to them and thinking of things on the spot.

The schwag was impressive for this event, mugs from the Guardian, a few things from Yahoo, but the best of all was the Barcamp Rock (…and yes it did have “Barcamp” through the middle of it).

Three rooms were setup for the day named “Donkeys”, “Tower” and “Rock”. The sessions I attended during the day were:

  • Co Working, Collaboration, Virtual Boards and Masterminds
  • “Hello World” with Amazon EC2, PHP and Mono.
  • Review of the W3c website redesign (Which turned ou to be very ironic)
  • Accessibility, Content and Cognition
  • JQuery and why it’s your new best friend
  • How to make Barcamp Blackpool better
  • Building and releasing an Android App.

I also presented a session myself called “Your photo is currently unavailable, Flickr Censorship”. More frequently Flickr are now censoring user accounts, groups and content on the site and after reading numerous blog posts on the subject I thought it was about time to present a session a a Barcamp about it.

After the sessions wrapped up it was down to the local chippy for a chippy tea, fabulous I have to say and well worth a fiver. It took Caz, Alistair and I about an hour to get back to the venue as we used this as a photowalk opportunity, which was great as Blackpool Illuminations were also taking place (however someone left his tripod in the car).

Once we got back to the venue, the bar was open with a very very generous Bar tab put on by Yahoo!, unfortunately with me driving back I could only drink pop which was a bit of a let down.

Entertainment for the evening was provided by a magician called Paul Sylvester and Iam sure other people will agree, he was the funniest magician I’ve ever seen, top entertainment! Tunes then followed and the night wrapped up.

Barcamp Blackpool

Barcamp Blackpool

Barcamp Blackpool

Dorkbot Newcastle – People doing intresting stuff with electricty

On Monday 5th October I decided to go to the Newcastle Dorkbot event hosted at the Life science center in Newcastle, the event was based around three speakers covering three different topics: Live performance drawing, Arduino and a percussion instrument hacked together by Alistair.

The first talk/demonstration was given by Evan Raskob, he talked and demonstrated some of his live experiments in Live Drawing using JelloTail, and Cartoon Tenticles.

The second talk of the evening was given by Aaron Nielsen of Oomlout who recently moved to Leeds from Vancouver to develop his business of developing Arduino micro controllers, he gave a short presentation about the joys of Arduino and gave a small live demo. However I’m still asking the question “Is there any practical use for Arduinos or are they just a bit of geeky fun?

The third talk of the evening was given by Alistair Macdonald on his hack for Music Hack Day based in London earlier this year. The percussion instrument uses the Arduino and a small set of sequences, by tapping the lollypop sticks on glass bottles it makes and sound and simple notes. There is an in-depth write up from Alistair here.

TEDx Newcastle 2009

TEDx Newcastle (part of TEDx North) was held on 30th September at the Tyneside cinema and I had the pleasure to attend the event organized by Codeworks and Herb Kim.


TEDx is now a worldwide thing and it involves leading speakers talking about what they are most passionate about. By the way TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, with the x bit standing for Independantly organized event.

The first TED talk of the evening (shown by video) was given by Ed Ulbrich, he gave an in depth overview of the visual effects which were placed into the film Benjamin Button. I’ve never seen this film but It was amazing to see the effects and considering the first hour of the film is actually a computer generated face of Brad Pitt this is really cool, and makes you think how many more films they can make in the future using fully 100% digital actors.

The second talk of the evening was given by Mike Stenhouse, a User Experience and Interface Designer from Trampoline Systems, his talk revolved around Pattern Recognition & the Power of Story in Product, Experience & Interface Design.

The third talk of the evening was a very interesting talk around Privacy, Anonymity and the Futur, presented by Chris Stainthorpe of the B Group creative industry. He went into things such as even if Twitter ends, your tweets will still be stored somewhere and how we need to regain privacy. He also talked about how the older generation are more careful about giving using Facebook as they are worried about privacy, however the younger generation go in with all guns blazing and upload give away o lot of information about themselves by the status updates they post and the pictures that they upload.

Herb Kim from Codeworks then presented the Thinking Digital 2010 launch video, he discussed what the conference is all about and speakers which where expected for next year. Tickets are still available.

The fifth talk of the evening (shown by video) was a video of Dan Pink talking about motivation in the work place and different types of working environments and how managers can reward workers (or not) depending on what they have been working on.

The sixth talk of the evening was a very informative talk about the User Experience Curve given by Andy Budd from Clear Left in Brighton. Andy talked about things such as people remembering the good points and bad points of something and how you normally remember the start and finish of something but not necessarily the middle section of an experience, and how these can be transferred to websites for users.


After the main event, food and drinks were served in the bar as part of Codework Connect’s Think and a Drink (TAAD) series of meetups. It was good to catch up with Greame Littlewood, Ashley Green and Dan Scott from Fusebox, Alistair McDonald, Ross Cooney and Alex Kavanagh.

Databases at the Bedson

Supermondays returned on 28th September to the Bedson Teaching center in Newcastle. Around 80 people attended to hear three speakers talking about the history of databases, SimpleDB, Google App Engine and RAQUEL.

Ross Cooney from Rozmic stood to the podium first of all, he talked about the history of databases, why they are important and some of the theory behind them including ACID and BASE. He also talked about CAP theorem and distributed databases.

David Lavery was up next, David talked about Amazon’s web service SimpleDB database product and Google App Engine.

David Livingstone from Northumbria university was the last speaker of the evening. He talked about and put forward a new database product called RAQUEL (Relational, Algebra, Query, Update, Executive Language) being developed at the university and how it is lego like in nature as it can use plugins and modules.

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