As I’ve spent most of the weekend here at BarCamp and I’m off darn sarf tonight with work, I decided to spend the morning with my better half, getting to BarCamp at around midday. It’s been a great experience so far, with loads of people to talk to who have something interesting to say. I’ll do the diary thing, and then give up my top tips for BarCamp virgins, based on what I’ve seen and done this weekend.
Friday | Saturday | Sunday
As I arrived, the ‘Flame Wars‘ session was drawing to a close. A panel of four volunteers from the event debating sensible stuff, with a sprinkling of debating ridiculous stuff. The most fitting analogy I can come up with is a cross between QI, Points of View and Argumental, for tech geeks.
Following the Flame Wars session, Mike Croucher from walkingrandomly presented a talk on free maths software. You wouldn’t have thought that a talk about maths would attract a crowd – or maybe you would at a barcamp – but it did seem to have a certain stickiness (the second time that subject has come up this weekend, which is a little disturbing) in that passers-by would stop and admire the colourful 3-D graphs and maths symbols flying around the screen.
Another quiz over lunch – busy getting Saturday’s post sorted so didn’t enter that one. That’s my excuse anyway. The second quiz was maybe a little less web & tech oriented…
My BarCamp experience wrapped up with a session I’d asked for on the forum under the title “What’s so good about functional programming?“. I’m a Java guy, so I’m interested in how the functional paradigm differs from OO and what the benefits or drawbacks are for each. One of the chaps ran an hour-long session introducing the functional programming language Haskell, and using it to solve some mathematical problems posed on the Project Euler site. He demonstrated how approaching problems functionally can be a difficult vector, but can also result in a software solution that is much more readable, more efficient in terms of processing and storage resources and can be proven to result in the correct answer by definition. The format of the session was a little different to the other talks in that it was a very interactive, Q&A type thing. Although an hour was nowhere near long enough to really get into the subject properly, it covered enough stuff to be intriguing – I’ll be playing if I ever find any spare time!
So, all in, I had a fantastic weekend. I learnt some stuff, saw some good examples of how to give talks, widened my interests, met a load of new people, and caught up with some folks I haven’t seen for a while. For me, it was the Twitter and Netbook BarCamp – I even met up with some folks I follow on Twitter because they tweeted that they were there!
A quick, and huge, word of thanks to the organizers and the sponsors. Setting up an event like that with all those people must be a nightmare, and the sponsors must have chipped in a bucketload of cash to make it happen. I don’t know as I’ve not been to a barcamp event before, but I’m told that it was a great example, so nice one to all those involved. There are too many sponsors to name, but there’s loads of details on the barcampsheff site.
Here’s my top tips for any other potential BarCamp virgins out there.
Have an open mind. Try and get to as much stuff as you can – you might miss something cool otherwise.
Always keep your stuff in sight. If the event is held in an venue that’s open to the public, you never know. We did have one unfortunate occurrence of some stuff going missing and it’s got to ruin your day.
Try stuff. If you get the chance to have a go, do it!
It’s probably not a stupid question. So ask it anyway.
Talk. Everyone was really friendly.
Soak it up. One word – atmosphere.
Do a talk! Go in with something you care about in mind and do a talk about it – wish I had.
Take your kit. Are you going to need power adapters and accessories? There might be stuff there but then again there might not.
Right, now I’m off to buy flowers and chocolates to say sorry to my other half for disappearing for most of the weekend!
Pippa’s writeup of her Jedi Mind Tricks (Influencing people) talk
Marc Johnson’s barcampsheff blog post
Caz Mockett’s barcampsheff blog post
The BarCamp Sheffield 2008 Photos
The BarCamp Sheffield 2008 Site
The BarCamp Sheffield 2008 Forum