When it comes to BarCamps it doesn’t rain, it pours. Within the last month we have had both BarCamp Canterbury and BarCamp London. These two events both based on the same theme and format are two of my favourites; but it’s interesting to see how they compare and differ.
I have written about BarCamps before1, but for those new the the idea BarCamps are a style of unconference, linked by the name and ethos more than specifics of style or organisation. Any one can set up a local BarCamp, but they all follow a general style, and a general topic of technology. What’s key to understand however it that there is no call for talks at these events, or people gatekeeping who can talk about what, instead every attendee has the chance to talk about any subject they want.
BarCamp London vs BarCamp Canterbury
As these events were so close together and not to go over the same ground once again, I’m going to take this opportunity to compare and contrast these two great events.
The “grid” is a key part of a BarCamp, this is how attendees schedule their talks and is fully self managed. BarCamp Canterbury and London use two very different systems for this. At Barcamp London a physical grid of record cards on a wall is used, as shown in the image bellow.
Whilst at BarCamp Canterbury a google spreadsheet with global read write access is used.
These two systems have their own advantages and disadvantages. The physical grid was very good at getting people talking, and served as a central meeting place, but did lead to people running up and down the corridor between talks. The online system on the other hand allowed efficient interaction with the schedule, and led to the schedule being adapted more over the day, but didn’t have the physical “space” in quite the same way.
The space is one of the most key aspects of events, though through experience I understand ths is often one of the aspects that the organisers have the least control of. As such I am going to make some brief points about the two spaces.
The Canterbury event this year was hosted in the University of Kent Library A block. There were a number of different sized rooms, including a full lecture theatre and seminar rooms. The space was not near full capacity and as such not every room available to the event was used. Two of the seminar rooms suffered from bad sound leakage which made hearing the presenter sometime hard.
Access to the site is easy if your visiting by car, with free parking right on the door. Whilst there are good bus links to the uni, the nearest train stations are in the city center which is a thirty minute walk away.
Wifi was provided through an hotspot without WPA security. Mobile signal within the venue was terrible
The London event was run at The London Academy of Excellence right next to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Access from underground / overground was easy with the nearest station a couple of minute walk away. Unfortunately issue with the TFL network at large seem to have put some people off.
The talk rooms were nine similar sized class rooms, with TVs for AV. For the size rooms the AV was find, and whilst the rooms were not the largest there never seem to be too many for each space.
Catering (provided by the venue) went above and beyond what was needed.
Free secure WiFi was provided by the venue.
This year I gave three talks across the two events:
- Is a SAO your perfect first step in PCB design
- An intro to the Open Street Map Project (second time of giving this talk)
- An intro to the Open Street Map Project (third time of giving this talk)
The SAO talk was fine, but not good enough to want to advertise it, the OSM talk has gone down well every time I have given it, but I think it has now run it’s course and should be retired.
I am so glad that BarCamps are back, and seem to be back to stay. For anyone who just wants to meet some great people in tech they are amazing, but I also feel they are one of the best ways to practice presentation skills.