Last weekend I attended my first ever EMF Camp. I’d heard of the event before, but with it being far away, and costing for a ticket, I’d not been in a position to go. Thankfully, this year I work for an awesome company who covered the cost of my ticket, so I was really excited to be a part of this amazing event.
In 2011 I attended my first un-conference. BarCamp Blackpool 3 was probably one of the best things to happen to me, and it changed my life.
The concept of a BarCamp was sold to me by a colleague and old friend, who described it as a geek conference with plenty of talks on not too techy stuff, but you’re supposed to prepare a talk yourself to do when you’re there. I pretty much chickened out of this bit straight away, but the idea of going somewhere with a bunch of other geeks, talking about geeky stuff, sounded like my idea of fun!
Highlights of my first BarCamp were Alex Martingdale’s talk on a history of error messages, and Werewolf. I attended quite a few good talks that year but Werewolf actually made this conference for me. Played after the main event was over we sat there until the early hours of the morning playing a game of lies and deception, and I loved it! Overall I met some amazing people, and had a great time.
Of course this meant that the following year I attended BarCamp Blackpool 4. It was nice to see a lot of the people I had met the previous year again, and there were some brilliant non techy sessions such as an intro to Roller Derby and a Fencing Lesson! One of the great things about BarCamp Blackpool was the social aspect of the event. I got to meet new people and make new friends, and this year I even made the effort to stay in touch with some of those amazing people I had met.
The next year saw me become a regular at both Leeds and Manchester Werewolf games, and Preston Breakfasts. I stayed in touch with many of the friends I had made, and one of them has now been my
boyfriend of almost 2 years fiancé! I also attended BarCamp Liverpool, which was a great conference, but lacked a bit of the social side for me, and made me realise that I get just as much out of the evening social session of a BarCamp as the conference itself. BarCamp Blackpool had a venue that allowed us to stay late and play games, whereas at BarCamp Liverpool we headed out after the conference, and it wasn’t quite the same.
2013 had me back at BarCamp Blackpool, amazing as ever, and I was now about to move to Manchester, where I was looking forward to getting even more involved in the tech community. I don’t work in the tech industry, I work in finance (boring) but I have always had an aptitude and interest in maths, science and technology, so with me also being a lover of social events, being able to meetup with like minded people in my spare time was an opportunity I really looked forward to, and the tech community was definitely one I wanted to be more involved in.
Now living in Manchester I go to get really involved in the tech community. I found MathsJam and the Manchester Girl Geeks, I started to learn how to code and found Python North West, and I still played Werewolf every month with the same friends I had met 2 years ago and played my first games with at BarCamp Blackpool.
2014 saw Manchester host its own ‘BraCamp‘ organised by the Manchester Girl Geeks. This was another amazing event, but again slightly lacked a strong social side as we had to leave the venue after the conference. Following BraCamp, the community was hit with some devastating news; BarCamp Blackpool would not be happening that year! With the biggest un-conference in the North being cancelled, a huge gap was left in the North West tech community, and something had to be done about it.
In the background, Manchester GeekUp had also been revived, and I was helping out with organising bi-monthly meetups. Manchester has a flourishing tech scene and having somewhere geeks of all backgrounds could meetup was long overdue.
The success of the Manchester Girl Geek’s BraCamp showed just how much of a need there was for the BarCamp, and in an attempt to fill that gap, BarCamp Manchester was resurrected. After a long hiatus Ian Forrester requested volunteers to help organise BarCamp Manchester 2014, and I decided to get involved, and give back to the community that had given me so much. throwing myself in the deep end, I ended up taking the lead and making BarCamp Manchester 5 become a reality, and it was everything I hoped it could be. We had an amazing attendance of over 150 people, over 100 talks, 4 sponsors, 60 pizzas, 16 games of Werewolf, and 0 fatalities (except in games of werewolf where there were many fatalities).
After getting the buzz for organising tech events, I have since helped out with Hack Manchester, which I will be getting even more involved in for 2015, and I have co founded CodeUp Manchester, a mentoring program for adults wanting to learn how to code. I am also about to become a STEM Ambassador.
Now we’re about to buy our first home together in Manchester, and I’m starting to plan for BarCamp Manchester 6, and I love my life. In a way, I can honestly say that I would not have the life I love if I had not gone to that first BarCamp in Blackpool 4 years ago, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love being part of the Manchester tech community, and I’m proud to be able to give something back to the same community that have given me so much.
UPDATE: As of March 2017, BarCamp Manchester 6 was a HUGE success, with over 200 people attending across the two days. Arran and I have moved into our first home together, and we’re recently engaged. I changed jobs and went to work for MadLab, a digital innovation organisation in the Northern Quarter, where I run the office, and deliver digital skills workshops to children and adults across Greater Manchester.
Long before BarCamp, there were conferences. And they sort of sucked in various ways. Lots of people found that the interesting content at conferences wasn’t so much the formal presentations as the discussion that took place in the hallway, the “lobby track” as it has come to be known. It seems quite strange: you pay sometimes quite a sizeable amount of money to attend a conference, and then you don’t spend any time actually listening to the material presented at the conference. Now I’m going to tell you why everyone should attend a BarCamp.
But there is a problem with the lobby track that doesn’t exist with the formal tracks: it doesn’t necessarily scale to include everyone. If you are a little bit shy or socially awkward, perhaps you don’t get talked to if you try and enjoy the lobby track. What if there were events where the formal track and the lobby track were very, very similar?
Enter the unconference. The unconference is a conference that every attendee is allowed to participate in, much like anyone can have a blog, or anyone can edit Wikipedia. The distinction between speakers and listeners is blurred because if you are attending, you will probably be speaking also. Sessions are less like lectures and more like conversations. There are lots of small groups. To use an academic analogy, it is more like a seminar than a lecture; organisers and speakers are more like convenors than lecturers. The traditional conference panel is rarely present in unconferences, and this is why you should attend…..
Attending – BarCamps are great ways to meet potential employers, and if you’re a student, you can talk to people who are doing what you want to do, make connections and get more involved in the tech community. BarCamps are also great places to come and share knowledge, especially in terms of education, training, and development. It doesn’t matter what type of geek you are, BarCamps will have something for you. And the great thing about a BarCamp is, if you’re not seeing talks on topics you’re interested in, you can just put one up there yourself! We have all sorts of geeks attending BarCamps, including developers, technicians, bloggers, gamers, designers, mathematicians, scientists, testers & analysts. Maybe you don’t even class yourself as a geek but you still want to come and see what you can learn, BarCamp is still for you.
Still not sold? Let’s look at some more amazing reasons why you should attend a BarCamp.
- It’s free
- We provide food
- There’s usually free beer
- You get to meet interesting new people and might even make some new friends
- It’s fun!
Sponsoring – BarCamps can’t happen without sponsors, and thankfully we have always managed to get really good companies to help us make these events happen. Companies can gain a lot from sponsoring a BarCamp, they’re great places to find potential new employees, raise brand awareness and also raise your profile. Not everyone gives back to the tech community, and companies who do are held in much higher standing, which is paramount when we are trying to help make Manchester the tech capital of the North. Helping us share knowledge, skills and experience can only make the community and the city stronger.
This year I am organising BarCamp Manchester 6, if you would like more information, would like to attend, or sponsor us, please refer to our website for further details.
EDIT – As has quite rightly been pointed out to me by Mark Kirschstein, BarCamps are not just for the tech community. “You don’t need to work in tech to have interests an passion, seeing it always inspires”.
This weekend I have volunteered to help out at Hack Manchester, a 24 hour coding competition run as part of the Manchester Science Festival. After thrusting myself into event organising with BarCamp Manchester the previous week, I was interested to learn from people who had more experience than me, and who were running an event on a much bigger scale. Gemma Cameron has been organising Tech Events for years, and Claire Foster is one of the most passionate, professional and talented event planners I have ever met.
The concept of Hack Manchester if for teams of 4 to turn up on the Saturday morning, and within 25 hours (you get an extra hour due to clocks going back) you develop and present an ideal.
The Sponsors each come up with a challenge for the attendees, and the winner of each challenge will receive a prize, varying from £500 of Amazon Vouchers to Samsung Galaxy Tab S’s.
Today I experienced my first ever Comic Con. As I had never been to one before I was not sure on what to expect, so I have decided to put together a little guide for newbies on what they can expect, and a bit about my experience today.
Comic cons are fan conventions for all things relating to comics, manga, anime and movies. Fans come to buy memorabilia, meet celebrities and meet each other, with many fans dressing up in costume to compete in the masquerade at the end of the day.
Tonight I attended my first Python Northwest meeting in Manchester. Python Northwest is a user group for anyone interested in the Python programming language. You can be a complete beginner like me to a developer who’s been working with the language for years. The type of people who attend these meetings are so welcoming and helpful, even a complete newbie like me felt like I could understand (some) of what was said and even felt comfortable joining in the discussions. I do think I may have been lucky that my first session included 2 talks aimed at beginners, but I’m still confident that I can learn something each month, regardless of the content of the talks.
Manchester Girl Geeks is a not-for-profit group which organises networking events, talks and hands-on workshops for women and girls with an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
This weekend I attended the Manchester Girl Geeks BarCamp, an all day unconference organised by women. I have attended a few barcamps in the past, and I must say that this one has been one of the best, and here’s why;