BarCamp 7 Manchester 2016

Extreme [Un]Conferences Ups a Gear

I was at BarCamp 7 in Manchester this weekend. For those of you not in the know, a BarCamp is a type of conference where there are no timetabled speakers. It bills itself as an “Unconference” because some of the most productive and interesting aspects of traditional conferences are what happens when individual interactions occur outside the main speaking rooms.

This is often called the “lobby track” in most expos and BarCamp takes it to the next level by choosing not to bill any speakers. The attendees are the speakers.

This year, the venue was Manchester’s CityLabs and was sponsored by a number of companies, including GCHQ… who may have been there… or may not have been…

So what do you listen to?

BarCamp attendees are the speakers. Yes, out of 300–600 people who wil stay across the two days, many of them will speak. It’s a self-organising conference, with volunteer facilitators helping people along the way.

The “official” talks write the topic of their talk on a card and pin (or more often Blu-Tac) it to a grid matrix comprised of the times and rooms.

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I Attended…

The topic of mechanical computing was sooo fascinating! I absolutely loved this one from an intellectual standpoint.

For those unfamiliar with it. mechanical computing was probably made most famous by the work of Charles Babbage, the father of modern computing. IT also became the roots of Turing’s work on Turing machines. This stuff really gets me excited, I have to shamefully admit.

One of the most exciting parts of that talk was the representation of the game of life. The Game of Life was used to demonstrate how complexity arises from really simple rules, but crucially, the speaker also showed us how Game of Life had built a mechanical computer from those simple rules! He’d also build a physical Turing Machine. Brilliant! Just Brilliant! :)

Recruitment… yeah… Urm…Sat through and I raged against agencies…

…Moving on to the next event room after that.

It’s no secret that I’ve been a very vocal activist against Brexit. The whole thing is still very much a mess. What is worse is that companies such as Redrow homes have embarrassingly not understood the periods their own accounts covered, before then hitting BBC Radio 4 to declare “Brexit has been good for us”

So when a talk entitled “Politics Sucks” with the word “Brexit” in it appeared, there was no way I was passing up that opportunity! Especially straight after a talk on recruiters. The chaps (Manchester’s very own Mr Forrester @CubicGarden included) ran the session well. The audience, who perhaps were unsurprisingly all remain (though perhaps there were some quiet leavers, I don’t know), were enthusiastic and passionate. I raged. Reasoned arguments were given. I raged some more… and a bit more. Then someone else was given a chance to speak, said something good… And I raged more about it.

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Politics [and Brexit] Sucks!

This one was mine. I threw this one together and my record at BarCamps has been something of a hit and miss. One hit, one miss to be exact. I was more nervous than usual, I have to admit and I don’t know that it went all that well. I forgot lots of stuff, including my typical audience participation exercise (Fekking Doh!).

If only to show that not all geeky things are intellectual, Clair Dodd (@GirlGeekUpNorth ), organiser extraordinaire, filled a slot with jumping into beanbags. No, that’s not code for anything, that genuinely is jumping into BeanBags.

…Which were videoed.

…And videoed.

…And some slowed down into a summary.

Thanks to Martin Rue (@MartinRue) of MancJS for that one and for XP Manchester’s Mark Kirschtein (@markkirschstein) and others for being tossed. Indeed it’s his fault I was in it at all!

“Come on Ethar! You used to be a shot putter!”

Thanks Mark, thanks a lot. Reached my exercise quota, definitely.

A number of other honourable mentions.

Why is Social Enterprise Such a Dirty Word?

Colony Collapse Disorder — The effects of bee colony collapse on local ecosystems.

Planning a Trip to Iceland — I took copious notes on this one! Very interesting and looks awesome. It was also so rudely interrupted by the singing coming from a talk next door :) Listen for the Gothic sound at the beginning of this video.

Edit: Forgot Chris Northwood and his trip to Prypiat. Scene of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Brilliant time line of events too!


BarCamp’s are an excellent event. If you are not used to public speaking, it provides you with a forum to speak on a topic of your choosing. Everyone is really respectful, even with the existence of the “rule of two feet”. It’s expected some folk will misunderstand your talk, but very few people really walked out this year.

I personally can’t wait until next year. If you have a spare weekend, definitely go along. You can even stay overnight in many venues. Just bring a sleeping bag.

Written by

EA, Stats, Math & Code into a fizz of a biz or two. Founder: Automedi & Axelisys. Proud Manc. Citizen of the World. I’ve been busy

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