BarCamp London 2006 | September 3, 2006

I just got back from the very first UK BarCamp, held at the Yahoo! offices in London. I’ve been following the BarCamp phenomenon since its inception last year and have wanted to see one happen in the UK ever since.

If you are unfamiliar with BarCamp, the idea began as the antithesis of Tim O’Riley’s invite only FooCamp. Billed as an unconference, the events are completely unscheduled, and sessions are organised on the day by attendees.

Upon arriving at the venue and picking up our FREE t-shirts, we were greeted by a brief orientation by Ben Metcalfe. Everybody was then asked to schedule events by writing down a brief title and description on a sheet of paper and then sticking them to the glass meeting room walls. I was impressed at how eager people were in suggesting talks, many of whole had never presented in public before. Not having had time to prepare a talk, I opted for a Sunday slot.

After a quick lunch of crisps and subway sandwiches (all provided by the sponsors) the sessions began. Each session lasted 30 minutes and the day moved at a lightening pace. With 5 rooms to choose from, there was almost always something on worth seeing. The sessions ended at 7:30pm and the FREE pizza and beer arrived.

A collaborative mashpit (where people group together to create mash-ups) had been organised for 9pm. However a sizeable splinter group formed–led by Simon Willison– to play a game called werewolf(game). Apparently popular at events like FooCamp, I was a bit dubious about the game at first. However everybody quickly got into the game and we found ourselves playing it until the small hours.

One unique aspect of BarCamp is the camping over. Rather than everybody leaving in the evening and not bothering to come back the next day, attendees are encouraged to bring sleeping bags and sleep on the floor. Out of the 100 or so people who attended, this was probably done by about 40 people including myself.

Having gone to bed late, I work up on Sunday morning after only five hours sleep. Tired and exhausted we all had breakfast before embarking on a second day of events. My talk was the second talk of the day, and my lack of sleep meant I wasn’t on top form. However I enjoyed giving my talk on user experience design and I hope the audience did too. At the very least it sparked some interesting discussion on how ease of use is not the only metric when evaluating the user experience of a design.

I really enjoyed the talks on the second day, and in particular the sessions on user-centered design and microformats. However by 4:30pm everybody was exhausted and after a quick clean-up, it was time to go home. I had a great time as BarCamp London and met some excellent people, and look forward to seeing many of them in Brighton for d.Construct on Friday.

Thank you to Ian Forrester, Ben Metcalfe, Paul Hammond and everybody else involved in the event. Can’t wait till the next one.

Posted at September 3, 2006 10:37 PM


Frances Berriman said on September 6, 2006 12:31 PM

I had a really good time - and it was nice to get to meet you properly!

I’ll try not to have you lynched this weekend. :)

Leisa Reichelt said on September 6, 2006 5:13 PM

hey Andy,

really enjoyed your presentation and the discussion that came out of it. was nice to meet you. I hope DContruct goes well and hope to see you there next year! (and somewhere else in the meanwhile!)