Barcamps are always different. Bathcamp the Barcamp 2009 was no exception. Located 12 miles south of Bath, in the tiny village of Buckland Dinham, Bathcamp had set up camp in the paddock of, The Bell, a classic, old English pub.
Billed as a “24-hour+ long series of talks, cud-chewing, beer, pizza…and other things…”, the event was Al Fresco, or as they very kindly translated for us, “outdoors”. The idea being to camp and have a traditional Barcamp event in the great outdoors!
I arrived before the event officially started on Friday night and already there was at least a dozen people already there. It seemed especially that those travelling from afar, had taken the opportunity to arrive the night before the event started and hang out with some cool people.
There were three spaces for talks, two marquees in the field itself, both with projectors and power, and the pub’s own “Media Barn” – a converted barn with a projector, chairs, carpet etc.
As with any Barcamp, there was a blank schedule of time slots which people filled in with the sessions they were giving – a blend of technical topics and other interesting things.
Peter Gradwell gave a presentation about what he had learnt about how employing people works from a small business’s point of view. He went into detail about how best to hire people, how to keep employees happy and what to do in difficult situations.
It was quite insightful, not just from what Peter said himself but from the opinions and experiences volunteered by the other people in the session and from the discussion afterwards.
Douglas Hamilton’s bizarre, but awesome, mini-concert of tech-folk songs was very amusing, very enjoyable. I’m still singing his epic “plenty of room to crash at the Hotel Redmonda”, tech support anthem.
Frankie Roberto gave a talk about openplaques.org, a project he recently helped initiate, which attempts to provide an online, open, database of all Blue Plaques around Britain mentioning important pieces of Heritage. Frankie gave a brief overview of the project and the difficulties an open content project such as this encounters such as licencing and integration with other projects with similar objectives.
Of course, the sessions were actually the least notable part of the event as they often are at Barcamps. That’s not to say the sessions are boring or low quality – quite the opposite – but the informal chat with the speakers and the other attendees was often considerably more insightful.
A few interesting discussions I was aware happened:
- Cool things people had done with HTML5
- The national ID card scheme – good or bad?
- People experiences of various PHP web development frameworks
- Whether degrees are necessary for work in IT
- How people feel about software patents..
- People’s views on Becta
- The technical benefits and drawback between the Athens and Shibboleth – federated authentication systems
There was live music thanks to a folk-/country scratch band which entertained us in one of the marquees on Saturday evening, not to mention lots of food and copious amounts of alcohol, including a keg of the dangerously enjoyable Black Rat cider – a local speciality (for inducing hangovers)!
Later on in the evening there were marshmallows for everyone to toast on the large bonfire in corner of field. The bonfire proved to be a social hotspot which provided warmth for those who wanted to continue the conversation well into the early hours.
Once everyone had dragged themselves out of their sleeping bags on Sunday morning there was breakfast in the bright sunlight and a few more sessions before everyone hit camp and headed off home.
Bathcamp was unique amongst Barcamps in that it asked for a £10 booking fee per person to cover the camping costs. However once you arrived, one was presented with some swag they had bought from you – namely a comfortable Gelert “executive” folding chair and a pint enamel mug along with the sponsor’s pens etc.
I thought that in the circumstances, this worked quite well – they didn’t have to hire/borrow chairs from anywhere, nor did they have to worry about the condition they gave them back in and everyone felt they were going away with something. I only felt slightly sorry for the people who had thought they were being clever in bringing chairs with them!
Compared to other Barcamps I’ve been to, Bathcamp felt considerably more relaxed and easy going. Instead the Barcamp being about getting from one session to the next, there was plenty of chilled out discussion and socialising.
Interesting, I think the fact that there was no wifi anywhere on site, with only patchy EDGE coverage for those with mobile devices, made for a more relaxed event. Instead of hacking on stuff, checking ones email, or twittering people on the other side of the room, there was a sudden outbreak of good old fashioned talking to each other!
I thoroughly enjoyed Bathcamp the Barcamp 2009 would like to pass on my thanks to:
- All those involved in organising and contributing to it…
- All those involved in sponsoring it and helping make it possible…
- and all those who turned up, chatted, had a good time and made it such a great event!