We Made (Another) BarCamp!

Wow. We did it again…We made another BarCamp 🙂

Last year, we just had 28 days to prepare Leeds’ first unconference – and none of us had done this before. This year, we had a couple extra weeks and some sponsors already in the bag, but the team was less available, we’d scheduled an additional day’s talks and we were also committed to organising other events for LS1 – Leeds’ First International Web Festival.

However, in a little under six weeks since announcing, and literally just hours before the doors opened, everything lined up for us. Most most importantly you all made BarCamp Leeds {2008}.

We were a little worried that we didn’t manage to grow attendance and that the board didn’t fill up as fast as last year’s fifteen minute sprint – but actually, it helped the more reticent speakers find space later in the day when they’d summed up the courage to contribute…so here’re a few interesting snippets from the weekend…

  • We had 130 passes, 116 confirmed attendees and around 90 showed on the day. Sadly, though we registered more people this year, the turnout was about the same.
  • We estimated around a third of the crowd were new BarCampers, serendepitously ensuring we had new perspectives and contributors this time.
  • We gave out 80 grab bags, courtesy of Orange, including 50 USB mice from Yorkshire Forward (with some surprise integrated storage!) and 20 1GB USB drives from Orange.
  • We ordered 100 pastries, 25 bagels, 50+ tarts & cupcakes, 40 muffins, 55 pizzas, countless trays of M&S sandwiches and sushi, lotsa sweets, beverages and one jar of Nutella and some Jelly Beans (to satisfy Deb!)
  • We managed to maintain a live linkup with BarCamp Omaha for just over an hour, greeting our American cousins as they booted up their local BarCamp a few hours after us
  • There was a definite tilt towards startup and entrepreneurial sessions this year, as well as a handful of design and media topics. Notably, there were several roundtable discussions, which proved to be some of the most popular and insightful sessions. If last year’s theme was showing what you know – this year was certainly about translating that knowledge into something valuable. Tim Langley,
  • We think there’s a definite correlation between the higher quality talks this year and the sushi lunch – just shows what brain food can do, even for supersmart geeks 😉 Thankfully, nothing went to waste with everyone taking bits and pieces home with them..not quite Carbon Neutral, but certainly Nutritionally Neutral.
  • We had no prie draws this year (hey, everyone was a winner with those Orange schwag bags!), but the BBC’s Ian Forrester and Dom Hodgson deserve special recognition for running seven sessions between them!
  • This was our first weekend BarCamp. We wondered if people would come back for Sunday and we weren’t disappointed; with around half of the previous day’s attendees returning for Day Two. So many, that we had to order a lunch we hadn’t planned on, but Tom Hughes-Croucher from Yahoo! offered to cover the order.

The personal highlights for me included…

  • A roundtable discussion, chaired by Mark Ng, on bootstrapping tech communities. Mark is currently spinning up Dorset Digital dotdorset and was interested in the journeys Manchester and Leeds had taken in growing tech communities from the grassroots. Paul Robinson and I related the legacies of both cities, problems with investment and possible futures. The room almost polarised into those of us seeking to attract investors and those wishing a different path. Yahoo’s Tom Hughes-Croucher hit upon the notion of taking a trade mission of Northern startups to Cambridge and London as well as making the North an attractive scouting destination for VCs. A forehead-slapping obvious idea that we hadn’t considered previously, but we will collectively explore – Yuuguu and Treasuremytext are already interested 🙂
  • Ian Forrrester’s ‘Ask The BBC (Anything)’ session on Sunday morning was a feisty and illuminating debate on the role of the BBC across the North, with the recent move to Salford Quays and the dangers of the BBC stifling content producers whilst also having a valuable role to play in regeneration as a trusted national institution.
  • Hanging out with the OpenStreetMap group, including Cloudmade’s Sean MacDonald, and riffing ideas for locative collaborations with Leeds City Council’s Chief Architect John Thorp as well as Snapture – a proposed locative photoarchive of the city.
  • Tips from Mark Rushworth on migrating my Typepad blog to WordPress, in his workshop on Link Building for SEO.
  • Paul Key’s very hands-on session on music production using Ableton Live.
  • Simon Wheatley’s fantastic ‘My Last Project’ session with a bunch of 20:20 talks on presenter’s last project. I really wanted to contribute to this and thought about re-running on Sunday morning, but I just never found any time to prepare 🙁
  • Hanging out with old friends Ian Hay, Paul Key, Mark Taylor and Dean Vipond as well as new friends Paul Stringer and Katie Lips 😀

Everybody’s Blogging About It…

We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat…
We’re already starting to think about LS2 and next year‘s web festival – we’d really like for ‘LSx‘ to grow into something like the Leeds International Film Festival and perhaps even SxSW

BarCamp will be central to LS2, likely taking place in June or July, at a larger venue, coincide with a few other (secret) plans and perhaps beginning with an evening dinner and intro session so everyone can hit the ground running on Saturday.

Again, you guys made BarCamp Leeds {2008} work, so we’re counting on your
help, your ideas, insights and advice for BarCamp Leeds {2009}!

Lastly, we’d like to put a shout out to people like Linda Broughton of nti and Leeds Met, Katherine & Johnathan of Kooji Creative, Richard Hamer of Blue Sky PR, Mohsin Ali‘s 300+ photos, Yuuguu’s Phil Hemstead, Rockstar Games, Stewart Townsend from Sun, Ian Green at Green Communications, Plusnet‘s Dean Sadler, Stickyeyes, Apple and Adobe for all contributing their time and resources to make BarCamp possible for the rest of us. And of course, to all of you.

See you all next Summer 🙂 


  1. Thanks for your part in organising the excellent BarCampLeeds2008, and your very kind write up of my panel on bootstrapping local tech communities.
    It was very interesting how there were two different groups looking to get different things out of that discussion, and, of course, those interests were in no way contradictory.
    Just like to point out one thing though – I’m not responsible for Dorset Digital – the excellent Stephen Wolff should take credit for that. I have, however, been somewhat, but not entirely responsible for dotdorset. I’m also the loudest geek that Dorset has for the moment :P.

  2. Thanks Mark – it was a great discussion. I’d planned to run a discussion on the future of the North, but actually your take on coming at it from a community that was less mature gave us all a chance to reflect on where we are and where we’d like to be.


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