A couple of weeks ago I went to my first Barcamp, at the Skiff in Brighton. A Barcamp, for those who don't know, is an alternative knowledge-sharing conference where there is no pre-defined agenda and every participant runs a session. The schedule starts as a blank grid on Saturday morning, and gets filled with cards on which people write the details of their talk or workshop. There are usually three or four sessions going on at any one time, and they can be on literally anything - from coding to sewing to quantum mechnanics. It goes on all weekend, and includes evening socialising and gaming that usually continues into the wee small hours.
Having never been to a Barcamp before, I was a little nervous about getting up to present, and had no idea what I would talk about. So I decided to cheat a little, and run my session as a broadcast of recordings that I'd make over the course of the weekend, hacked together into a podcast with whatever level of quick editing I could manage in the time. This meant that I was reliant on others being willing to talk to me, and getting enough good material to make it interesting. Having played around with podcasts at a few other geeky events lately (FSC Hack Day, Mobile World Congress and Maker Faire), I was fairly confident that it would work. Thankfully my instinct was right, and I had a whale of time doing it.
I've grown to love podcasting as a medium for recording live events, for a number of different reasons. Often the most interesting bits of this type of event are the conversations that go on in between the sessions, when everyone is fizzing with excitement and bouncing ideas around on the back of the talk they've just been in. And podcasting is a great way to capture that energy and immediacy of response. When it comes to interviews, a voice recorder is far less intrusive than a video camera, and people are a lot more relaxed talking to you, so you get a much more genuine snapshot. It's also a lot quicker to edit audio together, which means you can publish your interviews pretty much instantaneously. I even love the blunders, giggles and slips of the tongue that come through on this kind of unedited publishing, because again it feels wonderfully real.
Having this mission at Barcamp proved a great ice-breaker, and I talked to many more people than perhaps I would have otherwise. I tried to steer the interviews by asking everyone 'what did you learn?'. It's quite easy to go through an event like this sucking up all the ideas and information, without ever stopping to consider what you're getting out of it, so I also hoped that posing this question would force people to stop and reflect. The results were fascinating, and it gave me an insight into lots of the sessions that I didn't attend.
It was a hugely enjoyable weekend and I met loads of wonderful characters. When I wasn't interviewing other participants, I sat in on lots of the talks, including mobile apps for museums, open access archiving of academic papers, learning to make bunting, running a hack day for teens, and a presentation on working practices to name but a few. In the evening I participated in the hilarious Peacehaven the Bored Game, more about which you can hear in the podcast below. And I also discovered, from some of the late night interviews, that I get awfully posh when I'm drunk.
Here is the result of my experiment, which has been refined slightly since its debut broadcast at the end of Barcamp Brighton 7. I hope it inspires you to go to a Barcamp near you...
If you like this Barcamp Brighton podcast, you may also enjoy the ones that I did from Maker Faire and FSC Hack day this year, so I've embedded them below, too.