This Saturday I went up north to attend BarCamp Sheffield 2. Held in the Showroom Café Bar, it was the perfect location for anyone travelling in from out of town given that it was literally just across the road from the train station. This was perfect for me since I'd been up since 5am to get there for opening time!
The first thing I noticed was the number of people I didn't know. Where at a London based BarCamp I'd know maybe 80% of the attendees, at the beginning of the day in Sheffield I would have been hard pushed to have identified even 10%. Not that that's a bad thing - the life blood of BarCamps is getting diverse groups of people together to share the knowledge that everyone has. It turns out though that I wasn't the only one who didn't know many people at the event - there were many who had never been to a BarCamp before, and weren't sure what to expect. As one person said, "I was expecting everyone to be really nerdy, but... they're not."
Photo credit: Pete Hindle
The main thing I noticed with this BarCamp was the different focus that people brought. For me, the day was dominated by discussion groups about non-technical things which directly influence how we use the web and beyond. Alistair McDonald led a discussion about what community means, and whether it is possible to grow one deliberately or if it is only possible to give a place for one to grow if it wants to. The second discussion I attended was led by Emma (unfortunately I didn't get her surname) and revolved around what we value on the web, and how it is possible to make money from that knowledge. This session continued long into lunch and in total took almost double its allotted time purely because there was so much to talk about.
The final session of the day was a discussion of what it is to meet people (and associated Jedi Mind Tricks), led by Pippa Buchanan, herself a first-time BarCamper. Once again, this round table discussion ran far longer than originally expected (definitely not a bad thing), taking in topics such as initial meet and greets, Myers-Briggs typology and almost inevitably the effect of social networking sites on our relationships. This was actually one of the most interesting sessions I've attended at any BarCamp, and just goes to show how important it is to keep bringing in fresh faces with fresh perspectives.
Unfortunately I was unable to stay for Sunday's sessions, as I had other commitments, but from all the twittering it's obvious a good time was had by all. A huge thank-you to all involved for organising the BarCamp, and I can't wait for the next one.
Web Developer, Yahoo! London