This Saturday I attended my first unconference, in the form of BarCamp Manchester 3. Part of the reason for attending was to see how the unconference model works in preparation for UKUUG’s FLOSS UK Unconference in October this year, and also to do a bit of networking within the web development community.
Things stuttered slightly at the beginning, mainly because people seemed to be a bit reluctant to volunteer to give talks, and the organisers were running round pushing post-it notes and pens into people’s hands. I ended up volunteering to talk about ‘Templated PDFs in PHP’, which I managed to ad-lib, although the fact that most people in the audience hadn’t heard of a templating language made things a little tricky to begin with! Next time I will ask if people know about template languages beforehand and jump into the talk at the appropriate part.
The rest of the day was taken up diving in and out of other talks. I was surprised by how few talks involved web development, as I’d been lead to believe that this topic dominated most unconferences. I also found out about synctus, a company which sells hardware for replicating shared file stores across multiple branch offices without having to setup a VPN.
Attendance was lower than I expected, there were supposed to be 100 tickets available but I don’t think more than 70 people could have turned up on the day. I suspect this was partly down to the event being free – if you don’t feel like going on the day for whatever reason, there’s no cost in not turning up.
I didn’t stay around for the post-conference social, mainly because I had lots of stuff to do which I hadn’t managed to get through during the week, including all the boring domestic chores which no one has managed to build a robot for yet (e.g. washing and ironing).
Overall, the event was worth attending, and I picked up a few useful tips during the day. I’m in two minds as to whether I would go again, whilst the whole point of an unconference is that the talks are decided on the day, this does mean that you can be left disappointed if no one wants to give a talk on a subject which you want to learn about.