Much to the dismay of ‘normal’ people I mentioned it to, I spent Saturday down at the eBay, PayPal, GumTree offices (I didn’t realise that the latter were part of the gestalt…) in Richmond (very specifically in the office building that we heard was up to rent but my employers told us was not a good place for our engineering team - by the river, round the corner from the White Cross, 15 miles away from our clients, both internal and external… We reckoned it was perfect) at Tweetcamp.
The intention was to run a barcamp style event but with a focus on Twitter related topics, dragging in people from all corners of the twitterverse, from the techies to the marketers and chatters to podcasters. As with almost every barcampy event I’ve been to the organisers decided to add a bit to the normal format and, as ever, that had some effects, both good and bad.
Anyways, Farhan, Dees and Jon managed to pull together a load of volunteers as well as an impressive line up of sponsors, who not only filled me with cider, but also curry and sushi, and gave me a bag full of muesli and goo to take home for later consumption (Consumer warning! Do Not Eat The Goo). Goodies aside, the day was good fun, if not as productive as I’d hoped, and I managed to put together a few more faces and online names as well as meeting a bunch of new people.
The problem seemed to be one that I’ve seen before - deviating from the tried and tested. I have no problem with that in principle, but in this case the two of the three approaches that were used during the day seemed to fall short (for me at least - others seemed to do quite well).
- Much as my cynical brain hates to admit it, the group sessions were great - circles of 10 people given a topic to discuss to, at first, start connections within the group and to get people talking, and later reflect on what we’d talked about and work out what we wanted to talk about next.
- The space - I’m jealous. Very jealous. The offices are rather nice and an excellent venue. Even if the Rock Band guitar was broken. It was like that when we got there. I also think you need to calibrate the screen lag for the drums. Yes, I am a Rock Band and Guitar Hero addict, how did you tell?
- The open session organisation - two different approaches were tried during the day and neither seemed to really work that well. First off was a free for all in the morning - no fixed session times, just a chunk of time to chop and change as you choose: the paperwiki (sheets with area names on for the sticking of postits to organise who would be where talking about what) on the wall wasn’t well used; There was no real indication about who was talking about what where and when; The seperate areas within the office (cinema, library, etc) didn’t have a line of site to anything else, so there was some wandering to locations to find a conversation only to find noone there. In the afternoon there was a push towards more organisation, with group discussions to propose three talks per group, which were then collated and read out in an effort to get groups together before we dispersed. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to work to well either, with the discussion losing the thoughts behind some session proposals by the time they were read out, some proposals not even getting their proposer to start a group and other proposals not being read out. A start with too little organisation and an end with too much - BarCamps seem to normally slip down the middle and work fairly well, this one felt a little chaotic.
That said, I had some very nice chats with people, including a thought provoking discussion with Amy Ward about having to tell people at some time that they are Doing It Wrong, that it’d be lovely to be able to trust people on the internets and that while there is potential to use twitter as a collaboration tool it’s not the solution to every problem. It’s nice to be able to talk to people about these sort of things without them backing away and looking for exits.
Anyways, the thing I rather liked (probably due to my love of Things and also Stuff) was the SwapUp - bring an item and swap it with someone during the day. It worked well as an icebreaker, with many a group of people interrupted by my barging into their midst and asking if anyone had anything to swap for a Pink CD… My swapping was very successful, with my first exchange being so good that I was thankful that I brought a second thing. So, the score sheet:
Swap chain 1:
- Chewbacca Pez Machine, swapped for a copy of Games Workshop’s Chainsaw Warrior. I wanted this rather a lot when I started reading White Dwarf, now I have it. Only 20 years later…
Swap chain 2:
- Pokemon ball, spring loaded, enclosing Pikachu keyring, swapped for a copy of Pink’s album, I’m Not Dead. I entered into the spirit of swapping and passed on a premium item for one that I knew had been through a not insignificant number of hands already.
- Pink CD, swapped for a USB keyboard (as modelled by Utku). Continuing in the spirit of things I exchanged my CD for another item that was doing the rounds. However, I feel it was a step up from the CD, giving a feel of One Red Paperclip-ness. The recipient, in a theme that was often repeated, was the person who brought the CD to Tweetcamp…
- USB Keyboard, swapped for a pair of Funky Glitter Toe Socks With Glitter. They were funky! They were glittery! They had toes! They were also for size 4-7 feet.
- Glitter toe socks with glitter, swapped for a VHS tape of Care Bear Town Parade. I think I got a bit carried away at this point. I should have at least held out for the bottle of hot sauce that was floating around, or maybe the toilet seat…
- Care Bear Town Parade VHS, swapped for a bottle of Marques de Grignon Rioja Reserva 2002. SCORE! Swapped with the person who brought the Care Bears with them. I’m not sure if it was guilt or a reluctance to finally part with the video, but either way I win.
So, overall a good day. This was a bit of an experiment and the organisers tweaked things as they went on, so I look forward to the next one. I still have things vaguely twitter-related that I want to talk about, and it’d be nice to do that without getting the special looks and being asked to leave the pub…