OggCamp (2009)

Two weekends ago, I, with the rest of the Ubuntu-UK Podcast team and the Linux Outlaws podcast team, was in Wolverhampton to run a new one-day open source community unconference called OggCamp.

A few people have asked “why Wolverhampton?”. Which is a fair question considering that four of the organisers live in Hampshire, one in the South-West, one in Liverpool, and one in Bonn.

Well, Wolverhampton is the location of the annual LugRadio Live open source community conference. The organisers of LugRadio Live (the LugRadio podcast presenters) are, or were, based in Wolverhampton. While there are many things you could say about Wolverhampton, one thing that always impressed me was that, to attend LugRadio Live, people flew to Wolverhampton from all over the UK, from all over Europe, all over the States, and even from Hong Kong and Australia at times (see my blog post about past LRLs for more).

Last year, after four hugely popular LugRadio Live events, including one in San Francisco sponsored by Google, the team announced that the fortnightly LugRadio podcast was going to end, and so the fifth LugRadio Live (in July 2008) would be the last ever LugRadio Live.

And then, under pressure from Popular Demand, they agreed to do another last ever LugRadio Live – in October 2009. This last ever LugRadio Live, though, would only be one day, the Saturday, like their first ever LugRadio Live. Which left a whole Sunday to fill. Which is where OggCamp comes in.

The Connaught Hotel Welcomes OggCampWhen we decided to organise OggCamp, we had no idea how it would go down. We figured that, between the two podcasts (Ubuntu-UK Podcast and Linux Outlaws) we’d had enough positive feedback that we could get at least 50 people along. Because it would be the day after LRL, there was a chance that enough LRL attendees would stick around for the day on Sunday and coming to OggCamp too. To make extra sure of that, we decided to hold OggCamp in the official LRL hotel (so that the geeks could just roll out of bed and into OggCamp), and to make the event free to attend.

In the end, about 130 people came to OggCamp. Which was brilliant!

The sight of people queuing up three flights of stairs to come in at 10.30 on the Sunday morning left us briefly gob-smacked.

We kicked off at about 11am with a quick introduction from all the presenters in which we explained how there was no pre-arranged schedule and that to sign up for a talk you just had to write it on a sticky note (large notes for full-hour talks; half-sized notes for half-hour talks) and stick it in a slot in the grid on the wall.

First up was Andy Stanford-Clark who did a brand new talk, specially written for OggCamp (and completed the night before while the rest of us were at the LRL kareoke party), about the geekier details of his Twittering House (the stuff the BBC didn’t get!). By midday, the schedule was getting pretty full (something of a relief!) and the planned topics included web services, how to prove identity on the Net, how to encourage young people to use Open Source Software, politics and geeks (from ORG), translating Playstation 2 games, and how to explain programming to non-programmers!

At 3pm, everyone gathered in the main room to watch a live joint recording of the Ubuntu-UK Podcast and Linux Outlaws. This started with a live raffle draw (surely a first in open source events?) for some very cool prizes donated by our sponsors, including a couple of Viglen MPC-Ls, some Ubuntu laptop bags and hoodies, an O’Reilly book, and an Arduino Mega. After the raffle, we did two segments: one about producing media using Open Source Software, and one about whether or not the Open Source community spreads itself too thin by creating so many different distributions. The segments included a lot of audience interaction, and also real-time twittering from the audience on to the TwitterFall screen behind us on-stage.

The live show was something that we had been nervous about because six is a large number of people to be talking anyway but also because the two podcasts (UUPC and LO) are quite different in style so we had no idea how well we would integrate. The two podcasts released their own versions of the live show during the following week and, if you’re keen, you can compare and contrast the two: UUPC (family friendly) and LO (includes the naughty words). I don’t think either podcast did much editing of content, which drew this comment from a UUPC listener.

So, all in all, I think we can say that OggCamp was a success. ๐Ÿ™‚

It was certainly a lot of fun – if exhausting!

We also sold enough raffle tickets and OggCamp limited edition souvenir mugs to financially break even on the whole event. Which was good from our point of view. And there has been a load of positive feedback from the attendees, including questions about whether we’ll do it again next year. Although we’ve tried to not to commit to anything, by now I think we can safely say that there is likely to be another OggCamp next year.

(For more photos, see the OggCamp group on Flickr.)

Linux Users descend on the House

[thanks to the brilliant Laura Cowen, producer of the Ubuntu UK Podcast and uber UX god at Hursley, for writing up this event โ€“ itโ€™s a shame I wasnโ€™t able to make it!]

As is usually the case when I’m attending a HantsLUG (Hampshire Linux User Group) meeting, it was a lovely sunny day on Saturday. It’s like as if it knows that I’m going to be spending the day inside, geeking in front of a laptop screen. This meeting, however, we put the sun to good use, first of all showing off Hursley Park at its best, and then lunching out on the decking at the Clubhouse.

When I was a more frequent attendee of the HantsLUG bring-a-box meetings (where I installed my first Debian distro, and later my first Ubuntu), I’d often thought how cool it would be to host a meeting at IBM Hursley. But I never got as far as investigating the security and wifi hassles I’d have to overcome. Fortunately, Anton Piatek was a little braver and sent some emails to nearly the right people (who helpfully forwarded them on to really the right people), and suggested his plan to Adam Trickett, Chair of HantsLUG. Adam says he nearly bit Anton’s hand off and so it happened.

HantsLUG is one of the biggest LUGs in the UK and is our local Linux user group but has surprisingly never really (in the 7 years I’ve known them) had a huge amount of interaction with IBM Hursley. For a long time, though, there has been a good pool of Linux skills and interest in the Lab, and over the last couple of years the number of people around the Lab voluntarily using Linux as their desktop OS has risen (as has the number of Ubuntu lanyards to be seen as you walk the corridors of Hursley).

Image courtesy of fluffydragon

So what makes Hursley a good place for a LUG meeting? Well, for a start, it’s just a really nice place to be – and Hursley House as well as the Park are very impressive to show off to visitors ๐Ÿ™‚

On Saturday, we were mostly in the Auditorium (where Spitfires were built during WWII), then when we led everyone down to the Clubhouse for lunch, we took the usual site tour scenic route via the Sunken Garden and fish pond. Although Hursley is out in the country, seemingly the middle of nowhere, it’s actually on the bus-route from Winchester so we had an excellent turnout of about 30 people. IBM Hursley also has a lot of cool people who do cool things that we can tell people about (although one piece of feedback I heard from a LUG person was that they thought we didn’t talk enough about what IBM does!).

Although we had the House to ourselves, and everyone was free to stand around and chat in the Main Hall, most of the day revolved around talks in the Auditorium. It all kicked off at 11am with an introduction to IBM Hursley (and, of course, directions to the fire exits and toilets) from Anton. The inimitable Andy Stanford-Clark, fresh from a week of press interviews, enthused everyone till lunchtime with tales of mouse traps, MQTT, twittering houses, twittering ferries, water meters, and energy monitoring. I say ‘enthused’ but there must be a better term to describe the way the audience rushed the stage when Andy offered to sell Current Cost monitors at a discount…

After lunch, we had a collection of shorter talks on a range of topics:

  • I talked about InfoSlicer, the open source software that my Extreme Blue student team developed last Summer and IBM released under the GPL
  • Anton described the anatomy of Ubuntu packages (he’s the guy that provides Ubuntu users in IBM with the flawless packages we’ve come to rely on)
  • Tony Whitmore related his experiences of producing the popular Ubuntu UK Podcast – and pimped the upcoming OggCamp unconference
  • Adam Trickett, Chair of HantsLUG, gave out free books in return for promises of book reviews on the HantsLUG wiki

Then everyone just hung around chatting for ages.

It was a really enjoyable and relaxed day; kudos to Anton, Stephen, and John for organising it from the IBM end. Thanks also to the IBMers who came along and to the many HantsLUG members who turned up. I’d say it was a success and we should definitely do it again.

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