As per the meme, here are my 20 points on Gov Camp UK.
Sign up early.
I dawdled and so was only able to get a ticket for Saturday. I feel like I missed out on a lot of interesting conversations.
BarCamps should be recorded for posterity.
It’s a point I’ve made before. Cameras and disk space are so cheap, we should record what we say and do at BarCamps by default. Now, that may inhibit some of the conversations and reduce the “Chatham House” aspect – but individuals can decide whether or not they’re happy for their sessions to be recorded.
Take business cards.
Take lots of business cards. So many serendipitous meetings that it’s hard to remember who’s who. Make sure that your business card carries your Twitter name.
Don’t take a laptop (or, at the very least, use it rarely).
As I sat down in one session, a woman said to me “Gosh! You can tell it’s a techie event; every one is using their laptops and no one is talking to each other.” She was absolutely right. The day is mostly about communication and – while Twitter is great for that – nothing beats turning to the person sitting next to you and having a natter.
I think it’s an immutable law of BarCamp that everyone has to present. Even if it’s just standing up and saying who you are.
Guaging interest is hard.
I ran two sessions, one only filled up about a fifth of the cavernous space I booked – which was pretty embarrassing. The other was so full it had people sitting on the floor. Don’t be afraid of moving rooms – but make sure you let everyone know where you are going.
WordPress is really popular.
I was surprised by how many attendees were WordPress aficionados. It’s good to see that Government isn’t entirely tied up in proprietary crap.
QR codes generate a lot of interest.
The session I ran on QR was well attended and produced lots of positive feedback. Some people are just starting out with QR and there were loads of great ideas on how they could be used.
The police have an odd sense of humour.
One was wearing a shirt which read “Keep Calm and Carry Baton Rounds” the other, in his introduction, said “I work for the police, previously I was at Rentokill. It’s basically the same job!” While I appreciate near the knuckle humour and value free expression, I found the two incidents made me really uncomfortable. Had I turned up wearing a “Burn down the Government” t-shirt, I doubt I would have received a positive welcome. Still, I’d rather people felt free to express themselves at a BarCamp than not.
HMRC will happily let you take the piss out of them.
They’re very good sports and lovely people in real life.
Government needs more freedom to innovate.
That was a moan that I heard from several people. They wanted to do amazing things with the knowledge they’d gleaned – but getting sign off in a risk adverse, budget conscious department is tricky.
Building should mean building.
The second day was meant to be about getting people to build, create, or make stuff. In my WordPress session, I asked for volunteers to upgrade their blog to WordPress Mobile Pack live on stage. Amazingly, three did! Now, none of them where major Government sites(!) but it showed people were willing to take a risk and build things.
Perhaps the grid needs curating?
There were too many sessions in the first timeslot, and empty rooms later in the afternoon. There’s no way of judging how popular a slot will be, so many sessions were in an room that didn’t suit the attendees.
There’s no such thing as a silly question.
As a presenter, it’s really important not to dismiss a question. If someone hasn’t understood something basic, it’s more likely to be the presenter at fault than the person asking the question.
Government needs to celebrate their successes more loudly.
I saw some amazing websites, prototypes, and service – none of which I’d heard about. I think it’s entirely appropriate for people to make some noise about things they’ve done well.
For a technology conference – there were more than 3 women! A lot more! It’s a common moan in IT that the industry has trouble attracting women. Perhaps they all work in local government?
Not Many Female Presenters.
Perhaps it was the sessions I went to, or perhaps they all presented on day one – but there didn’t seem to be many women presenting. I wonder if this is something which needs to be addressed?
Big Business Isn’t Much different
Everyone goes on about how inefficient Government is and how they’re usless at getting anything done. All the complaints I heard from Government people were the same as those that I’ve heard while working at big businesses. And start-ups. Every organisation has inefficiencies.
I was too busy chatting to snap anything. Luckily there’s a rather good set on flickr.
A great day, thought provoking, useful. I hope I convinced some people about why mobile is important and how awesome QR codes are.