EMF 2024 - A Quick Retrospective

Six years ago, I went to my first EMF Camp. The next event was cancelled by Covid. The one after that saw me come down with Covid - although I presented remotely.

So I was beyond thrilled to be able to attend & speak this year.

There's always a risk that you can never recapture the magic of your youth. But EMF is consistently brilliant. A delightful alternative reality of robots, lasers, art, lasers, music, lasers, technical talks, lasers, and strange lights in the sky.


Selfie of me in front of a Tesla Coil. A big metal tube shooting sparks.

All the talks I went to were brilliant. Most of the talks I missed were also brilliant and I'm enjoying watching the catch-up streams. I took loads of silly photos, sat under an inverted fire pit, and talked to hundreds of lovely people. Oh, and watched my brilliant wife be Thor - the host of lightning talks.

I volunteered a couple of times (which was a rewarding experience) and got some meal vouchers for my troubles. Result! All the volunteers seemed to be having a whale of a time. Great seeing people pull together to make something special.

There was decent WiFi all over the field. I don't get the appeal of DECT phones - but they were ubiquitous.

Even the toilets were great! Seriously, it felt like luxury for a festival.

There was far too much to do. I didn't even try any of the CTF games or puzzles, I managed to play one arcade machine (plus a laser-projected Asteroids game), and only sampled a few of the beers available. My petition is to make EMF a 2 week festival in order to allow me to enjoy all of it 😄

Bug Reports

All the bugs from my previous visit had been squashed. Presenters were all made to do laptop checks before presenting. There were no airhorns or howling in the middle of the night. Food stalls were relatively quick. All the Q&A happened away from the main stage. And diversity was much improved.

But, what is life if not full of the joys of complaining? Treat these kvetches as minor irritants.

  • P4 - I went to a workshop which wasn't well designed. Despite being advertised for beginners, the instructor seemed bemused and annoyed that people were asking for help with the basics.
  • P3 - The Night Market was a bit cramped. Half a dozen vendors in a single shipping container made it hard to browse and chat. While commerce isn't the primary aim of the festival, it would have been nice to have more space to view all the wares.
  • P3 - Official communications were a bit fragmented. There was Mastodon, and Signal groups, and Matrix/IRC, and probably more that I missed. It's great to have a variety of channels - but it was slightly overwhelming trying to check them all.
  • P2 - Stage B had a pillar in front of the centre of the stage, which made it a bit awkward to see what was going on sometimes.
  • P1 - The bar ran out of cider on the last night!!!! OK, it was pretty impressive that we collectively drank the bar dry 😂
  • P1 - The badges...

*sigh* I feel bad about ragging on the badges. They're high-tech gizmos obviously made with love. But if you're selling a gadget, I think it is reasonable for people to expect it to work. As in previous years, badges weren't generally available until later in the festival. When I did get mine, it just didn't work. The software crashed trying to update itself and the promised app store also didn't work. I don't think I saw anyone using it to display their name.

I know that the logistics of shipping hardware and getting software working is a difficult process. And I saw the team working flat-out to resolve the issues. The badge tent was full of helpful people and other attendees were willing to share tips. But I can't help feeling that these teething issues should have been solved a few weeks before launch.

Ah well, I'm sure it'll all be working by 2026!


I made a small tactical error by camping near to Null Sector. Surprisingly, I was able to sleep through the bone-rattling Drum and/or Bass. I suppose walking for miles in a field will do that! Even so, I came back from EMF feeling like my brain had been energised and my creativity had been given a super-boost.

I don't think I want to give a talk at the next one - I loved the experience, but it's time for more new faces. Instead - I want to see if I can build something delightfully delirious. Perhaps a multi-player collaborative game? Well, I've got two years to get it ready!


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7 thoughts on “EMF 2024 - A Quick Retrospective”

  1. said on tooter.wishy.co.uk:

    @Edent Hopefully the multi-year badge design will allow for something smoother next time.

    On the night market, it's probably not the easiest location to have a conversation with the vendors either!

    I like the move to mastodon over xitter. Most public comms came that way, but I can see why they had "volunteer chat" on something which delivers messages more quickly.

    Reply | Reply to original comment on tooter.wishy.co.uk
  2. said on prattle.org.uk:

    @Edent I'm sorry about the cider. I was 100 litres short of what I ordered for the event — my supplier turned up with 20 boxes instead of 25. Unfortunately I only found out on the delivery day (Wednesday) and it was too late to order more from elsewhere.

    (Also, I didn't know for sure that we needed it — cider consumption was increased last time by it being pretty much the only thing left on the Null Sector bar after the Saturday afternoon!)

    Reply | Reply to original comment on prattle.org.uk
  3. said on macaw.social:

    @Edent I think the badges are pretty good, I already have a lot of ideas for things that could be improved on the default experience, and there’s 2 whole years to level them up for another run. So I get your point about wanting a working out of the unbox experience for a paid-for thing, but I’m willing to forgive on this one. I share your “pillar in the middle of stage B” frustration!

    Reply | Reply to original comment on macaw.social

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