Barcamp Blackpool - 3rd July 2010 Review

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Barcamp Blackpool was fantastic. Me and Chris went for the first time last Saturday and spent pretty much all day in awe of what others knew.
We started off with a big group introductions and reminded of the sponsors for the day (most of who had a rep turn up, apart from Yahoo - hmmm, I'm not going to start on that one). There was a nice big ice breaker in the Tower room before everyone descended towards "The Board". The concept was not alien to me and it had been written about from the last Barcamp in the archives on their website, so we were versed. Everyone who wants to run a workshop puts a post-it on the board corresponding with a time and room. Then those who want to learn about said topic can turn up at that time in that room. Simple.
Simple... until our first workshop – “Xdebug – Php debugging” - the best of the lot as we were concerned, I don't think many people ever want to go first, do they?
Well, talk about being thrown in the deep end. It was like some foreign language, where you pick up the odd work or two. "php" "zen studio" and "php.ini file" were pretty much all I got and wrote down. Ok, so it wasn't the most useful of sessions for us, but it did give an insight into the world of it/web (I'm not sure what people in the field would label it AS), and the people and logics behind it. I learnt a lot about dynamics and the people involved, less so about a programme that apparently sorts out your errors in php into nice pretty boxes - sorry if that sounds offensive, that is honestly what I understood from a complete leys point of view.
The next session was “SSD, Flash and HD Drives”, but before that we managed to get the end of what would have sounded like a quite interesting talk. The guy who was finishing his session was talking about where you can keep an online note of what book and page you are on - a dangly bookmark come to mind? The only downside of that (apart from needing internet access to view the page number you've forgotten) is you have to sign up for yet another account - this time twitter. *Twitter is another blog for another day I think.* He also mentioned "" but I've yet to find the correct link for that, it was all about the idea of everything becoming digital and the real life books falling into the charity box of doom aside the latest Ipad or smart phone. *Again I think that's a whole new blog right there too.*
Then we sat down for what we interpreted (and at first we just read flash on the post-it) to be a how-to use flash to build something like a programme etc. Alas, we sat politely through about 3/4's of a workshop with the guy talking about how different types of drive e.g. a flash drive=what I know to be a pen drive, dealt with the addition and removal of small bits of data - quite interesting, but again a little too over our heads it was laughable. He did mention for anyone interested a "Linus rant" which talks about how a device should be arrange according to how it is best utilitised, rather than about the process of the operating system. I learnt that Firefox slows down your computer, unless you know how to move the temp files into the first tiny space on the drive you see used when you partition something. I also saw someone checking a site called Jquery - that might be of interest.
Then we got the last bit of a session on Twitter and learnt what a hashtag was, or at least the word. There's also a site that one of the guys that was running a workshop ran called - a website to check detailed info on you or another person’s twitter account and activities.
Then a session by Tim (by this time I was writing down names) about “How to avoid getting your software stolen.” He told us of his personal experience of someone stealing and altering his software and the legalities and hassle that caused.
He mentioned to try and research all you can on that said person who you know (but have to prove) is stealing your software. Looking at sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Google and Odesk. He also mentioned a concept called Walled Garden that I’m not familiar with – that’s one for Google. Then ran us through the different ways of making money from a product – selling the support rather than the service if open source, or selling your product on the basis of your support being top rate. I learnt that an “enterprise” version of a programme can be little more than a change in logo and most support charged either yearly rates or an hourly fee. There was mention of trying to secure your programme with encoding but it was suggested for that to work on all platforms it would have to be pretty much open to hacking. He suggested using the hack community to get feedback and suggestions on how to improve the product and how the easiest way to hack something is to search for the version of the “decoder.dll” that was corresponding. A very interesting talk that made more sense than most.
Next up was the only session I’d pre-planned to go to – “The Girl Geek Tea Party”, run by Sam.
A “Html Express Intro”, covering what html meant (hyper text markup language), opening and closing “tags” and the different types. Then we got to try stuff out with a brilliant facilitated how-to. Compliments to Sam for a great presentation. She finished by covering the concept of style sheets and gave us links to further info and reading. Fab and the most understandable session of Barcamp. I’d been meaning to go to a Girl Geek event for months and wasn’t disappointed.
The next session was about “Starting your own business with little or no money” which could have been interesting for people very first starting out thinking about the idea of a business, but a little too basic for me. I did find it interesting however, the amount of emphasis on looking a bigger company than you were – having a call centre in Manchester take a message for you, to be honest I found that a little unnerving. However he then mentioned some interesting websites – GBBO (a Google website for businesses) and Moonfruit a WYSIWYG website builder.
Nearing the end of the day we took a short workshop on “Open Source Remote Desktop Programme” called Avian Waves. A very similar programme to Logmein I thought. I found that it would be more use as a support service logging into someone else’s server and having connections to hundreds of pc’s; rather than a programme you would log in to see your laptop at home’s screen while you were out.
Then the final session we attended of the day (the sessions carried on till early evening) was about “Sociograms.” I’d done some work with sociograms a long time ago with a drama group, using them to detail connections between characters. In this session it was more in terms of children in a classroom environment, so not so great for us.

We left Blackpool and it’s Pleasure Beach Paradise Lounge behind us carry our bag of swag with us. Thanks to everyone who made the day happen and the sponsors for providing the Pie and Peas (yum), the 1GB memory stick, the rock (shame it wasn’t strawberry flavoured) and the great grey t-shirt with the lovely logo incorporating Blackpool tower on. (I was also impressed there were “ladies” sizes in the t-shirts as we so often get overlooked and left with a massive “S” sized t-shirt with the feeling you’re wearing a bin-bag around your waist. I’ve got my operators T-shirt from Digidesign and I doubt I’ll wear it that much as it’s MASSIVE.)
But most of all we left with a sense of adventure and a feeling of trying something new, and liking it. We will be back.