Sunday, 16 November 2008


Earlier this year I blogged about going to Barcamp North East. This was a stark contrast to the codeworks thinking digital conference, earlier the same week.

Barcamps sometimes refered to as unconferences tend to be the habitat of the stereotypically geek. There is no set itinerary in advance of the event, there is no charge for the event, everyone is encouraged to join in, and everyone has to contribute something to the event.

One of the great things i found about barcamp was that they are all about sharing, sharing ideas, sharing knowledge, sharing experiences even sharing equipment. No matter what your background, what your age, what your sex, what your experience or what your position in your day job. Everyone is equal at bar camp.

One of the most unfortunate parts of barcamp is that at the moment it is still a bit of an underground movement, widely heard of in the techie community, but less well known to the rest of society. The are also a hardcore of barcampers that travel great distances to attend as many barcamps as they can afford to get to.

So what is so special about this event in Sunderland? Well firstly it isn't a bar camp as we know it. It is in the bar camp tradition of being free, not having a predetermined speaker list or itinerary, but it differs in the way that its been promoted, there is no wiki, its not stricktly first come first served, certain groups and individuals are being specifically invited. But the reason for this is quite a good one. This event is not just aimed at the geeks among us, its aimed a getting a perfect balance between local community groups, local geeks and local councils, and to encourage them to learn from each others expertize.

Social networks are springing up all over on the internet, and while these groups have the technology to enable people to share and communicate they often don't understand how to build and sustain a strong community environment. Similarly local community groups often know all about their local communities and how to organize local services, activities and events, but are quite often lacking the technical know how to take that to the next level reaching to larger audiences and providing extended services via the internet. Local councils quite often want to help these groups and have the technology infrastructure in place to provide all sorts of assistance but without those groups providing them with the intormation they need, they are unable to help.

This community camp in Sunderland, is one of the first
i have heard of, of its kind, and there are very high hopes for the event, not is it taking some of the barcamp philosophy to the masses, but its doing it in a very specific environment, where with a bit of luck there can be some very tangible benefits.

Sunderland is a city that has a very strong industrial history in shipbuilding and coal mining, so while there has always been a strong community feel, its maybe not the place that springs to mind when you think of cutting edge technology, but maybe that is about to change.

Tara Hunt one of the original barcamp founders said that this kind of event that she likes best, where is its not just 'geeks' but also members of the local community, she also said that these sort of events are really hard work but that they can be really rewarding.

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