The spirit of BarCamp is alive and well in Manchester – #BCMCR5

Excuse how overdue this blog post is… but how awesome was BarCamp Manchester?! It seems the spirit of BarCamp is alive and well in our city and that’s reassuring. With so much focus on tech startups, venture capital and, frankly, short-term money making, I’d begun to wonder whether the geek community that helped drive much of Manchester’s meteoric rise as a place to do digital was beginning to get squeezed out. Where were the hackers who hacked for hacking’s sake?

So I admit, it was with a slightly sceptical mind that I approached BarCampManchester5 – held in TechHub ManchesterSpacePort, I was fully expecting a weekend of being pitched at and recruited.

I was completely wrong (and maybe exaggerating just a tad).

BarCamp Manchester had all the great things about a BarCamp – in abundance.

SpacePort proved to be a fantastic venue with the organisers having negotiated with the residents who generously let us use the space. Sheila Bird Group also allowed the use of the space next door on the same floor which allowed for an incredible number of simultaneous sessions. There was plenty of food – perhaps a little too much, despite the organisers serious efforts to control waste. And there was WiFi. My word was there good WiFi, thanks to SpacePort residents Telcom. There were even plenty of projectors for most of the spaces which has often been a big problem in the past.

But most importantly, there were the people. At the opening plenary, it turned out to be a 50/50 split between newbies and old hands, which is a pretty good mix for what’s arguably a niche event.

My day at BarCamp Manchester was pretty varied. I kicked it off listening to the Ian “The” Forrester himself discuss, “what is a geek?”. Although I’ve heard it many times before, it’s always satisfying to see the group reach the same conclusion.

Later, I enjoyed the event’s unofficial keynote:

…yes, it was Ian again! But this time, being interviewed by friend and colleague Tim. I caught most of it on video so I’ll get around to uploading it eventually.

I was pretty impressed at Ian’s candid responses and Tim‘s interviewing skill makes me think David Frost’s shoes will soon be filled.

I also surprised myself by running a session. Tim and I had chatted earlier in the day about sharing some of our thoughts on how to grow new business without using typical “sales” tactics. We’re really keen to promote what feels like the “right” way to do business – a way that we, and customers, are both happy with  – rather than the typical “used car salesman” approach that is the touchstone for many commodity businesses.

So towards the end of the first day, we managed to cobble something together.

Our main thrust was to “optimise for happiness” – meaning, do the thing that will make your serious potential customer happy in the long run. There’s a lot more to it – I even came up with a tweetable quote – and maybe I’ll write something specific in due course. But BarCamp Manchester was a brilliant place to try this out.

Of course, no BarCamp in Manchester could be complete without games. Following the charmingly ridiculous SlideShare karaoke (and the pizza mountain), I instigated a lolworthy game of charades. But that was only the appetiser: the main course was werewolf!

Werewolf is a brilliant game – sometimes an acquired taste, but everyone seemed to get into it pretty quickly. With a mix competitive, experienced players and people who’d never played before, it was bound to be heady.

Someone even captured a timelapse of the multiple games in play:

In conclusion, BarCamp Manchester was pretty great and well-exceeded my expectations. I loved catching up with old friends and meeting new people, learning new things and even giving a talk. Werewolf was well worth it and it’s just a shame I couldn’t come back the next day. If you missed it, catch up on the event’s social media shares.

Congratulations to the organising team – Claire, Shaf, Ian – and a huge thank you to everyone who made this possible. Roll on BarCamp Manchester 6…