CampFireManager Workshop

NOTE: Images have been removed from this post 2017-05-02

What is CampFireManager?

CampFireManager is a tool to schedule talks at a Conference or Unconference (such as a barcamp). It is written in PHP and uses a MySQL backend to store the data about the event. It optionally can use SMS messaging and Microblogging services (like or Twitter) to perform routine tasks on the system.

A modified version (CampFireManager-Lite) of CampFireManager was recently used at OggCamp ’10, in combination with tools created by Xibo. Here’s a look at what you would have seen if you were there:


This is the main timetable. Note, it only shows two talks before “now”, the talk on “now” and the next 6 slot’s worth of talks. This caused us problems on the Saturday afternoon when we tried to display the timetable for the next day. The only way we could do that was to change the system time on the server.

This is the now and next screen for the main stage, and a screen showing similar information for each of the stages. By default, each screen shows, in turn, the timetable, the “now and next” screen for all stages and then the “now and next” screen for each individual screen. This is entered by the database, but should *really* have been configured at the screen.

Administration was performed by organisers. Data was collected on sheets, and then entered into the system. Using an in-built version of the timetable, these were placed into the appropriate slots in the timetable, which then updated all the other screens.

This, however, isn’t how I originally envisaged CampFireManager. The full version of CampFireManager is designed to operate with minimal administrative overhead from on-site staff.


Users (as well as support staff and administrators) would log into the website using OpenID. Several common providers are pre-populated and available using icons to select them.

On logging in, all users initially see a timetable, with no definitions of rooms, but with the complete timetable for this day. At the top, under the “Slot” times, is a hyperlink showing “New Talk”. Clicking on this brings you to a page where you can enter your talk proposal. Clicking on “Go” inserts that talk into your timetable.

If you wanted to enter some contact details for your talk (so that your peers at the event can reach you), this is done by clicking on “Amend Contact Details”, and entering your details. This will retrospectively correct your details on all the talks you’re giving.

By clicking on “Add other access method” – you can add an “authorization code” (which is a 5 character string of case sensitive, non-similarly rendered letters and numbers) to allow you to update your talks, your contact details or the talks you’ll be attending from other communication methods – SMS or XMPP being the two primary examples.

However, I realised that I could use this access method logic to allow administrators the ability to grant administrative access to other organisers, or to promote staff to “Support” staff. In the same way you’d enter a 5 character string to give the same rights to your phone as your web access, you could enter a 9 character string (again, non-similarly rendered, case sensitive letters and numbers) to become an administrator or support staff member. Here you see an Administrator’s view of the timetable, which adds two extra options at the top box – Provide support to attendees and modify config values.

So, let’s support an attendee. We enter some details, either their Auth Code (if they know it), or some details about them they entered previously – a blog address, e-mail, some other contact method, or in extreme cases, their name. If we’ve had to use any form of wildcard in the search (that is, I typed “Jon” into the name box), then we get prompted to confirm it’s them, and can give them their unique Auth Code. If they’ve not registered on the site, then click on Create New Auth Code to create a new user. In either case, we get a page showing “This is with an AuthCode: ". From here we can amend their contact details, propose a new talk on their behalf, or if there's a talk in the future, show their attendance (which, to be fair, here I couldn't do, as I'd not created a talk for them to attend).

Here’s the administrative screen, where you see options that have configured the screens and access methods.

There’s a mobile interface to the site, which is quite similar to the support staff’s view of the site, and again it uses OpenID to authenticate. It gives the user access to a slimmed down portal – showing all talks which are yet to occur (allowing the user to show or remove their attendance), just this user’s talks yet to occur, and allowing the user to add a new talk and amend their contact details.

That is all the interactive screens shown, so here’s the two most regularly seen, non-interactive screens, both with a scrolling box between the event title and the content saying (in this instance):

Phones: 07 88 24 64 91 8 on the Three Network (with 18% signal)
Mobile site:
Event Hashtag: #oc10
Identify with this service by sending
I <your name> [email:your@email.address] []
(there are more options for identification by going to the website)
Propose a talk by sending P <Time Slot> <Slots Used> <Talk Title>
Cancel a talk by sending C <Talk Number> <Time Slot> [Reason]
Rename a talk by sending E <Talk Number> <Time Slot> <New Talk Title>
Attend a talk by sending A <Talk Number>
Decline the attendance of a talk by sending R <Talk Number>
Note: You can combine multiple A and R commands in one message.
Statements surrounded with <> are mandatory options, those statements surrounded with [] are optional.
These commands should be sent to your preferred mobile service listed above.

The Timetable:

And the “Direction” screens (like the now and next screens on the CampFireManager-Lite):

The above URLs do work, and the system is available for experimentation. The code and ticket tracker (if you want to run your own, local, instance) is at Please contact me if you want to get access to my instance of CampFireManager from an administrative or support perspective. Please note, the SMS engine is not running.


He/Him. Husband and father. Linux advocating geek. Co-Host on the AdminAdmin Podcast, occasional conference speaker.

One thought to “CampFireManager Workshop”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.