Outside of work, I attended my first technical event since the 2020 lockdown. A Barcamp is a community run conference where the attendees propose the talks they want to present. In past years, I have attended with an intention to speak, and in some cases present several talks.
The first talk I attended was a talk by Patrick Hurley who was asking people to propose ideas to that would benefit people in the north of England. These will be written up into a book and used as inspiration for projects big and small. Well worth a look! 100ideasnorth.org
I missed the next slot, as I was making my way around groups of people I’d not spoken to for a while, but then my next talk of interest was “I’m an AWS Engineer… Ask me Anything (we’re hiring)” by Martin. I didn’t know anyone else from AWS was going to be there, so I went, if only to introduce myself and say hi… Well, one thing lead to another, and then I found myself joining Martin answering questions from my perspective in a different part of the organisation. I loved this session, and I’m really glad to have caught up with Martin, if only because he was such a lovely man and so enthusiastic about everything he was talking about!
After that, I went to the talk about Living in Japan by Fran. This was a quick ad-hoc talk, but totally adorable because it was just completely heartfelt and had loads of questions that were answered with fab anecdotes about life at a ladies-only university outside Tokyo… the questions were really good too!
Over lunch and slot 5, I put together a talk about my boardgame collection, and agreed to co-host a talk about working at AWS with Martin again.
I also found myself in a small talk, hosted by Harper, the 8 year old daughter of one of the attendees, who was very keen to present her first talk. It was a beautiful and well delivered talk about the elements of a pen, her favourite pen and what each element is for. She also fielded questions from the audience with a lot of confidence and spoke with great authority. She was fab, and I made a point of letting everyone I saw know about her talk!
I went to a talk in Slot 6 called “Dude, where’s my meetup” – a slightly confused talk which seemed to be asking “what happened to all the groups that met up in Manchester”, while also not being clear whether it was asking “and who’s going to run them again now we’re all meeting back up” or “why haven’t they restarted” or “what is replacing them” or even “why aren’t the groups which have restarted making more noise about themselves to make them found”… I plugged the North West UK Tech Community and encouraged groups to register themselves on there, and individuals to help clean out older groups that have closed.
I gave my talk on the Board Game spreadsheet I have created, and got a great couple of ideas on categorising the games we have, and whether expansions should be games in their own right, or not. Several people took links away, and I picked up this great alternative version that I could be reusing!
Next up was the conversation with the audience about working at AWS. Lots of really good questions again, and Martin and I developed quite a good raport. I think we’ll be trying to do things like these talks again!
After that session, I spoke to one of the audience members from the AWS session about being recruited by AWS, and then to another person about how they were using AWS. I really enjoyed being part of a conversation about how other people see AWS – I know it’s a lot of my day job, but it was just a nice reassurance that it’s not just something I can do inside my working hours!
Then we had the wrap-up, and there were lots of claps and cheers for the organising team and for anyone who spoke at the event. Great work everyone!
Afterwards, I went to the pub with some people who used to go to Geekup (and it was glorious!) and then made my way home.
All in all, a great day, and I’m looking forward to the next one!
Firstly, an apology! It’s more than a week after OggCamp. I’m quite aware that this is very very late for me!
About OggCamp for those who weren’t there!
OggCamp is an annual semi-scheduled Unconference. An Unconference (sometimes known as a “BarCamp”) is where when you arrive on the first day, the schedule (also known as the “Grid”) is blank, with a stack of post-it notes next to the grid. You’re encouraged to put talks on the grid, and keep checking the grid to see what’s up next.
OggCamp is a conference which encourages people to talk about Free Culture (Free and Open Source Software, Open Hardware, Creative Commons Content) and other permissively licensed works. It’s also a “Geeky” conference, so games will often appear, they encourage hardware makers to attend, and this year the event also contained “FlawCon”, a security conference, so the event also had a higher-than-usual proportion of Infosec people there!
OggCamp was started by podcasters in 2009, and so there’s usually at least one or two podcasts being recorded. This year, there was a panel session, Linux Outlaws “rode for one last time”, Hacker Public Radio (HPR) were out and about to talk to people at the event, and the podcast I co-host, The Admin Admin Podcast, found a quiet spot to record a show too. Sadly, with the exception of my own podcast recording, I didn’t make it to any of the other recordings I mentioned, as I was attending talks by other people at those times.
Differences, for me, from previous years
Since OggCamp ’10, I was either not at the event (on the years each of my children were born), was running the Talk Scheduling Software; CampFireManager, crewing, or organising the event. This was the first year I managed to get to see talks all day since the very first OggCamp, so that was a big change for me.
This year, Lorna organised the grid, from right in front of it. Except for the welcome and closing talks, I don’t think she left the grid for the entire day both days. In previous years, when we weren’t using CampFireManager, the grid was left unattended, with an occasional drive-by crew member transferring the grid to Joind.In. Talking of which, here’s the Joind.In view of Saturday…
I went to the “Opening Talk” first. This is your usual “Here’s how to get on the Wi-fi, here’s how to participate, here’s the sort of things we want from you” talk, and was run by Dan and Lorna.
OpenBenches is a project that records what is on the plaques on benches that people arrange for their relatives, sometimes when they die. I’ve been aware of this project for some time, but never contributed. Until now I thought you had to manually type in what was on each plaque (and I think, at the beginning you had to), but NO, they’re now doing Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to copy the text out of the photos.
The talk discussed the statistics of the project, the technology stack and why the project was started. It was just lovely and really well delivered.
Jeroen first attended OggCamp last year, giving a talk about Mainframes. This year he was back, talking about running a project with a very small community. Before he got to that though, he wanted to talk about self publishing. He endorsed Lulu for paper printing, AsciiDoc and AsciiDoctor to produce the content (PanDoc to convert between formats, if you started with something that isn’t AsciiDoc(tor)) and then Inkscape to create the cover. I asked him if he would suggest anything for eBooks, but he doesn’t create eBooks so couldn’t make any suggestions.
We got a demo of publishing a finished book on Lulu, with a running translation from Jeroen’s native language :) It was a great talk, and very well delivered in 25 minutes!
After that, I gave a late-pitched talk on Time Based Security (TBS). I made a few mistakes here – not least of which was failing to charge my laptop having used it while I was travelling in – so my laptop wouldn’t actually boot… I couldn’t even put up a single slide with my details! Trying to explain the maths around TBS without something to show it is hard, and involves walking around and waving your hands about. I had about 20 people in the room and I felt woefully underprepared.
Because I ended up running much shorter than I expected, I also started to bring in other material from the Analogue Network Security book (pictured above, with post-it-note reference markers for my review) that I’m currently writing a review on. This was my next mistake. So, I mentioned about feedback loops (which about 1/3 of the book is about) and that in the later sections of the book it’s mentioned that this can improve workflow where you need sign-off to complete changes. I mixed up a few terms and it sounded like I was endorsing having changes made without approvals. I tried to pull it back, but not having brought the book with me or having enough experience in vocalising the material… yehr, it was never going to go well. Oh well, I’m hoping to get the review nailed down and then start writing proper presentations on the matter, so I can try and deliver it better next year!
After I gave my talk, I headed to see Neil give an ad-hoc talk about Repair Day. Neil had a collection of pages he wanted to show off. Neil works with The Restart Project to help people fix their own broken things, not just computers (which is Neil’s area of interest) but also white goods, radios, home electronics, clothes and furniture.
I went to Anna’s talk next. I went in, amongst other reasons, because thought I would be going in to support someone “new to Ubuntu”, and came out stunned at how well the talk was delivered!
Someone wise* wrote on twitter a few months ago something like “The point when someone new joins your team is when you get to challenge implied knowledge. If they ask ‘Why’ and you have to say ‘I don’t know’ it means you need to justify why you do something, and perhaps stop doing it.”
* Someone in this case means I can’t find the tweet!
In this case, I wanted to know what being “New” to Ubuntu (my preferred desktop Linux distribution right now) meant to people. Anna’s talk was fantastic, and got right to the heart of what someone new to Linux would feel like. She mentions downloading “things” from the Internet, setting them to be executable by everyone, and then running them. She also mentions running everything under “sudo” or as root, and then went into where she found she should put things. This was sprinkled with a lot of appropriate emojis. It was a really great talk.
After Anna’s talk, I went to a round-table session about meetup and event organisers. This was inspired by something new that Lorna had organised this year for the unconference schedule. Next to the board, showing what talks were going to be given, was another board asking for talks to be given. Someone had asked for a talk about organising meet-ups, and so several of the attendees who are organisers of local groups came together to give their views on how to start a group, how to motivate attendees to come to your groups, and how to keep the momentum going.
I’m sorry to say that this was one of the weaker sessions I went to over the weekend. Because no-one had really planned anything in this slot, and none of the people running the session were really comfortable in what they were delivering, it was hard to get any points out of the speakers, and there was very little interaction with the audience. This could have been run as a Q&A session from experienced group organisers, or even a round-table… but never mind!
Towards the end of the session, I stood up and asked about whether any groups like TechNW.UK existed in their regions, and asked people who organised groups like this to put pull requests to get their groups added to that website. I hope to see something come out of that!
After I left this session, I went to look at the exhibition hall and the Kids Track room.
In the exhibition hall was the Merch Stand, the grid, two stands that were apparently about musical things – one of which basically had a guitar and amp constantly being used by a very good musician. After that was Matrix.org, The FSFE, Hacker Public Radio. Along the other wall was a lock picking stand from FlawCon, Manchester Grey Hats and InfoSec Hoppers, a telepresence bot and more!
In the kids room were computers, micro:bits and willing instructors! It looked like a lot of fun for kids, but there wasn’t much room! I had a bit of a chat with a few friends I met along the way, before I went to see my co-host, Al, talking about Wireguard.
Al has been talking about Wireguard a few times over the past year-or-so, and wanted to give a talk about it. He’d planned to propose it for Sunday, but was encouraged by Lorna to talk about it on Saturday. As a result, he hadn’t had a chance to run though the demo he’d planned to give, and it tripped him up at the end of his demo, when the notes he was following mixed up private and public keys at each end… Aside from that, it was a great talk, and made me want to look at Wireguard again!
Kian is a friend of mine from days of old, and when he walked into the room I’d just been in for Al’s talk… I decided to sit in whatever he was talking about. Kian spoke to a small audience about hardware builds he’d done over the years, and the mishaps that had occurred on them. A very entertaining talk, albeit one that I couldn’t really empathise with, as I’ve not done any hardware builds since I did my Radio Amateur Exam. Hearing the story of the halloween pumpkin with eyes that were supposed to look at you was very funny though, and the videos really completed the story!
After the talks were done, I went to get dinner with my co-hosts from the Admin Admin podcast, and a few of the other attendees. After we were done, I went back to the venue, but couldn’t settle as I’d had a headache coming on.
While I was gearing up to leave, I ended up having a good chat with Ben Grubert, who changed my view somewhat on how to deliver a talk. He said that people, particularly those who are very process focused, struggle to explain something that links back to the goal, for example, explaining how to win at a board game. It made me completely re-think how my talk I wanted to give on Sunday would go, and I left soon after that conversation so I could re-write my talk. I’ve since gone on to share that advice with several other people!
At Barcamp Manchester 9, which I attended a few weeks before OggCamp, I missed a talk by Rachel. I saw a picture of one of her slides, and I think I might even have caught the last slide of it… Either way, I was desperately sad that I’d missed the talk, and so encouraged her to attend OggCamp to deliver it. Once I saw she was on the grid, I knew exactly where I was going!
Rachel’s talk did not fail to deliver. I’ve heard from lots and lots of people that they were moved by this talk. Rachel was talking about her life, mostly undiagnosed with Autism, ADHD and depression. She enriched the talk with fun comments, including asking someone to play the part of Romeo from Romeo and Juliet, and then asking him, without having seen the book, why he didn’t know his lines. It sounds quite brutal, but actually, it sets the scene quite well on her life. There’s a fantastic photo of the spectrum of issues related to autism that just keeps having more and more artefacts being added to it.
I’ve heard that she wants to take this talk to more people, businesses and conferences, so I won’t spoil any more of the surprises, but it’s a really powerful talk and I’d strongly encourage anyone to bring Rachel into their environment to hear her talk.
While sitting in Kian’s talk the day before, I missed a session on Ansible Security. I’d made the point, in the morning, of finding Michael from the Matrix Project who gave the talk, and they said that they’d planned to host a “Birds of A Feather” (BOF) session on the Sunday following the feedback from the talk.
I managed to make it to this session, but unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos.
Having been to the meet-up session the day before, I was partially dreading this session, as Ansible is something I’m still very keen on. I needn’t have worried, as Michael managed to control several very chatty people (myself very much included). He managed to engage people but then stop them from going on too much. I wish there was somewhere the people who attended this talk to join to catch up and share knowledge, but… oh well.
Next I went to a talk on the Java Open Street Map editor, JOSM. It was very much a show-and-tell “This is how I use the tool”, but I struggled to follow it, and, sadly left early.
LATE EDIT 2019-11-04: Stuart contacted my on Twitter to apologise for making his talk hard to follow. I wanted to add some extra notes. The problem I had was not with Stuart’s talk per-sey, but more that I couldn’t focus on the subject, and wasn’t sure if I wasn’t in the right head-space for the talk or perhaps I was just hungry. I wanted to become more involved in Open Street Map, and thought I could get a better idea on how to contribute from this talk, but as I said, I wasn’t tracking the content. I walked out more to clear my head than because I didn’t enjoy the talk.
I realised I was getting hungry, so went to Subway for my lunch, and came back refreshed in time to give my second talk.
This talk was on Secure Scuttlebutt (SSB), a decentralised social media platform. There were about 20 people in the audience, and I had some very sensible questions about the project. At the end of the talk, I’d encouraged three people to give it a try, two of whom fell at the first hurdle, and the third persisted in the bar at the end of the day, and has since connected with me on there. Woohoo!
The talk was a stark contrast to the talk I felt I’d not done justice to the day before, and I felt like I’d really nailed this talk. I’m still exceptionally grateful to Ben who’d pointed me in the right direction for the talk layout the night before.
At the end of my talk, I wandered around a bit – I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to see next, so instead I caught up with friends who also weren’t in talks. I bumped into Rachel, and recorded a quick promo for her speaking career and then saw some friends start a Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) game up in the exhibition area!
I made my way to Roger’s talk about Stream Sheets, an Internet Of Things (IoT) connected tool like Google Sheets. It can read content from MQTT, REST APIs and other similar data sources, tweak and convert them, and then publish them back again. All very interesting, although I’m unlikely to use it somewhere any time soon! I was glad though to popularise it with colleagues when I got back to work on Monday!
Jamie had talked at OggCamp ’18, and I was very glad to see him back at OggCamp this year – particularly on the main stage!
His talk was about self hosting and the Indie Web movement. He talked about why he self hosts, and what sort of content he “owns” when he can (spoiler: all of it!) He not only stores bookmarks in a public blog, but his Google Fit step counter results, his RSVPs to events and … yes, even blog posts. He talked about why he felt that you too should be part of the Indie Web.
After Jamie’s talk, was the annual rafflecast. A laptop was given away, but not to me (boo!) And then I went to record the Admin Admin Podcast.
On the way to Joe’s hotel (where we did this recording), I got us a bit lost, and ended up walking us clear across to the Northern Quarter of Manchester. We then had to walk back to just near Piccadilly station, where his hotel was! Oops. The show has since been released, if you want to hear us talking about OggCamp, and guest host Gary.
We went to the Lass O’Gowry pub for a drink before I had to catch my rail replacement bus home, and catch up on some sleep!
And that was OggCamp ’19. The featured image is of the OggCamp Grid on Saturday.
OggCamp are looking for someone to take over the organising in 2020 (supported by past organisers, like me!) so if you’re interested, please getintouch!
Notes: My first main stage show. Two questions proposed by the podcasters and a discussion with the audience. Slightly waffly on my part, mostly because I was tired. I also was taking the “mic around to the audience”. Skilfully mastered by Joe Ressington.
Well worth a listen – I’d like to know your views on anything raised in the podcast in the comments!
Notes: Very quick summary of what you can do with Amateur Radio. Trying to encourage people to take up Amateur Radio from an Open Source mind set. Followed up with two attendees, one who was licensed, another who might get a license. Felt good :)
Format: Website tabs. An ad-hoc walkthrough of installation documentation and using Sandstorm. (Partial repeat of a previous talk at OggCamp ’15). Beanbags and a small number of chairs. 20 attendees.
Slot: Day 1 (Saturday), Slot 1 (10:30-11:00)
Notes: Covered installing from curl | bash and mentioned PGP signing of installer. Covered installing apps and creating your own (might have confused people on this point). Demonstrated using apps with my own server, and installing apps too. Several follow-ups about why sandstorm and constraints in what to install it on, also about updates.