I have a little confession. I am terrible at BarCamps. Really bad at them. I have attended more than my share of them over the years and 100% believe they are brilliant, mind-altering, status quo challenging necessities for our community. I am just rubbish at them.
Saturday was my sixth Govcamp I think — I missed the first couple (though my drunken Twitter updates from a stag-do in Poland made an appearance at the very first one — thanks Justin!) and it is probably the only event for which I would leave my flat at 05.45 on a cold and wet Saturday morning for.
It felt like there was a genuine renewed energy around the place this year. I’m a big fan of the NAO as a venue (thanks Nick) and James did an amazing job emceeing the morning. I can’t ever remember so many first-timers pitching sessions — nor such a positive reaction to them doing so. I’ve certainly been prone to a bit of cynicism early on in the past but there really seemed to be a shared feeling of community and excitement.
The session pitches were also notable by what was missing — for the first time ever there was nothing specifically about social media and open data was much less prominent (though props to ODI for the game!) Also there seemed to be less us-vs-them-ness about it all — it wasn’t local vs central or GDS vs the world — it all felt a bit more inclusive- a bit more ‘we’re all in this together’.
I have this theory that the whole GDS resignation palaver a few months ago was actually a much needed shock to the system for the digital gov/civic tech type community — the burst of blogging, the #ofthegovernment tagging, a renewed ‘boldness’ (as Janet would say) in our interactions all sprinkled with just a little more openness again.
On the train home I was kicking myself as I really wanted to pitch a session about the reemergence of blogging (often via Medium) about peoples work in digital gov — it is the most prevalent it has been in years but judging by the DMs I get it isn’t without criticism and consequences and yet people continue. Maybe next year :)
Anyway back to why I’m bad at attending these events. I end up spending almost all my time around the fringes just chatting to folk. Yesterday I had great conversations with so many wonderful people who I like and admire — I didn’t however really attend any sessions for more than 5 minutes. I exercised the ‘law of two feet’ so often I was wearing out the soles of my trainers.
I’m not sure this really matters though — the power of Govcamp is the people and other than the slightly sporadic OpenTech it is the best time for me to interact with my Twitter timeline IRL and remind myself (if it is ever needed) how lucky I am to be a part of this community.
So thanks to everybody I chatted to yesterday.
Thanks to everybody brave enough to get up and pitch a session.
Thanks to all the amazing volunteers — apart from Harry who was a dreadful cloakroom attendant :)
Thank you to the sponsors — without whom the event really could’t happen but also maybe more importantly so many regional and niche events couldn’t happen.
Especially thanks to James, Nick and Baskers. Spectacular work again gang. Really.
See you all next year.