So ThingsCamp 4 is over and we thoroughly enjoyed spending our Saturday with such a great bunch of people. Aside from the specific thanks and the general expression of warm fuzziness this post is an attempt to make some sense of what we’ve learned from 4 (and a half) outings.
Adapting the Unconference Format
Unconferences are great. Getting a group of people together to talk about what they want rather than everyone listening to programmed speakers on a stage is more powerful than you might imagine, if you’ve never experienced it. People have almost unlimited reserves of knowledge and curiosity, so bringing all of that together makes complete sense.
Having said that, using the unconference format is a real challenge when you want to include hands-on sessions and space for people to make things. It’s important not to be too prescriptive with what people do, but at the same time it’s a shame not to make everyone aware of what’s possible. We wrote a post before ThingsCamp 4 to help people start thinking about this, but we also did our best on the day to make it happen.
Keen readers will of course point out that the Name “ThingsCamp” as with all [Something]Camp events actually refers to BarCamps, which originated in technology circles. It’s true, but the breadth of themes now using the name means that attendees can expect all sort of different things. We hope that we were able to get the balance right this time. We hope the people who came will let us know.
This diversity of session type is important. We run an event around IoT for all sorts of reasons—one of them being that we love doing it—but most relevant would be these:
- IoT provides a great entry point to understanding some very sophisticated technologies.
- IoT is increasingly a part of our cities and homes and yet we rarely have an input into how it works, who owns it and how we can take control of it.
- IoT is a major conduit of our personal data.
- IoT raises all sort of ethical and design considerations that apply way beyond the technologies themselves.
- IoT can be used for good things and bad things and it should be up to everyone to decide which.
- Playing with IoT can be a lot of fun in its own right and we can make things for ourselves.
This initial list suggests that we need to explore the topic in many different ways. And that is always what we’ve hoped ThingsCamp would allow for.
As suggested by the list above, a key theme running through ThingsCamp is participation. We’ve always worked hard to make the events inclusive, diverse and open to different viewpoints. But more importantly, we’re keen to bridge the gap between those considered to be users and “producers” (or providers). It’s easy when we work with companies or central or local government to think of certain people as “other”—the people we do something for—when in fact we are all users, consumers and citizens.
All Kinds of Sustainability
Finally, one of the driving ambitions behind ThingsCamp is to make something that doesn’t just exist for now; the world of people and technology can be very short term, whether it’s product life spans or funded projects. We’re trying to do the opposite: to create something that’s around for as long as people want it; and that explores what technology means for the future, whether that’s for us personally or in its wider impact.
With that in mind, we’re currently exploring the location for ThingsCamp 5 and beyond. If you want to help us in any way just get in touch. If you just want to be kept updated on our progress you can sign up for our mailing list here. Let us know how you’d like to get involved; it’ll shape what we do.
We’d really like to thank the generosity of Valtech, Hackney Council, Islington Council and UKGovCamp for making ThingsCamp 4 possible. And, of course, we want to thank everyone who came on the day and made it memorable.