Same old faces – BarCamp Galway – Please change this

I was considering going to BarCamp Galway on September 22nd but looking at the talks, of which there only seem to be 8 now and looking at the attendees it seems to have turned into the cliquey event I suggested it might after attending BarCamp Waterford. Most of the people going I seem to know already via blogs and Twitter. I don’t know can I be arsed spending hours in a car each way to see people I see in a virtual form on a daily basis anyway. Were I to go right now I’d honestly only be going to give support to John who has himself traveled all around the county many times to give his support to so many events and is without doubt one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

As I said back then and I still stand by it now:

I fear the event is becoming far too cliquey. Yes, I’m sick of all your fucking faces after only two. I would like to suggest that next time, if you have been to a barcamp before you *have* to bring someone that hasn’t been to one but who you’d think would find benefit from one. I also think that preference should be given to those who haven’t presented before.

So folks, we need to bring along people who have not been before and we need to get an excess of speakers to talk about interesting stuff.

I was thinking of giving one of two talks, one would be on how to get press attention for your idea/company/campaign and give all the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. The other talk would be a version of the blog post I wrote on making things social. Call me precious but were I to do a talk, I’d want new people in the audience interspersed with your faces too but not a lot, you already know what I will say if you read this blog on a regular enough basis. Get me 30+ new faces and I’ll give a talk but I also want to attend interesting talks.

There are plenty of companies in Ireland who have 100s of talented people between them that can inspire and wow us with their ideas and thoughts, no matter how off-the-wall they are. Their employers whould be encouraging their creativity and let them loose on the public. These people alone could fill two Barcamps.

As for speakers, who would I like to see?

  • Haydn Shaughnessy to talk about his digital art gallery
  • John Ward to talk about Geocoding
  • Tom Murphy to talk about how PR is changing with the web
  • John Collison on “I made a fucking million and I’m still too young to vote”
  • John Handelaar about how Ireland is ideal for Internet radio
  • The girls from on how they created a blogging empire

I’d also like to see interesting unconference discussions on things such as “How tech can rig an election”, a legal discussion called “Getting away with murder in the modern surveillance society” and something like “Google passed me in the NCT”.

We’re a month out from BarCamp Galway, it would be nice to see another 20 or so speakers added before then a whole herd of new faces too. I’m not sure can BarCamps be sustained much longer if they do not start reaching out to more and more people, an evening in the pub would be as useful.

And lastly a note to Google who are saving 100s of Millions in Ireland with their tax dodging: SPONSOR A FUCKING TECH EVENT IN IRELAND YOU TIGHT BASTARDS*

*An event which YOU have not designed to be a pure recruitment event for yourselves.

41 Responses to “Same old faces – BarCamp Galway – Please change this”

  1. elly parker says:

    Although your tone will rub some people the wrong way, all your points are valid IMHO.

    I believe that there was more ‘buzz’ generated for the Waterford and Cork Barcamps and this in turn persuaded more people to come along, ensuring that it wasn’t all the same faces.

    @ Barcamp Dublin i don’t believe that we did as good a job, we relied heavily on the fact that it’s easier to get bigger crowds to events in Dublin. I didn’t attend Barcamp Belfast in part because there was no buzz, barely any posts and nothing to entice me.

    However, to contradict that, it’s also difficult to break mentions of these events into the mainstream media. If the same blogs report on all events, then the attendees are only drawn from the same pool time after time. I sent the press release on BarCamp Dublin out to about 40 press contacts and not one of them ran with it / contacted me. Not being ‘media-savvy’ like yourself, I’m not sure what more I could have done.

    BarCamps have an image of being stuffed with techy geeks – I tried to get the girls to attend the Dublin one but they weren’t interested as they felt it to be a purely geek event, even though I explained that it wasn’t… Perhaps it’s time to break out of the BarCamp mould and run a similar-style event but under a different name? Insist that no more that 50% of the talks can be geeky? Give the events a theme?

    Even the upcoming PodCamp is suffering from the same issues – my mum, Grannymar podcasts (OK, so they’re limited to her telling stories, but it’s still podcasting) and she kinda wants to go to PodCamp, but is scared that it will be stuffed full of geeks and she won’t follow what they are talking about…

    You are right, we need more interesting ‘general’ talks and they need to be in place at least a month before the event so that it can correctly be publicized.

  2. Claire says:

    I must admit I’m one of those who has never gone to a BarCamp event because I thought they were aimed at techie folk only.

  3. lexia says:

    Interesting post, Damien.

    I’ve never attended a BarCamp, so I can’t speculate on the ‘same old face’ syndrome. I work in IT and I love it – so geek talks are ok by me. However, I can simply d/load vid postcasts on many of the talk themes. Why attend a BarCamp if I can get similar, comparable talks for free while I sit at the kitchen table?

    What I would find incredibly interesting is taking more general purpose approach, a la Granny Mar’s and Elly’s suggestions. I’m not talking about a How-To on setting up WordPress, but rather a talk on the places where society, ethics and community meshes with technology. Bring on people who are tech enthusiasts, home-brewers, bloggers of note, PR people, researchers. Gather them all in a pot and boil it down.

    Personally, I’m seriously thinking about going to PodCamp. I hadn’t figured BarCamp Galway in my schedule.

  4. Well I’m a dirty Galwegian now – so I’d happily participate.

  5. Dave Davis says:

    I will most certainly be there. My first Barcamp. I am sure there will be more talks on by the time it comes.

  6. Evert says:

    You’re getting it all wrong.
    The sole purpose of Barcamp is for people to meet others that they already know through blogging, Facebook, Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce etc and talk about the same things they discuss virtually and how great they are!

    But honestly barcamp’s fault lies in the fact that it’s supposed the be an “un-conference” hence organisation is limited. To attract outsiders the evnt has to be more structured. I can invite whoever I want but a lot of people want to have a clearer picture of what will be discussed. OCC is even more loosely organised and suffers from the same problems. Possibilities of interesting discussions but the same chance that it will just be a geek0talk session…

  7. Aidan Finn says:

    Good post Damien.

    I’ve been to the last two Barcamps and there are quite a few people on the list for the next one that I don’t know or that I haven’t met before in person. There is a month left before Barcamp Galway so hopefully we can encourage lots more people to come along and get involved (posts like this help).

    The lack of speakers is a worry. I think people who have attended previously have probably given talks before and people who are attending for the first time are reluctant to give a talk. We should be more active about encouraging new people to give talks.

    Even if there aren’t a lot of new faces though, these events are a good opportunity to meet up with people in person who you mostly only know from online. Having a bunch of regulars who turn up to all these events is not a bad thing so long as they remain friendly and welcoming to newcomers.

    Regarding talks on non-techie subjects, anyone can talk about anything at Barcamp. All it takes is for someone to volunteer to give the talk.

  8. Ok you’ve me convinced. *Signs up*

  9. Sinéad says:

    Sorry to highjack your techie post, but seeing as you’re so good at organising things, myself and Annie Rhiannon have, ahem, nominated you to organise a mini blogger meet-up at the Electric Picnic. So there.

  10. Sinéad says:

    Jaysus, that was quick!

  11. Ina says:

    The Web is a social place.All of the above people Damien and more from non computer science disciplines are ALL welcome at DERI.Myself and Krishna De were both so surprised at the lack of women at the Barcamp event in Dublin.
    This puts the women that actually do go to such events, they are hardly going to recommend to all their friends to attend such a place again now are they? I dont remember any female friendly t-shirts either at Barcamp Dublin just one MASSIVE size fits all!
    Whats the point?I would wear the T-shirt and advertise it for free IF it fitted!!

    The Guardian has an article today about the feminization of the Web,,,2154392,00.html, its official now,that women spend more time online than men, yet women somehow dont feel terribly welcome at such events.

    People are social and are using the web to communicate various wants and needs that they have. The Web is not an elite place for geeks only and neither should Barcamp be.


  12. […] Damien rails about the same old cliquey gang going to Barcamp Galway. I’m not sure how to fix this one personally, apart from not attending […]

  13. Damien says:

    And for the love of god get rid of the Wiki. Wikis exclude all but geeks, nothing says you are not welcome more than a Wiki instead of a form. And WYSIWYG wikis are just wikis with stripes. If you want a greater catchment you need to design an event to their ability to sign up to it. Do you honestly expect someone to learn a new concept before they can attend an event?

  14. Aidan Finn says:

    Damien, people who don’t like wiki’s can sign up and/or volunteer to give a talk by emailing barcampgalway at

  15. Damien says:

    It might be worth updating the blog and Wiki with those details so and you see, that’s the rub there: “For those that don’t like Wikis”

  16. Tom Murphy says:

    Damien, Do you really want an unholy flack at Barcamp 🙂 TM

  17. If you want to get the people on the fringes to attend unconference events, you need to extend a personal welcome so they don’t feel out of place. When I go to these kinds of events, I try to convince a dozen students to follow in trail and maybe bribe them with some kind of academic credit. Whatever it takes to extend the gene pool because I’m starting to recognise some attendees by the way they walk up the street towards the venues. That’s not a good thing.

  18. Simon McGarr says:

    I went to one BarCamp, in Cork, and it was enjoyable. But I wouldn’t go again unless it looked and felt completely different.

    I think a name/identity change might be a start. But in reality, elly and Bernie are right when they say that if you want new people to come with new ideas and things to say, you have to actively seek them out, personally invite them and then make a special effort to make them feel welcome.

    Wikis shouldn’t be an option. Just take them down, for goodness sake. They tell me this isn’t for the likes of me before I even get there.

    Some suggestions: Contact the specialist message board owners and ask them to talk about building their communities. I know there are boards on dogs (karlin lillington runs one), on parenting (magicmum) and on getting married (weddingsonline). If you want to know where the potential female attendees are hiding, that’s where to look.

    Also, businesses have been started from those sites, building on the trust of the people using them. Get the moderators or owners to invite their community members to talk the conference up.

    If there were to be an influx from those necks of the woods, that would be worth a second look. But you’d have to start out by designing your whole conference to appeal (or at least not actively discourage) to a new audience/speaker pool.

    ‘BarCamp’, Wikis, people who talk to each other and ignore new faces at the event, Comic-Book-Guy sized t shirts? As the man leaning over the gate said when asked for directions “If I were trying to get there, I wouldn’t start from here.”

  19. Damien says:

    Perhaps there should be a group discussion entitled “The future of BarCamps in Ireland”?

  20. John says:

    I’m afraid I can’t make Barcamp this time. I’ll be entertaining a bunch of 3 year olds with my tales of geocoding at my son’s birthday party instead 🙂


  21. Damien says:

    Bet the invites will have the best damned maps and directions in them!

  22. Justin Mason says:

    well, if you get rid of the wiki, make it less geeky, and so on, it’s not a Bar Camp anymore — it’s an entirely different, non-geeky unconference. Bar Camps *are* geeky; they have to be! That’s the name of the game!

    Perhaps Ireland needs some kind of separate Non-Geek Camp event for people who are afraid of us nerds. 😉

    I’m surprised the college students aren’t coming along in their droves to present their ideas, personally. Maybe Ireland just doesn’t have the population to support it?

  23. elly parker says:

    @Ina – As an organiser of Barcamp Dublin we had plenty of small and medium t-shirts, I was sick of being stuck with huge sizes from previous events. I was handing these out and forcing people to try them on all morning to ensure that people got the right sizes.

    I will however admit that we only had normal-shaped t-shirts, no ‘baby-doll’ type. We looked at getting these but felt it would have been a waste of the sponsorship money compared to the price of the normal sizes.

    If we had known that more women were coming, then we would have had an argument for providing specific women’s shapes and sizes, but with less then 10% women signed up for an event where your crowd size ends up being anywhere between 50-70% of the actual sign-ups, it just wasn’t practical. Perhaps we could look at ordering these after the event for people that are interested if the sponsorship money stretches that far.

    I would also suggest the possibility of having a small ‘sub-event’ for women within the whole Barcamp, this might entice more women along.

  24. elly parker says:

    Oh yeah, and regarding wikis – I had an idea for BC Dublin that never got implemented…

    Michele Neylon from Blacknight purchased on my advise ages ago. Any future BarCamps in the island of Ireland should contact him and request usage of their sub-domain (BK will most likely look after the hosting as part of their sponsorship, they’ve been good to all the previous Barcamps) – i.e.

    On that sub-domain have the ‘What is BarCamp’ and a sign-up form as the main page. Have sub-pages for ‘location, direction and accommodation’, blog, attendees and talk lists. Make it clear and easily navigable.

    Is there anyone out there who is complaining about the wiki usage that would be willing to donate a few hours of coding time to developing a basic sign-up page that would then spit out the list of attendees onto another page?

    This would also mean that you would get the same info about each attendee in the same format. It would give the ability to send a couple of reminder emails nearer to the time and/or inform attendees about any changes, rather than trying to advise them via wikis and multiple blogs.

    Right then, so who’s going to stop their moaning and actually do something to fix this??

  25. […] Damien has a good post up with a bunch of comments, and I’m reposting one of my comments below. I have some ideas that I think would help the process, I have a framework for putting them into place, but I need a coder to volunteer some time to make it happen. Will any of you take my up on my challenge?? Oh yeah, and regarding wikis – I had an idea for BC Dublin that never got implemented… […]

  26. Maman Poulet says:

    Female friendly t-shirts will make bar camp more female friendly? Ah yeah Glenda to model them and all …. shakes head and thanks somebody it’s friday.

  27. Damien says:

    Suggesting that those who complain have to fix the issue with the Wiki is still not the best way of looking at it. It still means until someone comes forward, the Wiki will remain. To me an email address is better than the Wiki and always will be. You might as well tell people to sign up to Facebook and then install an widget in order to sign up to Barcamp. They’re the most user unfriendly pieces of tech I’ve seen in years.

    Since Blacknight is so good as to register, why don’t they build a registration system on top of it which can be used by all future Barcamp subdomains? Would get them a lot of respect.

  28. elly parker says:

    Damien – I’ve issued a challenge on my blog that Olivier Ansaldi took me up on. I’ve proposed a layout for placing over that will allow each future barcamp location (i.e. galway, cork, dublin) to have their own sub domain with an MT4 install that they control. Blacknight are willing to facilitate but they don’t want to become responsible for content, esp as they are a sponsor.

    Olivier has agreed to code a registration system that we can overlay on each sub domain that will spit out the attendees to the attendees page and the talks (I forgot proposed talks, but that’s as simple as adding a dropdown choice) to the talks page.

    I totally agree that the wikis are not the way to proceed, email still required regular human input to process, an automated system would work best. Using Moveable Type 4 we can allow the org team total control over their sub domain BUT also allow general users to register with edit permissions if so required so that they could edit the location page, etc, etc

  29. elly parker says:

    Oh and, see my proposal visually here – would be good to get feedback before we actually implement:

  30. Damien says:

    That would be an amazingly fantastic system and would be a great step forward to detechify these meetups.

  31. elly parker says:

    Thanks Damien. I was trying to make it easier while still leaving the system ‘open’ to allow any user to modify if they so wish.

  32. Justin Mason says:

    so you really think the problem of a lack of attendance is caused by a *wiki*?

  33. Damien says:

    People have directly said to me they didn’t bother going to previous BarCamps because the sign-up was so confusing/off-putting and it must be pure tech if that’s the process for signing-up. Seriously!

  34. Michele says:

    @Justin – a lot of people who are doing cool things with technology aren’t perl hackers 🙂 We have a lot of clients with amazing ideas to make use of the online space that get confused by things like wikis. Personally I view wikis as being useful in certain circumstances – such as internal documentation or collaborative public docs. As “hubs” they fail miserably.
    The way I see it BarCamps can be a fantastic way to introduce new ideas, talk about old ones in new ways and demystify technology. More women would be great!

    @Damien – I’m more than happy for us to provide the infrastructure for Elly’s ideas but we’re hosting, domains etc., We’re not programmers or developers 🙂

  35. @Justin – to reiterate what Damien said, I had multiple people tell me that they hadn’t a clue what to do on the wiki for BarCamp Cork and given how obtuse it was, they figured they were not the target audience and so skipped the day.

    In fact I had the CEO of a local software company recently tell me that they had no idea what a wiki was.

    We need to remember we live in a technology echo chamber and that “they should know” doesn’t cut it.

    They might be able to run BarCampBlock in SF but see how far you’d get trying to run that in The Liberties.

  36. James says:

    Is their goatse logo intentional? I’ve never been to a BarCamp before, so I would consider going to this, but there’s not a lot that catches my eye. The stuff under the ‘Hear’ section looks interesting. In my opinion, this could do with a lot more geekiness. Is there any upcoming BarCamp Cork being planned?

  37. It is a bit strange that people are more worried about the technology and organisation than the reasons why people are not attending the barcamp events.

    Why should people attend? For the entrepreneur (tech or otherwise) – what’s the attraction and why should they spend some of their most valuable asset (time) attending?

    Despite all the talk about marketing and PR, these events seem to be very poorly marketed outside the geek/blogger/social network sphere. Perhaps there is an interesting element at work here in that the people in the geek/blogger/social network sphere don’t have enough in common in the real world to attract them to a barcamp type of event? Could this poor marketing be the reason that the barcamps degenerate into cliques events?

  38. I have to agree with John on this. Hence my Tweet of the other day regarding the race to build a new BarCamp Galway site in Drupal. I said “Warning warning warning. Immediate technical discussions of a social problem will lead to a perfect solution to the wrong problem.”

    At BarCamp Cork we had to work hard to get non-geeks to attend but also to get geeks outside of software/web who thought BarCamp was purely about those areas.

    So much of software and the web is about people and media and that needs to be reflected more in these conferences/unconferences.

  39. Justin Mason says:

    yep, I’m with Conor and John.

    “Warning warning warning. Immediate technical discussions of a social problem will lead to a perfect solution to the wrong problem.”

    spot on.

  40. aphrodite says:

    honest to god Ellie, I do think the Barcamps are too techie – note, techie, not geeky – for the likes of me (I am the living proof that blog software is user friendly), but I was away for Barcamp Dublin, otherwise I would have loved to support you.

  41. […] We’re getting closer to BarCamp Galway, and Damien has put out a call for new faces. […]