My Week In Happy: BarCamp bits and pieces

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I was lucky enough to attend the first day of BarCamp Manchester 2015. Having been to the previous year’s event at SpacePortX, I expected great things. I wasn’t disappointed.

The venue was AutoTrader, the same place we used for Manchester Girl Geeks’ Mini BarCamp (aka BraCamp) back in May.

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Massive thumbs up to @GirlGeekUpNorth and her fabulous team for putting on the best event of this type that I’ve ever attended.

I’d like to pick out a few highlights from Day 1. With it being an ‘unconference’ format where speakers are giving talks in a number of rooms at the same time, it feels important to say that there was lots of brilliant presentations / discussions I didn’t make it to. Check out the @BarCampMCR Twitter feed for a fuller picture.

If you haven’t heard of a BarCamp before @teknoteacher does a good job of explaining how it all works (film shot by @ColetteWeston).

Interactive fiction

This was a strong theme at this year’s events with @GirlGeekUpNorth demo-ing “The Dark Room” an interactive video-based adventure game built by linking YouTube videos together. This is fiendishly difficult to complete. You have been warned!

Elsewhere, @teknoteacher was giving a very quick tutorial on using storytelling software Twine to teach people who are new to coding how to create their own text-based adventures.

Crosswords

A great little session by @stecks @aPaulTaylor and@Andrew_Taylor running through the most common types of clues for cryptic crosswords and how to identify them. I haven’t done a crossword for ages and this really rekindled my interest in them.

Coding

Computer programming is always a popular area at BarCamp, and a lively debate was provoked by @RosieCampbell‘s talk on stereotypes applied to coders. This branched into a fierce discussion on whether computing should be taught as part of the curriculum.

Living in a van

So, @tdobson and @czmj2 live in a van. They both have full-time jobs, so how have they managed? A great story about how they’ve made it work for them. Cue lots of questions re parking, sanitation and wireless connectivity!

Music

Next to @erinmaochu‘s ‘Crowdsourcing a recycled Manchester robot orchestra’, a project which will be part of the line-up for Manchester’s stint as European City of Science in 2016. It was great to witness the potential for collaboration erupting in the room as several people, including @matthewshotton, excitedly shared their own experiences with robotics and music.

There’s lots of great geeky, science and tech events going on in and around Manchester (and in fact the whole of the NW). You can find out more at:

Note: Do we need watches to tell us more than the time?

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My watch is not a smart watch, but looks pretty cool with its built-in calculator.

BBC News Technology journalist and Click presenter Alex Hudson has been somewhat prolific of late. I know this because I have him in my Circles in Google+ – a space which I am still experimenting with.

In Alex’s article, Do we need watches to tell us more than the time?, asks why smartwatches i.e. connected devices have not made it to the mainstream marketplace.

He cites Knight Rider as the main cultural reference for children of the 1970s / 80s like me, in which tech-forward car Kit is controlled by David Hasselhoff speaking into a futuristic watch.

This is not the case for me, as it was a commercial featuring one-time Doctor Who star Peter Davison and his showbiz wife Angie Dickinson trying to flog some saucepans with a ‘lifetime guarantee’.

To date I have been unable to find a high quality clip of this advertisement, but here’s a slightly ropey one so you get the general idea.

The upshot of Alex’s article is that tech is just not quite there for smartwatches. While the big players like Casio, Samsung and (possibly) Apple continue to tinker, smaller start-ups like Pebble are getting in the act by crowd-sourcing their projects.

Why am I interested in this?

In imagining wearable ‘care labels’ I have focused on highly visible designs which could be worn, for example, as badges in the ‘Star Trek communicator’ style – read my first thoughts here and additional thoughts about a possible role in my project for mobile devices here.

A wristwatch could be another location where care labels could be displayed. Possibly in a more discreet way, giving the wearer a greater amount of choice about who sees the labels and who doesn’t.

In addition to this, one of the main advantages of smartwatches is considered to be near-field communication. It’s interesting to contemplate a world where not only could we communicate our daily care labels but pick up those of other people within range.