This weekend I took a trip up the M62 to Leeds. No, not for the SSWG shopping trip, I went for a day of technology! That’s right, I experienced my first BarCamp!

BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from participants.

BarCamp is a network of unconferences organised all over the world. They’ve been going for about two years and are growing in popularity. Yesterday was BarCampLeeds, held at Old Broadcasting House, the former BBC studios now owned by Leeds Met University.

Since BarCamps are presented by and for the participants, and this being my first BarCamp, I “had to” do a session. After racking my brains all week I ended up finishing a presentation at 1:30am on Saturday morning. The subject was basically an introduction to symfony and why you should use it, combined with some case studies of the work we’ve done here at Edge Hill (with some slides borrowed from Alison’s IWMW talk!)

With nine timeslots and up to four rooms in use at any one time there was a wide variety of subjects ranging from entrepreneurs imparting their experiences to Live Coding demonstrations of Ruby. I tried to mix some business talks with stuff about web technologies and found it all pretty enjoyable.

The highlight for me was Tom Smith talking about “Stuff I Know”. The slides are online but they’re unlikely to make much sense. The line that sums it up was “pair programming is a bit like bran… you know you should eat it but you don’t really know why”. Apparently if you don’t have a real person to pair with, talking to the teddy bear is a good substitute.

I’m glad I went and I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in technology (not necessarily a web focus). Thanks to the enormous generosity of the sponsors the whole weekend was pretty cheap for me (although the Etap Hotel proved that you really do get what you pay for… not impressed) so the journey was well worth it.