BarcampLondon5, eBay, London – day one

Well, after a bit of a late start due to a slowwww train and getting a bit lost in Richmond, I’ve arrived at BarcampLondon5 at the eBay offices in leafy Richmond. I’m in a hellava bad mood, so and probably look thunderous, thus I’m not suprised I’m sitting on my own.

Okay, so far there’s been some welcome talks, the usual ‘your 3 tags’ – this time mine were ‘geeking, gaming and cats’ and people are pining their talks up on the board. I don’t really feel like talking about a subject as to be honest I haven’t had time to do any prep, but my colleague Ian is prodding me, so am doing discussion instead. I’ve billed it as ‘Lets, talk about diversity: why aren’t there more girly techie speakers’ – which as an opener should promote some lively discussion. It’s been really irking me that at most conferences I go to there’s a serious lack of women techie speakers and the last couple, there were none!

Lunchtime is winding up and brought some vegan noodles with me, which was good because I couldn’t tell if there were any vegan sandwiches or cakes in the lunch spread. I should prolly do a talk on ‘how to survive being a conference junkie if you’re vegan’ – what do you reckon? ;-P

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Jay cousin – ‘Flat folding cups and things…’

Jay presented an idea on Dragon’s Den for a range of flat-packed crockery for back-packers. He turned down two of the Dragon’s offers because he wanted a higher investment than was offered. He got £100,000 from a bank and has a production centre in China – he’s happy with this and optimistic for the future.

Today, Jay talked to us about design IP, he said ‘if I create a design, put it online and share it, anyone can produce it’. He’s interested in how companies can be more open about the design process. He’s not a fan of patents and wouldn’t want to patent his products. In his experience, having a patent doesn’t really protect you unless you have IP insurance, which costs at least £10,000 and is too expensive for any small company. IP is all about control – who actually has control and who has the right to tell us what we can own. The IP process is dictating that to us at the moment.

Demand = supply

The ongoing success of sites like Etsy and Threadless has got the big companies interested in how small groups of people sell things in small quantities, but together make up a big turnover – some go on to evolve into a bigger business. Changing the perceptions of big groups of people to buy more homegrown goods is a possibility that the big companies want to explore.

This reminds me of viral marketing going on at the moment – big companies employing ad companies to create homespun and kooky looking ads for them, which are seeded on places like YouTube and Facebook.

If you don’t design a tool that works properly, people end up using it badly or hacking it to their own means – this leads to user innovation and is something that companies need to take notice of. More companies should be looking at how to make user innovation as easy as possible, finding the incentives and benefits and make it their goal to make it easy for people to buy a product they want at the price they want it – then they will end up with an incentive to shift a product.

Here’s a link to an interesting tool that Jay mentioned: Ponoko – it lets you design, make and sell items to your own schematics – ie you can make items from drawings!

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Imp’s coming out talk – http://www.consumingexperience.com

Improbulus is a blogger who values their anomynimity. Imp told us about how they keep their identity secret and the not inconsequential hoops he/she goes through to keep it so. Why do they go to such lengths to stay anonymous? So they can be honest and frank about what they write. For example – if they criticise a product their employer or themselves won’t get hassled and they also think you can speak more freely and say what like about products and not be worried.

Limiting the jigsaw pieces you give out:
*Be careful of getting your photo taken
* Watch out for tags
* Addresses – but there’s a myth about PO boxes – they reserve the right to keep your address – uses British Monomarks
* Hide your voice – I have a distinctive voice – uses a Screaming Bees Morph Vox Junior
* bmace
* Use webmail or spamgourmet.com
* Have a pay as you go phone – most companies ask for address, but you can give a false name and address & temporary/disposable phone no
* Domain name – anonymous registration – registered to GoDaddy
* Use a false date of birth
* Use a fictional ‘mother’s maiden name’, etc on forms which require a test question

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My contribution to BCL5 wasn’t talk as such, but a discussion that opened with ‘Why are there so few techie women speakers at conferences?’

There’s certainly a lack of girl geeks talking tech at conferences and I’ve been to a couple recently where they didn’t even have one women speaker! My personal opinion is that there’s a bit of a tech glass ceiling for women in certain companies and areas. It looks to me like men are pushed forward up the career path and women don’t enjoy the same encouragement – I’m stressing looks like – I don’t know for sure, but time and again women don’t get the roles or the keynotes.

The discussion was enlightening as we heard each other’s experiences and opinions, for example, taking affirmative action was mentioned – doing a temporary thing as a necessary thing – ie making sure women are on the speakers list.

It was also mooted that the lack of women speakers was a reflection on if and how women are made to feel knowledgeable in the company of male techies – ie if included in conversation, if they’re made to feel inferior to their male counterparts.

A certain recent developer day was mentioned, where a photographer went round taking photos and the resulting shots of the day shown on the screens and on Flickr were mostly of men and hardly any women. It was really unrepresentative of the day. Also little inclusive things such as having the commemorative t-shirts in women’s sizes were mentioned as missing. I did mention the lack of female speakers at this event in a feedback form, but didn’t hear anything back. The conversation also went on to conferences and meets where there hadn’t been any women even in attendance, such as a recent Rails camp.

Interesting there was a lady executive from an Australian company (apols, I didn’t get her name) who told us that in her company there were a lot of women working in IT. She thought that there may be a cultural thing going on in the UK and also said that if more women blogged their opinions would probably become more visible and therefore asked to talk more often.

We were also talking about our experiences in education and how we could possibly get students to feel more confident about themselves and about how to get good careers information into the schools curriculum.

We chatted about the popularity around the world of Girl Geek Dinners and about how it may have become too ghettoised, and too corporate for some, but very inclusive and helpful to others. There are mixed opinions on GDD – whether they are evolving in a good way or not – it was interesting to hear these opinions.

We discussed what we could do to get more women speakers at conferences, by doing things like setting up a list to show conferences where women aren’t coming forward, to poke companies or just show some statistics. Tom Morris who is organising a semantic camp soon – is going to look into ways to recruit more women speakers.

UPDATE: Suw Charman-Anderson is running a panel discussion on similar thoughts at Web 2.0 Expo Europe, read her blog post to find out more – it’s more in-depth than my notes and has some very interesting points!

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It’s the evening now and a very nice chap got me a vegan mushroom pizza specially as there were none in the pre-order.

As usual, people at barcamps stay up really late playing Werewolf and other games, but at about 2am some people started getting tired and started camping out in one of the rooms, so I grabbed my chance to get some sleep. After missing out on one of the huge beanbags I put some designer chairs together to make somewhere to sleep on.

4 responses to “BarcampLondon5, eBay, London – day one

  1. Pingback: Strange Attractor » Blog Archive » Women in technology: What are the real issues?

  2. society2point0

    Hi Rain,

    Thanks for the write up. If anyone’s interested I will be covering topic further on my blog. http://www.jaycousins.wordpress.com

  3. Pingback: BarCampLondon5 Ebay

  4. Hi, this is exactly why we have started thenextwomen.com, online business magazine for female internet heroes. we have a database of 500 female internet heroes, ready to talk at conferences.