October 17, 2008

Be2Camp 2008

Be2Camp 2008

Event type: Conference

Date: 2008-10-10


Be2Camp was billed as an un-conference to explore the intersection of Web 2.0 and the Built Environment. It seems that both terms are similarly nebulous, but that just meant there was an inclusive feel to the range of topics covered.

The organisers did a great job of pulling things together - from the community-building on the be2camp social network, though setting up the conference rooms, and now beyond the event. Given that it was one of the least techie events I've attended, I was impressed by the level of technology being wielded. There were three projectors running in the main room - two with the current presentation, and the third showing a live stream of twitters and comments about the event. It was also the first time I've attended an event that mixed local and remote speakers - there were presentations from as far afield as the US and Australia seamlessly integrated with those presenting in person.

As always, the WiFi struggled to cope with the number of users, and the schedule over-ran from the first talk. My only criticism was the poor communication and coordinating of the separate presentation streams. I think posting which talks were happening where onto a prominent whiteboard, and having someone monitoring both streams so that each pair of presentations finished at the same time would've made it easier to mix and match talks.

I scribbled down some notes on my laptop, but they're more a collection of links rather than a summary of what was discussed. If nothing else I hope it will give a feel for what the event was about.

Keynote - Free Our Data

Charles Arthur, from the Guardian, talked about their FreeOurData.org.uk campaign. They're trying to convince the government to open up things like the Ordnance Survey map data for everyone to use freely.

The Government is good at collecting data but not good at using it They had a report done to see what would happen if Ordnance Survey data (and other similar data) was free. It reckoned that the rise in taxes from the additional private sector businesses would pay the costs 13 times over - i.e. freeing the data would cause new businesses to spring up, and new applications from existing businesses; and the corporation tax, VAT, etc. from those new business activities would far outstrip the cost of mapping the UK.

Death to Email! - Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw argued that although email is an essential tool in business, it has problems. We've become addicted to receiving email, and checking to see whether we've received email, and it's hard to see the cost of email because it's the recipient who bears all of that cost.

Ways to reduce the problem of email:

  • Move a lot of mailing list 'announcement'. style messages to blogs.
  • Collaborate on docs via a wiki (saves you getting ten "you mis-spelt their" emails)
  • Don't use email counts as an indicator of productivity. Sending more emails doesn't necessarily make you more productive.
  • Don't have a culture that requires a defensive email response style. People shouldn't have to feel they need to send a CYA (Cover Your Arse) email to show they've received your initial message.
  • Discourage excessive CC-ing.
  • Work out how to be explicit when an instant response isn't required - we tend to assume that emails require immediate action, and that often isn't the case.

And today I came across this article which explains things in a bit more detail than my notes.

Charrettes: The Deptford Experience - Andrew Carmichael

Charrettes are a planning tool trying to make the planning process a more collaborative endeavour between professionals and community.

I thought it was particularly interesting that the design group worked in the open. They set up an office in the community where they did their work, which meant that the public could call in whenever to see what they were up to and see how it was going. A brave and commendable idea.

Consultative planning: Lozells, Birmingham - Rob Annable and Michael Kohn

Rob and Michael talked about a project currently under way with Birmingham council called You Can Plan Lozells.

Rob spoke about how the planning he's been involved with has progressed: from analogue through CAD fly-bys distributed to the community on VHS and now using computer games technology to allow individuals to explore the 3D CAD design and even start building their own models to suggest how they'd like to see their area evolve.

They've also been using wikis and websites to aid consultation and to interact with both the public and local media.

Michael then went on to explain some of the technology that his company have developed, which is being used by Rob in the planning process - www.youcanplan.co.uk.

ResidentsHQ - Asesh Sarkar

ResidentsHQ is a social networking site for new-build communities. It's a great idea - providing a way for the residents of a block of flats, say, to get to know each other, buy and sell things locally (kind of a hyper-local freecycle), start social clubs, find sports partners, etc.

Bit of a shame that it's only for new or existingly managed communities (at present?) but that's understandable as it makes it easier for them to work out who pays for it. I wonder if there's scope for getting a council to fund however many as are needed inside its boundary? Surely it wouldn't cost that much for a council to have a VPS or something - I can't see that it would be a particularly bandwidth/processing-intensive app...

Studio Wikitecture

This session seems to be missing from the videos on the be2camp site, but they're trying to use crowd sourcing to help improve architecture and the built environment. How? By evolving open source architecture and planning models. They've been using Second Life as a prototyping tool to let people build their designs.

More at www.studiowikitecture.com and www.openarchitecturenetwork.org.

Intelligent Mobile Office - Lawrence Walker

The i-MO is a neat hardware box to let people easily create an office network anywhere. That's really handy for the construction industry, as they often don't have landlines or broadband provision to a building site. It's not exclusively for building sites, they had one providing some of the better WiFi for the conference.

It's got two 3G mobile phone channels which are bonded to provide one bigger network connection (or provide resilience as they can be with different mobile networks), and then provide WiFi locally and even some local storage via hard-disk or memory card.

Cloud Computing - Jim McHale

Jim gave an overview of how many computing services are migrating into the cloud, and there was some discussion of the pros and cons of such a trend.

Web 2.0: It's about people, not technology - Jodie Miners

Using Web 2.0 tools to make the workplace more productive is about trust and responsibility: trust your staff (rather than clamp down on Internet access in case they waste time surfing or on facebook) but staff must be responsible to help 'enforce' the culture (and so speak out if people are slacking).

Jodie also recommended wikipatterns.org as a great resource to help you set up Wikis and encourage adoption throughout your company.

From Content to Community - Phil Clark

Phil talked about his transition from old-school journalist to embracing the world of online publishing, and discussed some of the issues facing him and his employer in how they interact with the community online. Should they lead the discussion, or should the community be leading them?

CICLOPS - Vassos Chrysostomou

CICLOPS is a lightweight, web-based planning tool. It has some nice features, such as a set of common reasons to choose from when marking a task as completed late. Then you can pull out some statistics about the common problems in order to work out areas of weakness.

It also encourages you to solve problems as they arise - when you're marking a task as late, you also add what you're going to do about it or how you plan to stop it happening again.

Open Street Map - Tom Chance

Tom extolled the virtues and benefits of Open Street Map and showed some of the nice things that he and his colleagues have done with it. Ranging from printing out large versions of the maps for display in libraries to helping encourage local communities to get to know their area better by getting out and mapping it.

AMEE - Jamie Andrews

Jamie explained the work that the AMEE team are doing in calculating the world's energy usage and carbon footprint.

I didn't take any notes as I'd already heard plenty about AMEE at geeKyoto in May.

Working Architecture Group

The guys from the Working Architecture Group have been doing some interesting (to me at least) work experimenting with integrating computers into architecture and furniture. With their Open Tables project they hacked some old desks and furniture so users interacted with the Internet by opening drawers, pushing buttons or moving sliders. They're trying to see how people's experience of the Internet changes if the way that they interact with it changes.

See For Yourself

There are videos from the day's sessions available on the Be2Camp 2008 content page.

Amusing OneNote-isms

If I've got my laptop at a conference, I tend to take notes electronically using the pen on my Tablet PC. Getting OneNote to translate my scrawl into text to cut-and-paste into here always throws up some ridiculous phrases, and here are a few from this event...

Trying to engineer serendipity
flying to engineer serendipity
Suw Charman
Saw Chairman
Discourage excessive cc-ing
Discourage excessive cling
You can plan Lozells
You can plan knells [Does that include 'death knells'?]
Allow users to explore 3D CAD design
Allow users to explore 3D ass design
Local school
coal school
  • Phil Clark's high-level thoughts on the conference
  • Tom Chance's writeup
  • Tags: be2camp

    Posted by Adrian at October 17, 2008 09:59 PM | TrackBack

    This blog post is on the personal blog of Adrian McEwen. If you want to explore the site a bit further, it might be worth having a look at the most recent entries or look through the archives or categories over on the left.

    You can receive updates whenever a new post is written by subscribing to the recent posts RSS feed or


    Thanks Adrian - I've been meaning to do the write up :-) Good to see you and hope to meet again soon

    Posted by: Geoff at October 18, 2008 12:44 AM
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