Review of Barcamp Sheffield 2007
May 27, 2007, 7:51 pm
Filed under: barcamp, barcampsheffield, plusnet, sheffield

This weekend I’ve been at Barcamp Sheffield, a two day barcamp where the 1st day was more traditional (if it’s been going long enough to gain any tradition) and the 2nd day was a bit more focused on startups, presenting their applications, I’m so glad I took the advice of my old boss, and didn’t rely on a live demo, I lost count of how many times I heard “well, it’s still in beta so …” or “It worked 5 minutes ago” ;-)

Day 1 was taken up by presentations on any number of subjects, from designing a card game around “The War On Terror” that ended up seeing Jesus battle Ron Jeremy for control of Heathrow airport using a cow bomb and a zombie virus to the more traditional topics of scaling web apps, and a live demo of Rails programming.

I think the ones I enjoyed the most (except for Jesus’ epic battle with Ron) was Sue Jamison-Powell’s “Psychology of Online Social Networks”, she gave a brief and very high level overview of the theory of social networks, and then went on to explain an expreiment in social networking she and her group are hoping to present. It was both something I’m interested in, and something I have no idea about, the perfect mashup :-)

I also enjoyed what I heard of Simon Polovina’s presentation of conceptual structures, I only cought the last 5 minutes, but it sounded fascinating. I won’t do them in injustice of trying to explain them after hearing on 5 minutes of a presentation, so I’ll just send you to the iccs website.

Well done to Adam Bardsley & Wojtek Kutyla who claimed the 2 slingboxes for giving the best demos of the day.

Day 2 started with a demo of TravelManager, an online app for managing a fleet of coaches and their maintenence and schedules, this was the “ah well it’s only a beta” day, but thing went pretty well for Mike. Divebuzz was a good example of a niche community site, and we also had a look at 3 upcoming apps from developers in the north.

First of these was Thinkfold, an online, collaberative outlining application so that people can make notes at the same time on the same page, and see the resuilt in realtime, a very innovative use of ajax, but I would worry about how it would scale given that almost every keystroke seemed to be transmitted to the server, which would then send a reply.

Dave Verwer presented afeeda, a very simple and no nonsense take on the feed aggregator, the app suffered from the old “it’s only in beta”, when the aggregated Barcampsheffield feed failed to show any results, but Dave rode over this with the air of a man who’s seen it happen before, and pulled it back with a demo aggregation of my blog & Flickr streams, as well as fixing whatever the problem was with the feed right there and then. Afeeda & Thinkfold won the runners up prizes in the best demo, well done guys.

The winner of the £1000 cheque went to Meecard, who very sensibly went for a pure slideshow approach because of “technical difficulties” which despite their best efforts in the past few weeks, there just wasn’t enough time to fix. A Meecard is an aggregation of all your online identities into 1 place, 1 widget for your blog or 1 page to link to, and seemed a good solution to the problem of having your identity scattered across the ‘net.

One thing that did worry me however was the lack of business plans, very few of the demos presented seemed to have put any thought into how their app was going to make money other than “we’ll have a premium version” with a few extra features. These guys have put a lot of time & effort into their projects, and I’d hate to see them fail by not thinking about their cash flow and how it’s going to pay their wages. I recommend anyone thinking of starting a business reads Ryan Carson’s blog, and also his article on Vitamin about how to do a cashflow, it’s what convinced me that TrafficJammr just isn’t worth persueing as a viable business.

Speaking of which, I showed it off to the room, and feedback was pretty good, I was so nervous about doing the whole presentation thing, but it’s definatly something I’d like to do more of, especially now I know it’s not actually that tough (remind me of that when i get asked to do another!!)

I think Dean’s idea of a startup focused minicamp in a few months time is a very good idea, hopefully we could get some VC’s in to wake us all up and smell the coffee, or even better invest!!

All in all a very good weekend, good to meet some old friends and some new ones as well. See you all at the next Barcamp, and the ECEX group’s inaugural conference too.


4 Comments so far
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Very flattered! I will hopefully be reporting some results at the next barcamp. I had a very (unexpectedly) good time this weekend, and was very surprised at how much of the technical stuff I actually understood.

Comment by Sue J-P

you got that domain name yet ;P ? :)

Comment by Dominic Hodgson

Hi Stuart – thanks for the review of ThinkFold – I’m the ‘other half’, but couldn’t make BarCamp for personal reasons.

I’ll leave the technical responses re. Ajax scalability to Matt, but just wanted to respond to your comment about the ‘lack of business plans’ (I know it’s a general statement, but I’ll take it personally :-) – building a sustainable business is something we’re incredibly focused on.

We believe the collaborative outliner has real value for those who see the bottom line benefits in the ability to share and collaborate on their ideas.

It’s likely that the person who really understands and values what ThinkFold can give them, will be one person in a project group or team, and so our entire design philosophy is built around satisfying (and charging revenue) for enabling these ‘hub users’ who want to share their ideas, plans, etc.

We’re also targeting the corporate market with a dedicated appliance – it’s being alpha-tested in a blue-chip company at the moment (we get loads of ‘real-world’ feedback and ideas, and they love building pre-project plans and particularly, presentations, using ThinkFold :-)

If you haven’t signed up for the beta, Stuart, drop me a mail, or add your email on – I’ll give you an early preview.


Comment by Guy Dickinson

Hi Stu,

It was a pleasure to get to have a chat on the Sunday – I reckon you & Dom pretty much had the banter wrapped up for the weekend ;) With regard to the business plans… I know I briefly touched on this at the weekend… my earlier venture was fully planned upfront and went nowhere – my older, more cynical self decided this time round to just get the product out having done little more than prove revenue streams exist if Meecard takes off (as opposed to try to predict precise monthly cash flow before even a beta launch). Our very-early cash flow problems are sidestepped, for now, by freelancer/employee status. Rest assured, we will be opening up simple sources of income as soon as possible.

I second support for Dean’s minicamp; and will be looking to attend ECEX after your introduction!

Comment by Andy Mitchell

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