LugRadio Live 2009 and OggCamp

This blog post is later than I would have liked, but its tardy arrival reflects the maelstrom that has been the past couple of months. This autumn always looked like it was going to be busy, and that was without the added upheaval of changing jobs. Which is my way of implying that this post may be rambling and not very well polished in places. Anyway…

Two weekends ago was the last LugRadio Live. Definitely. They promised. Friday night was the usual meet up in the Hog’s Head. In some ways this is my favourite part of the whole weekend. The anticipation builds throughout the day as people tweet their journey into Wolverhampton, the City of Dreams (if only for Adam Sweet.) By about nine a substantial portion of the pub is full of geeks. It is great meeting up with people with whom one mostly interacts online, sharing a few beers and quite a few jokes.

Shrunk to one day this year but with all the character and atmosphere of previous years, this LRL was one of the best. As ever, I was in charge of the AV crew, a job made a lot easier by the very helpful technical staff at the Newhampton Arts Centre. It was great to see a number of people returning to help out on the crew as everyone had a reasonable idea what was expected of them. I’m proud to say that, barring a few minor glitches, all the preparation paid off and the day went smoothly.

My other duties on the Saturday were something of a departure for me. Firstly, the “secret project” I have been working on for many months (actually, it runs into years now) was presented to the public: The premiere of “Don’t Listen Alone: A documentary about LugRadio” took place over the lunchtime slot in the main room. More on that in another blog post. Secondly I gave my talk, “Podcasting for fun and, erm, fun” based on my experiences working on the Ubuntu UK podcast. I’ve never talked at LugRadio Live before and I had no way of ascertaining what the audience’s expectations were, so I was fairly nervous beforehand. That said, it seemed to go down well and the room was certainly pretty packed.

As usual I didn’t get much of a chance to see other people talk during day, but I enjoyed the caricatures of the speakers on the main stage being drawn by Chris Hayes. This is simply a great idea, though a lot of work for the artist. Aq had also hacked up a twitter display for the main stage, which displayed any tweet appropriately tagged but anonymised. There was much discussion later in the weekend about whether the anonymisation was a good idea, but it certainly gave rise to a lot of good jokes.

The live show wrapped up the day, reminding me of the first ever LRL back in 2005. As ever there was piss-taking, japes and laughter. Jono inexplicably wanted to wear the raccoon outfit for the recording, sat at the middle of the action like a rotund sweaty meatball. Andy Stanford-Clark won the auction for the LRL banner, complete with signatures from all seven LugRadio presenters. The hard-working Ron was given a meal out with Mrs. Ron in recognition for his efforts over the years. I was presented, totally unexpectedly, with a laptop, which left me gobsmacked and even more sure that the LugRadio community and the presenters in particular are wonderful and lovely people (depsite the impression they try to give on the show. 😉 ) They also said that if someone organises an event next year, they will turn up and do a live show at it (professional commitments allowing). More of which later.

The climax of the show was getting all seven LugRadio presenters, past and present, on stage together. Adam, Ade, Sparkes, Chris, Aq, Matt and Jono deserved their standing ovation. LugRadio was a big part of my life for the last few years and yet the novelty of hearing those first episodes has never worn off. I used to listen to them on my 128MB MP3 player over and over again, walking around the streets of Shirley chuckling away to myself and trying to interpret what they were saying. There simply was nothing like it at the time. So thank you, all of you.

After a karaoke party in the basement of the Connaught Hotel, at which I was made to join three of the four gents in singing YMCA, (there is a video on the Internet somewhere, but I’m not linking to it), it was time for…. OggCamp.

At some point, around June, it seemed like a really good idea to organise an event on the day after LRL. After all, we thought, lots of people will already be in Wolverhampton, and several had already expressed disappointment that LRL was only going to be one day long rather than the two days it has been in recent years. At no point did I really anticipate that organising two separate events in two different venues is a lot more work than organising one event over two days. I had undoubtedly learned a lot from the LRL team over the years, but the effort to pull together a one-day conference over three months (alongside all the real world demands of a job etc.) was huge. The resulting event was OggCamp, a joint effort between the Ubuntu UK Podcast and the Linux Outlaws. It was great being able to play to everyone’s strengths, with Dan providing a lot of the PA kit and Fab working on the hosting and design elements (including the fantastic advert in Linux Format).

We had no idea how many people would turn up. As an unscheduled conference, we also had no idea how many people would turn up with something to talk about or do. Having lots of people is no good if there is nothing for them to participate in. 70-odd people had said they would attend on the Facebook event, but I knew that was no guarantee. Equally there are people in the FLOSS community who don’t use or like Facebook. OggCamp was being held in the official LRL hotel, so it would be easy for people to get to. But if they were hungover from the night before, they might just stay in bed. So it was all guesswork. In the end, I think we got it about right, as 150 people turned up and the schedule filled up quickly. The second time I was gobsmacked in one weekend was walking past a queue of people three storeys long round the stairs to the main room. Exhilerating and scary at the same time.

Forunately the event got off to a good start, with Andy Stanford-Clark talking about his twittering house after a brief introduction from the six podcast presenters. Thanks to some teamwork between Dan and I running the PA, I was actually able to chat to some attendees and see parts of some talks. It was great to have quite a variety of subjects being talked about, pig analysis probably being the most random but very suited to the barcamp atmosphere.

Before I knew what was happening, it was nearly time for the live show. The Linux Outlaws and Ubuntu UK presenters had decided to combine their efforts for an hour to record in front of an audience. We had a raffle and everything. It was a very different show from the LugRadio one the previous day (though all four LugRadio presenters managed to grab the radio mic at some point during the recording) but that was a good thing. You can get the different resulting podcast episodes from Ubuntu UK (family friendly) and Linux Outlaws (with all the naughty bits left in).

Before long it was all over with, everything packed back up into cars and hotel rooms. I was left with a new appreciation for the efforts of the crew at events like these, this time from the outside. The OggCamp crew carried boxes, collected signs and did all that was required of them, usually before being asked. They made the event happen, really.

We were left with the overwhelming demand to run another event next year, especially in light of LRL ending. We have had some suggestions, including having it over two days, having a scheduled track, having the LugRadio presenters do a live show, doing it somewhere other than Wolverhampton and more. We appreciate all the feedback and will start discussing what shape the event will have in the new year. 🙂

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    3 Responses to LugRadio Live 2009 and OggCamp

    1. Mark Johnson says:

      Definitely do it again next year. I’ll help!
      I liked the barcamp atmosphere, it was a nice relaxed analogue to the higher-energy events of the day before. Perhaps next year’s could have one day scheduled, and one day open?
      Oh yeah, and definitely get the gents to do a live show if nothing else is being organised. That was the highlight of the weekend for me!

    2. Roger says:

      I meant to ask on the day (which went very well!), were any of the talks pre-arranged? Or if not, did you at least have an inkling? I only ask because of the first talk by Andy S-C which was fantastic. It seemed almost too good to be true that it was the first on the list.

    3. Tony says:

      Well, some people had told us in advance that they were coming with a talk prepared, which was great as it was at least some reassurance that there would be people talking. I’d heard Andy’s talk at the HantsLUG meeting and thought it would be a great opening talk, so encouraged him to fill the first slot of the day.