Digital Canterbury = Digibury!
Digibury is a monthly event we organise for digital types in Canterbury. Not only is it a lot of fun (that plasticine model of 'Disco' me in the image above was made there, for example), but we've also learned a lot while putting it on. Here are some of the things we've learned, and why we think it's important to exercise your conversation muscles if you work with digital businesses.
Talking about digital
One of the things we’re good at is collaboration. We sit together, work together, fight together, and that’s the way we like it.
Actually, we think we have to do this because we build digital stuff. The whole landscape seems to change every other week. Talking to each other seems to be the best way to keep up. If you're not having interesting conversations, you're not doing your job. Or, at least, we wouldn't be doing our jobs.
If you're not having interesting conversations, you're not doing your job
Spilling over into drinks
When you love what you do, sometimes the conversations spill out of the office, and into a bar.
So, we thought, “Let’s make a night of it”
It didn’t take us long to come up with the name ‘Digibury’ (Digital Canterbury – geddit?). The rest? Let’s just say it took a while longer…
Here are seven things we learned – but, if you haven't to time to read that, have a look at this which shows the kind of stuff we've done at Digibury far better than any words could:
1. Everybody likes learning
We discovered that Canterbury (and Whitstable, and Folkestone, and Kent, in general) are hives of digital activity.
Here are some of the people we found in Kent interested in doing exciting digital learning projects:
2. People are taking risks
We had some great talks from entrepreneurs who weren’t afraid to be honest – and were all the more interesting (and educational) for it.
We’ve had lots of people telling us just how inspiring this is.
3. Digital touches everything
Animate & Create came along, did a fantastic talk and created an animation live on stage (you can see the result above). Although they did everything with plasticine, they managed the whole process with a variety of software packages.
Woodcase showed us how they make laser-etched CD cases and we all heard how their start-up story was similar, in so many ways, to the digital risk-takers we learned so much from (see above).
4. People are interested
We’ve had around 50 people right from the get-go. And people have been following each other on Twitter and friending each other on Facebook. (And even doing business together).
5. It takes more work than you think
Even with our experience in setting up digital workflows and managing digital projects, this took longer than we expected. We threw up a website very quickly, and outgrew it within the first month (watch this space – new website launching soon!)
6. Go where people hang out
People like Twitter so we used that. Or, rather, we like Twitter.
One of our guests suggested (actually, demanded is a better word!) we get a Facebook profile because their Facebook recruitment page had been successful in attracting female applicants for their programming vacancies.
We should have thought of this from the beginning.
7. Light touch
We run projects in an agile way whenever we can. And the same applies to Digibury.
We have a nice base template to work from in terms of how we organise the night. But, other than that, anything goes.
And this seems to make the events seem more relaxed. But, more importantly, people seem comfortable with making suggestions and pitching in. We do what works for us and for our guests, rather than follow a rigid process. Just as we do when we build websites.
Here’s a complete list of speakers so far:
- 1. Dr Tendayi Viki spoke about the lessons learned from his Tasksauce digital start-up.
Stephen Fulljames introduced his 12412.org project where he and his fellow founders hope to help people learn one new technology per month in 2012 (12-4-12, see?)
Matthew Spence told the story so far on University of Kent in Canterbury’s project to improve the digital experience of students on campus using Sencha Touch.
Mike K Smith demonstrated how you could control music software like Ableton and Traktor and finished with a performance of Kraftwerk’s Pocket Calculator, played on his pocket calculator (actually, an iPhone).
Professor Michael Kölling taught us how to model the behaviour of ants using Greenfoot, a software environment designed to teach children how to use Java.
Paul Adam Davis shared the trials and tribulations of a young web-app developer while talking us through his thought processes in developing Kodery, a resource for developers to store snippets of code.
Nick from ionCube amazed the audience with a description of how he reversed-engineered a remote control unit on his office air-con so he could control it over the phone, complete with live demonstration via webcam.
Charlie Casey from Streetvite gave a great talk on how he took a break from a highly-paid role as management consultant at Deloitte to launch Canterbury’s own Social start-up.
Alaric King provoked equal parts mirth and questions over his decision to set up a business selling hugely expensive laser-etched wooden CD cases – and played us films of robot lathes with lasers.
Dan Richards from Animate & Create made a short stop-motion animation live on stage! All while telling us about the secret history of plasticine and giving us an entertaining view on his career at Aardman and starting up his own studio.