Today I attended my first "Pi Jam", CamJam or the Cambridge Raspberry Pi Jamboree. Since arriving home I've had a long chat with my wife and now she's headed to bed and I'm unwinding with an Ubu beer and an episode of Myth Busters, downloading the days thoughts to the blog.
It was a 5:30 am start, which isn't unusual of late, what with the boy's sleeping habits. With no prior knowledge of the format I had mentally prepared for a Maker Faire style day, fielding questions non-stop from all angles from doors opening to closing time. The usual pre Maker Faire preparation ensued, filling up the car in the dark, buying bottled water and snack bars for the day (if it was good enough for Luke on Degobah...) and some RedBull for the journey home. Each item purchased separately to stock up on £5 notes and £1 coins for change later in the day. I was set.
The journey down wasn't too bad, stopped just outside Cambridge for the last substance I expected to consume for the day. For a change I was in good time, which was lucky, as I was about to take the scenic route through the beautiful city that is Cambridge. Junction 13 was closest to the CamJam venue, but it's an unusual one in the UK as you can only leave at it going north bound. As I was going south, I just needed to take the 7th right after leaving the dual carriage way, follow the road through, turn right and watch out for the observatory turn right and I was there. Or was that the 8th right? Nope the 7th. But already I'm in the city, and it's a beautiful city. Architecture like you wouldn't believe. Green spaces everywhere. Road signs that only tell you about bikes and the colleges in the city. Next my phone battery was dead depriving me of accurate location services, the MacGyver in me was mentally using a buck converter direct off the car battery to charge the phone when I discovered the in car charger. Day saved and I arrived at the venue, still first of the vendors I think!
Well what a spot they had picked out for phenoptix, first seen on entry and three tables! Very glad I went full tilt on the blinky and brought a tonne of stock with me! I really had a lovely welcome, from familiar faces met in person for the first time. The most enthusiastic welcome was from Aideen who'd won a BeagleBone Black our newsletter giveaway. The warm welcome set the tone for the day. It was all so friendly. For set up I decided to go for blinky, then plushie, then a smattering of tech with the big box o'sensors at the end of the table for the real enthusiast to look through. Setting up at events like these is a mix of fun and conversation and fear that you'll not be set before the hoards descend. I'm not sure if ready was ever an option for me at the Jam but set was ok!
However rather than a hoard, the CamJam participants arrived seemingly from nowhere in small groups, politely mesmerized by our display of colour changing LEDs. The questioning that followed has prompted me to spend more time with the WS2801 datasheet! What was great is that everyone arriving was headed to the lecture theatre and passed all us vendors with curious conversation, eager to come back and explore more. With a great day of programs planned and scheduled breaks for coffee and browsing electronics nobody seemed rushed. After each session groups would come out, explore our stock, ask questions and even buy some stuff! It was really nice to be there as a vendor, I felt as if I was there to sell but also share knowledge and experience (the very little I have!) as well as to learn from the participants. The stuff I had to show was there as a bit of an extra rather than a "maker veneer" as it sometimes feels at Maker Faires. Last year I attended a lot of Maker Faires and in some cases there were more vendors than makers and it all felt a bit off. At CamJam, it all felt very nice.
The lectures gave us vendors a chance to chat and mingle a little too, which again is a bit alien to me. I even had chance to take some poor quality mobile phone shots of my fellow vendees. A really fantastic bunch.
It was great too putting so many names to faces, when I say names I pretty much mean twitter handles. I'll try and list everyone tomorrow. I suppose overall I enjoyed the feel of the CamJam, it was a really nice event and I felt privileged to be attending. It would be great to go again. There was even cake. I'll wrap up now before I type I again. Tired and unedited this thought stream for the day has been downloaded! Maybe something more concise will follow, probably not knowing me.