Oxford Geeks Get Social Late into the Night

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Jericho Tavern, regular venue for the Oxford Geek Nights (OGN), has a long, spacious upstairs room. You’d think it’d be more than big enough for a local tech event, but long before the first keynote speaker of the sixth OGN started his talk, we had managed to fill it to bursting.

We’ve mentioned the geek nights on the Google Open Source Blog before: they’re semi-structured “pub conferences” with keynote talks from industry leaders and lightning talks from local volunteers. Interspersed with these are intervals for chatting, networking and having a relaxing drink. More than anything else the OGNs provide an opportunity for developers, designers, information architects and followers of new technology, from all over Oxfordshire and beyond, to get together and share ideas and experiences.

Our two keynotes were from opposite ends of the local geek spectrum. We started with Gobion Rowlands of Red Redemption providing an overview of how to develop and market games based on hard science for both fun and profit. This was followed by Jon Hicks, fresh from the Future of Web Design conference, providing us with a designer’s perspective on how to move from a design concept to a deployed, functional website.

The microslots were also an excitingly mixed bag of different subjects, with something for pretty much everyone. There was a discussion of the current state of online education in the UK, reports from the front line on building your own custom CRM system (with added Web 2.0), mashups using Popfly, and an announcement of the date of Oxford Barcamp (September 20/21: stick it in your diary!) This mix meant that along with coders and designers, the audience included local librarians, archivists and CRM people. Videos as always are available on the site, and finalized slides should be up there soon too.

The nights are sponsored by third-sector web developers Torchbox (venue and organization), Google of course (providing a drink per geek, no mean feat) and Moo (cute drinks vouchers), and between them they all guaranteed a great night. OGN6 felt especially successful because so many people were still around, talking with other geeks, long after the talks had finished. “Haven’t you got homes to go to?” asked the long-suffering bar staff, but we carried on chatting. So you could go on about how the OGNs foster relationships between the local design, hardware-hacking and web development communities; really, though, everyone was too busy having fun.