In 1907, Charles Darwin's cousin noticed something at his local county fair.
His name was Francis Galton, and the thing he spotted was that the average of all the entries in a "Guess the weight of the ox" competition was impressively accurate. Closer than almost most of the individual guesses, even ones submitted by cattle experts.
This idea is popularly known as "The Wisdom of Crowds", and is generally ascribed to situations where a big group of people does a good job of something. It's been debated a lot since, but it came to mind recently when I was thinking about Barcamp, and how the sum total of all the participants can make an incredible whole.
For those of you not familiar, Barcamp is a conference, but with a twist: There's no set speakers and no set schedule. Instead, all the attendees are encouraged to create the schedule on the day, by putting forth their own sessions, discussions, and talks.
The results are always enlightening.
One of my favourite things about it is the sheer breadth of the topics on offer. While it is focused around technology, any Barcamp inevitably has a flair for zany randomness. This year alone, we were treated to talks about things nobody tells you when you're going bald, flash fiction, Thor, travel disaster investigations, and my own ridiculous attempt to play Dungeons and Dragons with 40 people at once (using a pun-filled, website themed script).
But, that's not to say there aren't meaningful talks at Barcamp. Far from it. Discussions and presentations on all the latest and greatest technological advances came to the party, with 5G, holograms, CSS Houdini, IoT, medical technology, Code Club, password security and so much more besides. And even if you're not technologically minded, there was plenty to enjoy here about working in teams, standing out in your industry, and insightful thinking about our culture and the ways we work.
With so much to offer the local community, it's our pleasure to support an event like this, and we recommend it unreservedly. I don't know if all crowds have wisdom, but I can say with some certainty that the one in and around Southampton definitely does. Next time you get a chance to see it in action, make sure you don't miss out.
Find out more about Barcamp Southampton here
Thanks to the other partners who made this event possible this year: Moov2, PostGraphile, Central Hall and Passenger! 💕