Open Data Camp 3: Before the Watershed

This post was originally published on the Open Data Camp blog.

In just a few days time, Open Data Camp – the ‘unconference‘ entirely devoted to open data – is returning for a third time. This time, it’s coming to Bristol, and is featured by the BBC as part of Digital Bristol Week.


The venue is the marvellous Watershed which – as you can probably tell from the name – is right by the water, with additional space at the Pervasive Media Studio.

Um, what’s an unconference?

Example of a pre-digital session grid from Open Data Camp 1

Example of a pre-digital session grid from Open Data Camp 1

Unlike traditional conferences, unconferences have no pre-defined agenda, and attendees  ‘pitch’ session ideas to each other instead.

Ideas are then written on post-it notes, which are assigned to vacant slots on a session grid, and that becomes the agenda.

For a more detailed (and much better) explanation, and links to more information, take a look at Unconference in a Box, compiled by James Cattell.

Far and wide

People come from far and wide

People come from far and wide

The open data movement spans lots of different sectors, and that’s reflected in the mix of attendees at Open Data Camp: government, charities & voluntary organisations, universities, local government, private companies, freelancers, and local people. Bristol – and nearby Bath – both have very active data & tech communities, and will of course be well-represented at ODC3.

That said, some are travelling a long way (I think the furthest is coming from Manchester), If everyone turns up, there should be around 140 people over the weekend.

Quite a lot has been written by previous Open Data Camp attendees, which you can read here.

Here's one we prepared earlier, at ODC2

Here’s one we prepared earlier, at ODCamp2 in Manchester

If you’ve attended Open Data Camp before, you will have already seen Matthew Buck of Drawnalism expertly capturing key moments as they unfold. The only problem was that he couldn’t be everywhere at once. 

Well, we’re pleased to announce that Drawnalism will be returning once again, and this time there will be two artists AND two writers who will be live-blogging proceedings.


I’m attending – what do I need to know?

I’m glad you asked:


Make your own lanyard: Blue Peter style

Make your own lanyard: Blue Peter style

If you’ve attended events in the past, you’ve probably got a drawer full of lanyards and badge holders.

Please pick out some of the best ones, and bring ‘em with you.

If you don’t have any – or even if you do – feel free to make and decorate one, Blue Peter style. There might just be prizes for the most imaginative, entertaining, or geeky.

Timings – Saturday

Registration is from 9am, and there should be tea, coffee and pastries when you arrive.

The main event kicks-off at 10am, with session pitching shortly afterwards. There will be three sessions before lunch, and two after lunch.


Stalls selling food, 5 mins walk from Watershed

Stalls selling food, 5 mins walk from Watershed

Speaking of lunch, that’ll be from 1-2pm, when you’ll be free to take your pick of the huge variety of cafes, bars, restaurants and takeaways, which surround the Watershed. There should be something to suit all tastes.

For more about that, see this post, kindly put together by Jen from Networked Planet. If you prefer to stay put, the Watershed also has an excellent cafe.

Saturday evening

We’re planning to wrap-up at around 5pm, and there will be a boat trip laid on for an hour (max 52 people). We’ll tell you more about that later.

For the rest of the evening, we have a room booked at The Famous Royal Navy Volunteer (The Volley) from 7pm. Thanks to our generous sponsors, there will be a free bar tab (until it runs out, that is), and also some snacks during the evening (sandwiches and pizza etc, but please don’t expect a main meal).

If you’re overnighting in Bristol, and don’t already have accommodation booked, take a look at the Venue & Accommodation info on the ODC web site. If you’re stuck, contact the Organising team through the web site, or @ODCamp on Twitter and we’ll try to help.


Everyone likes a lazy start on a Sunday, particularly the rail network. We’re therefore allowing an extra hour before we get going. It’ll therefore be much like Saturday except kickoff is at 11am, with registration from 10am.

We’ll probably also have a Napcamp* session for those who, um, enjoyed the free bar on Saturday evening.

Make the most of your time at !

To get the most out of your time at the conference, here’s an idea we’re trying out: Hashtag Networking [ …]. It’s easy!

Please take a moment…

As you probably know, Open Data Camp is completely free to attend, which simply wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for forward-thinking organisations who are prepared to help cover the costs. Please have a look at the list of sponsors on the Open Data Camp web site. We’re hugely grateful to all of them.

The organising team would particularly like to thank our Gold sponsors: Bristol City Council and Networked Planet who helped us secure the venue really early on, and enabled us to get on with the detailed planning without (too much) anxiety.

That’s it for now

If you’re attending Open Data Camp at the weekend, we look forward to seeing you there. If you can’t make it, keep an eye on the Twitter hashtag: #ODCamp and on the Open Data Camp blog (there will be liveblogging throughout the weekend).


*Napcamp has become part of UK unconference folklore. It’s a bit like the quiet carriage on a train and is for quiet contemplation, deep thinking, that sort of thing…


Photo credits (links being added shortly)

  • Watershed by Mark Braggins
  • Session grid pic tweeted by Dave Mee
  • Data for charities tweeted by @CambsHsgSubReg
  • Lanyards by Angharad Stone
  • Stalls by Mark Braggins