[Mashed] Top Ten Tips To Survive the BBC Mashed Experience

So it’s that time of year again, when the great and the good gather to watch the pivotal episode of the Doctor Who season gather in Alexandra Palace for two days (and one night) of hacking, coding, building, geeking out, and other stuff – BBC Mashed. Yes I’m there again; no I’m not building a rocket (but Ant is); yes I am doing something (ask me tomorrow); and yes I’ll speak to you if you point a video camera at me.

In the meantime though, there seems to be a lot of people attending the event who weren’t there last year. So to give them a leg up, here’s my Top Ten Tips to Survive BBC Mashed…

* Ask For Help
You’re in a room with some of the smartest laterally thinking brains in the United Kingdom. Got a problem? Then go and ask someone if they can help, or know who to ask. Last year, I walked into the hall thinking “I want to build a rocket” and started sketching out plans. About ten minutes later, I had Greg McCarroll and Gervaise Markham interested and working on all the problems we had. The same goes for coding issues. We’re a community and unlike the normal British reserve, the hacker community thrives on sharing knowledge.

* Stay Hydrated
There’s going to be a lot of food going round, but most of it will probably be on-the-go food. By all means keep your energy levels up, but it’s probably just as (if not more) important to stay hydrated. Last year there were crates of mini-bottles of water going around, and if there is the same again, grab them and drink them frequently.

* The Time Goes Very Fast For Project Building
24 hours may sound a lot, especially if you’re sharing the work with others, but in actual fact it’s not. You need to have a good plan, either beforehand or run with your inspiration in the 4 hours of talks at the start of the day – you need to be aware you need to have a finished product at 1pm Sunday, and then you’ve got 60 minutes to work on the presentation to the rest of the delegates. At every point where you can choose complexity or simplicity, go for the latter. Decide just how long to spend on eye candy compared to code. But most of all plan well, and have some slack. If you want to reach out to people and discuss a team idea beforehand, by all means do so – because others are!

* Bring a Sleeping Bag
Assuming you’re planning on sleeping (and you should consider at least a power-nap at some point) then it might be an idea to bring along a sleeping bag or big warm fluffy blanket. The hall at Ally Pally is big, and the temperature may drop a bit in the night. Plus it’s nice and cosy, and a good place to…

* …Get Away From It All
500 geeks in a room (okay 499 geeks and you) might sound like a recipe for silence, but it’s not. Everyone, at some point, will want to just get away for a bit. I’d recommend some good headphones (noise canceling if that’s your preference), one of those masks you get to help sleep on a plane, and just grab one of the many BBC beanbags and head towards a darkened corner. Certainly consider that at some point you’ll need to chill – for me music and a good book is a must, even if it’s just for 30 minutes, followed by the aforementioned power-nap at 5am.

* Bring a Power Cord, and Consider a Four Way Extension Cable
There will not be enough power points – at least not if everyone wants to plug in at the same time. And the plugs might not be close enough to any little oasis you craft out. So an extension cable with 4 plug points on it will be worth a 2d6 roll on your karma.

* Deodorant
It’s not much, but we’re going to be in the event space for close to 36 hours, and we’re going to be busy little industrious bees. Please consider nipping off to the loo every few hours for a top-up. While you’re at it, switching T-Shirts is more than making a fashion statement. It can save lives by helping us all to breath.

* Don’t Worry About Missing Your Favourite TV Show
This is a BBC event after all – if they ram it on the Radio Times cover as often as possible they’re not going to hold out on their target audience…

* Non Programmers Can Have Fun Too
While Mashed is billed as a programmers event, and there will certainly be a lot of code hacking going along, you don’t need to be a hacker to actually enjoy yourself. Many projects ill need other skills – websites and UI’s ill always need people who can do graphics, htere will be games and fun in all corners (I’ll probably have Fluxx on me), and many projects will have need of people to do things other than code. I know mine does…

and the number one top tip to survive this year’s Mashed event at Alexandra Palace is

1: Be very very afraid of whatever project Ewan Spence is involved in – after filming a spoof of the last episode of Torchwood (five hours before it was aired), or building Diet Coke and Mentos powered rockets, whatever is planned for this year is either a must see, or must avoid, depending on how reckless you’re feeling.

3 Responses to “[Mashed] Top Ten Tips To Survive the BBC Mashed Experience”

  1. Phil Wilson says:

    Good advice, thanks and see you there!

  2. [...] might be overstating it, but this weekend I’ll be Mashed 08 so it’s nice to read posts like this from Ewan Spence giving us mere mortals some hints on how to survive. It’s also interesting to see [...]

  3. Shaun says:

    Thanks for the advice –

    I feel prepared if you need someone to fly over and do a stint on your hack mail me day or night