Sunday, 29 May 2011

#digpen

Time for an update.

In February I decided to find out where all the web developer talent in the South West lies. I suspected there was a lot of it, but I wasn't aware of it since I had been living in my own developing bubble busy with my own work for the previous 4 years. But the time has come to grow MedWorm and pull in some real investment, and one of the first things I needed to find in order to attract investment was a solid development team to take the project forward.

I started to use LinkedIn to find php developers in the area (to begin with). I found that there are actually loads of them, but many of them were working also like I had been, in their own bubbles too, disconnected from the rest of the talent around. Many of them thinking they were the only web developers in the area, others reluctant to connect with potential competitors, or just plain scared to meet people at all having lost all of their socialising skills as a result of working so long in virtual solitary confinement.

I began to visit as many developers as I could find for a cup of tea and a chat to discuss the idea of us all getting together for a meet-up. And it was whilst meeting people and chatting over ideas that a vision started to form - not my own vision, but the start of a shared vision.

The South West of the UK is perfect territory for creative talent - indeed it is already well known for its many artists, designers, musicians, theatre companies and film producers. I had suspected that the area was also crawling with web dev talent as creative types tend to migrate towards the South West in search of a more healthy life, surrounded by beautiful countryside and coastline, and the organic ethical kind of lifestyle. Of course working as a web developer actually means you can live pretty much anywhere and still do your work, so long as you have your all important connection to the web. And I was able to confirm my suspicions as I started to meet all different types of developers and I began looking at the fantastic quality of work people are producing - this area is literally crawling with hidden web dev talent.

The vision is that if we all connect, and start to work in a collaborative manner, viewing every local competitor as a potential collaborator instead, we can build a web development community that will be so strong it will start to pull in investment into this area, and in effect allow us to build the UK's own version of Silicon Valley: The Digital Peninsula.

So I organised our first web dev unconference which became known as #digpen, obviously as a result of the Twitter tag that we used, originating out of the words 'Digital Peninsula'. This was held at the University of Plymouth in March, had over 80 developers attend, and was a real success, so we then organised as a community further events to cover the rest of the peninsula. #digpen II was held at Exeter Phoenix in May, and #digpen III will take place on 11th June at the University College Falmouth - you can register here. If you want to see exactly what happened have a look at these photos and videos, and if you want to get involved you may wish to follow the #digpen Twitter list and register for our LinkedIn forum where we often hang out:

#digpen I

#digpen I photos by Jason Mayes:



#digpen II

#digpen II photos by Nick Charlton:



View more great #digpen II photos here by Dan Barber

#dipen II videos by Mark Peberdy:












Things you can do to be a part of #digpen:
- register for #digpen III
-join our discussion in the SW (UK) Web Developers LinkedIn forum
- register for our newsletter
- follow our Twitter list

2 comments:

  1. Great post and I agree that there are some great developers and designers in the South West (mainly working for themselves rather than big companies), I'd love to have come to this weeks event but am unable. Would you be hosting another one?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes we will be hosting more. Next in Plymouth in Auumn, Exeter in December, then back in Cornwall probably Spring. But other training workshops and hack day type things in between so register for the newsletter and hopefully we'll see you soon!

    ReplyDelete