Category: raspberry jam

Eventbrite Interview

I was recently Interviews for the German Eventbrite blog about my work at the Raspberry Jam Berlin.

You can find the interview (in German) here: What the Hack

I asked and I can also share with you guys the English Version below. Thanks also to Katharina Böhm for the great interview

Katharina: Hi James, first of all: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you started organizing events!

James: Hi Katharina, I am James from Edinburgh Scotland, I have lived in Berlin with my wife and kids for more than 10 years now. My background is in Software Quality Assurance. Although I have also worked as system administrator for a few companies back in Scotland. I started the Raspberry Jam Berlin because I love the Raspberry Pi as an affordable computer and I wanted to be a part of this awesome community that has grown around the Pi.

Katharina: You’re the host of the Raspberry Jam, a monthly workshop for everyone who’s interested or enthusiastic about learning what to do with a Raspberry Pi. What, for example, could that be?

James: The Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized computer that was built for education, hacking and fun. Plug a keyboard mouse and monitor into it and you can make a Retro Gaming console, media center, learn to code, build a server, home automation, build a robot! You could even strap it to a weather balloon for some high altitude photography. What sets the Raspberry Pi apart from other similar products is that you can interface very easily with hardware. Sensors, buttons, and lights. Because it’s so small and very low in power consumption it’s hard to beat. A great example would be the Panning Time Lapse video I made from the Jam in July. I used a Servo Motor controller and the Raspberry Pi Camera module all connected to the Raspberry Pi which in turn was powered by a Battery. As the event was going on this camera would take a picture and then move a little. Then take another…etc Finally I managed to compile this video (still all in the Raspberry Pi!)

Katharina: How did you come up with the idea for this event series?

James: I was inspired by the Raspberry Jam events in the UK started by some really cool people like Alan O’Donohoe and Ben Nuttall. With the exception of one other event (Pi and More at the University of Trier) there was nothing for the Raspberry Pi in Germany. So I took it upon myself to start my own Jam in Berlin where I live.

Katharina: What’s the biggest challenge when organizing events of that kind?

James:  Finding a good place to setup with all the space and equipment I need has been a real challenge. I would like to take a moment here to thank FabLab Berlin for supporting the Jam in recent months.

Katharina: And why did you choose Eventbrite as your ticketing-partner?

James: When starting the Raspberry Jam I reviewed a few systems and I had chosen Eventbrite because it is free to use if you are not charging for tickets. This is great for a free event like mine. Tracking and being able to contact the attendees is also important to me. Communication is key!

Katharina: Through the events you don’t only teach and share your knowledge, but also act as a spokesperson for the product Raspberry Pi. Is marketing also a purpose of your events?

James: I would like to say no. I consider myself as a Raspberry Pi evangelist that is very passionate about the Pi and the great work the Raspberry Pi foundation do. I don’t make any money from the Jam’s nor am I paid in any way. I just want to share with and meet like minded people. Also would love to see kids in German schools learning to code using the Pi. Its a perfect and fun platform! With 2 of my own it’s become a bit of an obsession, especially considering the current state of the schools in Germany.

Katharina: Are most of your attendees already familiar with the product or do you welcome many Raspberry “Newlies”?

James: We have loads of people coming by from experts to those that have only just heard about the Raspberry Pi. Any skill level is welcome! Just drop by and see what we are doing. The next Raspberry Jam is on the 22nd of August and then after that I would pencil in the 19th of September.

Katharina: I assume the attendees are tech-savvy and familiar in finding information and inspiration online. What are the advantages of getting together offline?

James: Its got to be the personal touch to be honest and the real time interaction. For example if you wanted to know how to run a website from your Raspberry Pi and you can find a number of tutorials online. But some are outdated and may have issues getting them up and running. Then finding help might take time. The whole process can become frustrating. At a Jam you could ask someone who might have done something similar for their experiences and get active help in installing your web server and then also you have made a new friend.

Katharina: What has been the most exciting moment during the Jams so far?

James: Seeing people working together and communicating about their projects. To see collaboration like that manifest itself at an event you organized if very special. An exciting moment relating to my work with the Jam would be getting to accept the Linux New Media award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Open Source’ on behalf of the Raspberry Pi foundation and also the award for ‘Best Software for Raspberry Pi’ for Raspbian at CeBit this year!

Katharina: What are your future plans for Raspberry Jam? How could the project evolve and what could it ideally look like in the future?

James: Makerfaire Berlin is happening on 3rd and 4th of October. Raspberry Jam Berlin will be there with a few Pi’s running and also some robots. I would like to encourage more schools to look at the Raspberry Jam as a template for clubs they could run for their pupils. So teacher training workshops are definitely on the cards for the future. Short term goals would be to setup some mini workshops for kids. I am currently looking for mentors to help with that. Also I am considering an event for next year. May involve robots… Might have some sort of prize. But I have think that’s all I can say at this point about it.

Making a Raspbian SD Card on a Mac

I made a short video tutorial for making a SD-Card in a Mac ready for the Raspberry Pi!

Me, myself and Raspberry Jam

The community surrounding the Raspberry Pi is vast and awesome! Nothing really embodies how awesome it is more than the Raspberry Jam. These events found all over the world allowing geeks and geekettes to meetup and share and learn. They are opportunities to network and find new friends and help for projects. You can also sometimes buy accessories for your Pi.

I really wanted to attend one of these events but I live in Berlin Germany, and while Berlin has an impressive list of events from Javascript workshops to Hackathons, I found that we were lacking on a regular meetup group for the Raspberry Pi. Berlin had no finger in any Raspberry Jam’s.

After pushing some ideas around and contacting some other group organizers I got to the point that I knew I would have to take the bull by the horns at get on with setting up the a Jam on my own. Red flags started to wave soon after.

  • Where do I have the Raspberry Jam?
  • What do I talk about?
  • Will anyone come?
  • What about food and drink?
  • Will there be screens?
  • Will there be a network?

These are only a few of the questions that popped into my head when starting this.

Its important to note if you’re organizing an event like this to keep yourself focused on what you need to do and be clear what you want for the people attending the event! Lists are of the utmost importance. I carry a A4 ring bound book with me marking down everything I need to do!

While finding help from twitter followers, I found a coworking office that would let me use their space. I decided on what I would talk about. I contacted companies that are related to the Raspberry Pi and asked them to help by sponsoring the Jam. I was overwhelmed by the response from everyone helping. While I might not have had someone next to me taking tasks and making notes. I never really felt alone doing this!

Since this was the first Raspberry Jam event in Berlin I thought I would simply introduce the Raspberry Pi, the foundations mission and also a short getting started guide to the Raspberry Pi. This paid off as I could see several people in the group wide eyed and their newly purchased Pi in their laps!

During the setup I did hit a few road blocks! I found out a few weeks before that the venue did not have a wired network! I did not have any compatible wifi devices to take with me. In fact only a month before I threw out an old router that could have been an access point, for sure an ‘I knew I would need that’ moment! I simply setup the a copy of raspbain on my home network and cloned the network cards. I then figured out that the monitors while having USB ports would not power the pi’s! This was the moment that could have ruined the whole Jam but thankfully I remembered to take all the USB chargers I had in the house and also my only Powered USB hub. Finally I wanted to use the camera board to make a small stop motion animation booth and let people have a play. After they took their shots the animation would complied and emailed to tumblr… But because of the Internet issues that did not happen!

Lessons learned… Always check everything before you go! Have backups if something does not work. We might all hate Murphy but his law is sound: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Thankfully I don’t think anyone noticed the issues and still enjoyed their time at the Jam.

After the talks (and yeah I did have the feeling I went on a bit), We had some cake pops my wife made and I let everyone have a go at a row of Raspberry Pi’s (donated by a sponsor) setup at the back of the room. I had laid out a selection of add-on boards and motors, minecraft and Sonic Pi all out and installed ready to use.

What I found important at this point was to capture the interest of the people attending. If I simply laid some nameless board with no instructions would they bother to even look at them. So a week or so before the Jam I made ‘Activity Cards’ which are printed and laminated A5 sheets containing instructions on how to install the add-on board or program and one simple example on how to use it.

Activity Cards

I measure the success of these activity cards by having a friend of mine that does not have a Raspberry Pi, take a card for the program ‘Sonic Pi’ and 5 minutes later I could hear ‘Stay alive’ from the game Portal fill the room!

My sponsors where a fantastic help. In fact without them I don’t think the Jam could not have happened in the form it did!

If you would like to be a sponsor or want to send the Raspberry Jam Berlin some demo boards feel free to email: raspberryjamberlin@gmail.com

I had loads of fun organizing the event, met some really cool people, helped some people with issues there were having with their Pi, helped some get setup with their Pi for the first time and most of all I got to attend a Raspberry Jam… Finally!

You can find some photos for the Raspberry Jam Berlin on Flickr and also the next event will be on the 2nd of August! More information here: raspberryjamberlin.bytingidea.com

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