Mark Kirby - mobile, cloud, voice and IoT

The geek and tech scene in Brighton

People often ask me how to get involved with the tech scene in Brighton either for social reasons, or to find work. This post should provide a place for me to direct them, and perhaps help anyone else wondering or perhaps even unaware there is such a scene.

Here are my top suggestions for getting involved…

1 - Attend an event

The easiest way to get started is to get along to an event. There a number of regular/semi regular events as well as one offs and occasional festival type events and conferences, I’ve listed them below along with frequency and price. Many of these are free, and some are more tuned to networking than others.

My advice - start with an event that has a focus (i.e. a speaker) and see who you can get talking to at the end, it’s always better to deal with people in person instead of via a phone conference call. Complement this with some regular trips to The Farm which will get your face known by people you might bump into at some of the other events. You’ll soon find you know lots of people, and start getting introduced to others.

Weekly meetups

For those who just want to meet people and possibly find some work there is the Brighton Farm, a meetup for Freelancers, although anyone is welcome. There’s normally at least 10 people in attendance (often more), and it takes the form of sitting round a table in a pub for the first hour, so its easy to take a seat and get chatting to the person next to you - none of this walking up to people you don’t know. As the evening wears on it gets livelier, and subsequently harder to meet new people so a good tip would be to get there early. There’s always a good mix of regulars and newcomers, so you won’t be the only one. Check the website for details, but they always meet in a local pub at 7:30 - look for the people with the tech book on the table. Free to attend, no need to book.

FlashBrighton meets every Tuesday at The Werks, and focuses on a 1 - 2 hour presentation or workshop, often followed by drinks. It was originally aimed at Flash developers, although plenty of people who go along focus on other platforms as well, and the talks often focus on other platforms and areas. The quality of the talks is always high and as its weekly you can quickly get to know people by attending regularly. There’s a different crowd here to some of the other events so well worth popping along to and giving it a try. Free to attend but you must book.

Semi-regular meetups

There are plenty of occasional meetups to suit a wide range of interests. Pick one, or try them all out for size. The meetings generally take place at The Skiff or The Werks (so keep an eye on their sites for details of new groups), and have one or more speakers followed by a trip to a nearby pub where you can get chatting to people. Don’t forget to book tickets by going to the sites listed - these often sell out.

Here a selection:

£5 app features people demoing apps they’ve worked on in their spare time, or funded themselves. Often some fascinating stories come out of this meetup, and there’s lots to interest designers, developers and entrepreneurs alike. You can easily apply to do a demo on their site as well. Free to attend but you must book.

UX Brighton is essentially a mini 2 hour conference with a focus on crafting a great user experience. One or two speakers will present their thoughts and experiences with UX design, and explain how they or their companies achieved success (or failure) in the UX field. A top quality event for anyone with an interest in UX. Generally takes place in a local office, followed by pub. Free to attend but you must book.

Skillswap Brighton is organised by Clearleft and features an expert sharing some of their knowledge in their field, be it design, development or UX. Speakers are always excellent as they are carefully vetted by the Clearleft team who also organise world renowned events such as dConstruct and UXLondon. Another one that always sells out - keep an eye their site. Free to attend but you must book a ticket.

Conferences

Brighton plays host to a range of conferences which attract people from all over the world, so if your looking to connect with people from outside Brighton as well as locals, you don’t need to go far.

BarcampBrighton is an unconference, where everyone who attends gets a chance to speak. I helped to organise the last one and it was a great success. It takes place over a weekend and as such presents an excellent opportunity to connect with people over a longer period of time. Think tech conference meets weekend break. The next one is due in September 2009, at the university of Sussex. Free to attend but tickets are required.

dConstruct is one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended. Organised by Clearleft, held at The Dome, single day event, the speakers are always world renowned, never pitch and always focus on interesting topics or aspects of design and development in web, mobile, gaming and more. This one pushes the boundaries of what makes a tech conference. Tickets from £120, next one in September.

Flash On The Beach is a three day event for Flash developers and designers, also held at the Dome, costs around £300. Next one in September.

[Full Frontal][11] is a new one day conference for Javascript people, its being held at The Duke of Yorks this October. £100.

2 - Work in a co-working space

One of the best ways to meet people is to work alongside them. Let them know what you specialise in, and they’ll be able to turn to you - literally - when they get that call. There are two spaces in Brighton which both allow you to drop in for the day to try them out for free, and then allow you to hot desk on a semi regular basis or rent a desk for a reasonable free. The Werks is in Hove and is the larger of the two, or try The Skiff for a cosier option in the North Laines. I’d say as the Skiff is smaller you’d be more likely to be noticed and get chatting to people there, but a wider range of people make their way through The Werks and there are several companies located inside it. Why not try both?

More suggestions anyone?

[11]: http://2009.full-frontal.org/details

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