One piece of paper and two pens – how can you get involved?

A very wise man said to me recently:

Forget bronze, silver, gold sponsorship packages, you just need one piece of paper and two pens.

He was a wise man and he is right.

As you will have seen from an earlier post, Young Rewired State is growing – we are ambitious and unfunded, but we are focused and we will do this.

Many of you want to join in and this can only be achieved with community effort and a determination to enable global change. It is all very well me broadcasting what we intend to do, but that is useless if I don’t do it with a piece of paper and two pens.

History has taught me that community and volunteer help is as wonderful as it is debilitating. Everyone wants to help, I have failed at enabling this help in a focused way.

So here I am… pick up your pen

You have read the ambition, here is how you can join in. We need:

  • evangelists – horrible term but it will do. We need to spread the word and if all you do is that – it is enough. One more coding child joining the community as a result of your sharing what we are doing, is a great achievement
  • money – we cannot be turned into a body shop and we must maintain independence. Do you know anyone with a CSR challenge or social enterprise fund we can apply to/take for lunch? Make the introduction – that is enough
  • staff – we will need to staff up in 2013, do you know anyone awesome who is looking for work? send us their details
  • developer networks – do you belong to or know any developer networks worldwide who would be interested in being foster parents for Young Rewired State? Introduce them
  • media – we cannot fell trees in a silent wood, we need media to amplify what is happening, both to attract isolated youngsters and to showcase the results. If you have media pals who may want to write about us, tell us

You can be a part of this, indeed we cannot really do this without you.

Young Rewired State – an update

For any of you who are unaware of Young Rewired State, here is a video from this year’s Festival of Code

To date we have made it our focus to find and foster every child in the UK driven to teach themselves how to code; to support them through community and peer-to-peer learning, and introduce them to open data, primarily open government data. If you would like to read up more on what we do and why, here is a White Paper written by Dominic Falcao, a student at York University.

So we have come far in the last four years and as we enter our fifth year we really are going hyperlocal and global – as I mentioned in a previous post.

Since that post I have had some very great discussions with developer communities in several regions outside the UK, including Berlin, Amsterdam, New York, Kenya and San Francisco – and the narrative has become more clear, why this is so important and how this very well could be the beginning of a game-changing, independent, worldwide community.

Let me explain…

The idea is to start as we did in 2009 in the UK with one weekend in a number of International regions. Find 50 local children, aged 18 or under, driven to teach themselves how to code, and introduce them to open government data in a traditional hack-style event. During these weekends these young programmers will be mentored by their local coding community, as they are in the UK, but as well, they are remotely supported by the worldwide members and mentors for YRS, through twitter hashtags and IRC channels.

If history can repeat itself over the following five years, each of these first 50 will continue to be mentored and add to their number, growing to 500 in five years, maybe more – and then becoming hyperlocal.

The dream is for a child in Berlin to find it completely usual to be supporting a child in New York, for example, with a local civic problem, or just in their learning. For them to grow up expecting and understanding open data and open borders. And almost more importantly to be forever a part of a worldwide community of like-minded people – never again coding alone.

The beauty of this network is that it is so local, we are working with established developer networks and organisations in all of the countries, and as these children become 19 they *typically* fold back into Young Rewired State as mentors. This is important as it creates a support network for teachers and educators worldwide that is so needed.

We work also in partnership with those organisations teaching young people to code, giving them somewhere to continue the learning through collaborative, peer-to-peer education that can scale according to talent and desire.

YRS Scotland

This weekend sees the very first of these hyperlocal events in the UK, with a group of young programmers in Scotland starting their YRS journey. You can follow the action and add your mentor support by following the hashtag: YRSSCO2012 on twitter.

I really do believe these children can actually change the world, and I am grateful to the huge community who have supported us in the UK and overseas to get to now.

We are run as a not-for-profit social enterprise. Here is how you can get involved

Young Rewired State Year 5: Everywhere and Hyperlocal

So the time has come when we are all itching for more Young Rewired State, and interestingly it seems that year 4-5 of this thing is when it all starts to get local. As you know, we like to try stuff to see if it works and so here is a very brief outline of the plans as we stand today, (PLANS, not definites… we are still testing ideas):

YRS in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales
Historically we have struggled to get centres and kids in these areas, mainly because we need to do more to raise awareness of YRS rather than there not being any kids who could take part. So we are planning on running three separate hack weekends on open local government data for 50 kids in each place, emulating what we did in England in 2009 at Google – the beginning of YRS.

The first is being run in Scotland: and we are working out Wales right now and Northern Ireland will likely be a collaboration with Maggie Philbin and Teentech.

  • if you would like to assist with the organisation of any of these three weekends, please let me know

YRS UK local

We now have 42 centres across the UK, some slightly bamboozled, but those who are in their 2nd or 3rd year of being a centre are well-established and seeing a need to foster the local coding youth community beyond the annual event, both through the centre and with Ben (Nunney)’s community management offerings to all of the YRSers.

We are also looking at how these kids can work together on local community projects, or not – just things that interest them – and would like to see the centres be involved in this.

Please bear with us as we take our time to get this right. We have managed to nut years 1-4, we just need to work out year 5 and then we can rinse and repeat, for everyone.

YRS Worldwide

The idea has always been to find and foster every kid who is driven to teach themselves how to code, and this does not limit us to the UK. For a few years now we have received messages from people overseas keen to run their own YRS events. So in 2013 we are launching YRS Everywhere. We are going to run weekends (again for 50 kids using local open government data) in the following places:

  • Estonia
  • Berlin
  • New York
  • Amsterdam
  • Kenya
  • plus one other wild card (we have a few options here you see)

We will replicate the method of scale we used in the UK, moving from weekend to week, to multiple centres and finally hyper-local, year on year – all the time connecting these young coders to each other, in a very light way, maintaining the worldwide mentoring model used to date. We have no idea how this will work out, but we have begun chats with local developer networks who will act as foster networks for the youngsters, and open government data people in country, and the response has been wildly enthusiastic.

  • If any of you have contacts in any of these countries, please do hook me up with them, I would like to tie everything together as much as I can

Money – how are we paying for this?

Firstly it is important to clarify that my intention is not to build an organisation and flog it for millions. The idea is that this thing will be built and will grow and grow and grow, goodness knows where it will take us all but I would still like to be doing this when I am 90, and I would like to still be doing this with you all. I find that more exciting than being rich for a few years then sad and lonely…

We run YRS on a sponsor model, covering costs by trading what we actually have (access to young programming minds to test kit or raise brand awareness to a new generation) but not selling databases or IP. Obviously I have given up work now and we have a small team who run YRS and Rewired State (Rewired State being a profit-making social enterprise), we are paid through money made on RS hack days and through pieces of consultancy. YRS will continue to run on a NfP model, as we grow so we will need to raise more money to cover our ambition, but we are not shackled to a VC because we are not building a business to sell – we are creating a network that will continue to grow and hopefully gainfully employ more and more people and be rewarding and energising – because we have no flipping idea what is actually going to happen, and have the freedom to do this.

And so we work very closely with our chosen sponsors every year to both get the cash we need to run this thing and to get them the results they need in order to donate actual money to us. It is a fine line but we work hard to get it right (nearly there!).

We intend to find a single main partner for Young Rewired State: Everywhere, as SAP were for us in the 2012 Festival of Code. We will find a model that combines local, in-country sponsorship, combined with our main partner sponsor.

In addition to this we will continue to run ‘for profit’ Rewired State hack days to support central costs.

The only way we can scale to find every single kid driven to teach themselves how to code, is to avoid obvious limitations. There is not going to be any single group that rises to the top as an outright winner from YRS, everyone will benefit, but every person involved can choose how they shape their involvement in YRS – it totally will be what you make of it.

I know I am in it for life and I am going to dedicate myself to making it great and worldwide. Young developers will take the network and make friends for life, build businesses, create the next bazillion dollar thing. Mentors will become worldwide mentors helping young people from all backgrounds, maybe even working with them to create something world-changing. Centres will find their own local coding youth and will hold the ability to shape that relationship and hone those skills for the greater good, or for their own. The Rewired State team work together to boldly go wherever, to try stuff, test and be brave, with a small cushion (a very small cushion) of financial stability. It is what we all make of it.

But I do not believe in death by committee. I never have but flirted with it in the early days of this social enterprise and it failed. I plan to lead this thing and forge ahead with as much support as I can muster and see how far we get. A time will come when what we are doing becomes irrelevant, at that point I will get a new job.

  • if any of you know of any potential sponsors or partners for any of this, please let me know


“… consider it a Braxton Hick…”

I find myself tweeting the evening after a hack weekend we have just run for the Department of Education in the UK under the self-explanatory hashtag #pupildata. I tweeted this to a teacher disappointed on a Sunday evening that he could not interact with the data used to produce these prototypes. Who said teachers were in it for the great hours and holidays?

Braxton Hicks for those who are not aware is a false feeling of labour that women feel late in pregnancy, sometimes implying impending delivery, sometimes not!

His frustration is shared by the developers who did manage to attend the event, a hack weekend thwarted by so many foreseen and unforeseen challenges – who KNEW that the fact that the Wimbledon final would be on the Sunday afternoon and coincide with Show and Tell would actually be a serious issue for the UK devs and public servants? This plus the:

  • Grand Prix
  • Gay Pride
  • Bar Camp
  • Mozilla event
  • Google event
  • Nike 10k

All in London, all this weekend. Challenging…

This weekend’s hack was on the National Pupil Database, a dataset that does divide opinion but is important whichever side of the fence you choose to set your hat. It is important to every child, parent, teacher and futurologist. So we tried to bring a good representation of those groups to the room but by far the group most represented were the under 18s, the very pupils whose data this was. Agreed this is probably skewed by the fact that I asked YRSers to come along, but welcome to the future, in my opinion people expect to be able to access their data and to do what they want with it – no matter their capabilities.

It is sensitive, but we only worked on anonymised data – and the restrictions on its use were such that the trusted people in the room working on it were also there as protectors of the data. No one, believe me, no one wanted to be able to identify students through the data. And they tried, they tried just to see if they could – I can understand that.

Most notably the under 18s went straight for the: “Can I find me” hacks. One thought he had managed to identify himself because he had achieved an A* in an uncommon subject and could search his own school results and filter by A* “uncommon subject” and try to remember the rest of his GCSE results. He thinks he found himself in the database but he is not 100% sure.

Was he bothered? No, but he wanted more data, because if he  (and let’s remember FF ten years and this will be the norm) could find out the information about himself, he could compare himself to others.

Well, through collected results he could.

His first question was: how can I find other data to quantify some of these numbers? I was not in the country at this time, my stats are borked… ’twas ever thus with education assessment, no? But open data brings us true opportunity to break this open.

On the subject of identity, one 18 year old was keen to point out that if they removed the school identifiers, this would disable individual identification – is this perhaps the answer?

But the story is not in what was discovered in the data at this hack day, the story is simply that the old alchemy works – still. Allow data, information, truth if you like, to be the central theme. Breathe some life and time into it with people who are artists, information artists (bit wanky but you know what I mean), to try to draw stories from the data and see what can help inform or cause.

Add pizza and Haribo and a time limited period.

That’s a usual hack day formula and this was running steadily, if a little faster than most, down that route. But this time we chose to remove the competitive element that usually defines a hack day, you can’t compete over pupil data discovery – bit sick – so we in RWS bought a load of MiFis and Geek Manifestos for everyone taking part. Making it a non-competitive show and tell helped us focus on what this is really about: what’s the story here?

The story was very clear. This data is interesting. Who knows what tales it tells, if any. As Zoe so rightly showed through the medium of sheep, collecting data is pointless just in and of itself, it only becomes useful when you explore it – obviously, right?

Closed and restricted access offers a very tantalising glimpse into its riches. Nothing to do with identity. No hunting grounds to be found in this anonymised data.

Restricted access was a bit of a beast but not insurmountable. In fact, honest appraisal at the end of 36 hours of programming meant that the department was shown a magnifying glass reflection of the state of its collated information. The geeks had begun to make sense of it, in an attempt to create prototypes and visualisations and were in no way deterred, in fact so much so that they were already working hard to make it better and easier for parents/teachers/other kids to understand and that in itself is a win.

Did the Department for Education get a shiny app happy hack day? No

Why not? Access to the data was very restricted

Was this right? Yes

Should further work be done and the data open? Yes

Here is our Easter Egg:

The Sec of State for Education: Michael (divides opinion) Gove, came to the hack day show and tell. He was given an opportunity to get out of it, when we realised that the hack day was not going to result in happy, shiny, popcorn prototypes we sought direction on how we play this. Do you really want to leave the sofa and the tennis to see that we couldn’t do much? We will do a video and show you on Thursday, sorry… we tried :/ etc etc

I have to tell you, my face could not have been more gobsmacked when we were told that regardless of the out we had given him, legitimately: Wimbledon final, Nike 10k, Grand Prix, data is a bit crap the outputs are not so shiny and you might be a bit bored by geek speak… he had decided to come. I have a sneaking suspicion that even the civil servants were surprised by this – he was on his way…

Normally this would be a big thing, well… a thing anyway. But on a Sunday afternoon when everyone has had about 2.5 hours of sleep, everything has conspired against any hope of shinyness, the only way is to crack on, basically and make good with what we have.

The best I could make with the people I had at the Hub Westminster this afternoon was to have a chat. How often do you get a Sunday afternoon with Cabinet Office civil servants, departmental civil servants, Special Advisers, Press Officers, Geeks (under 18), Geeks (over 18), parents, open data enthusiasts, people who just thing it is interesting and the Secretary of State for Education… there are under 25 people in the room… a great leveller.

We needed a chat, not a scripted chat, just – a chat.

Respect was the name of the event

Respect for the data and respect for each other. And so we all welcomed the SoS for Education with respect, although I think a few kids ran (literally) when they saw him, not through celebrity awe, rather a clock that started ticking the minute he walked in, they knew presentations were on and like anyone who gives a shit, performance time is mighty and preparation really important.

And without wanting to seem really wanky, I think he met us on that common ground. He was not watching the tennis, he was here even though we had given him a really easy “out”, and lets face it, he is a politician, he knows this is not going to be an automatic breeze, there is a very real risk that he could be on the spot this afternoon.

He pitched in, chatted to everyone, did not stand on ceremony (those not in the civil service will think this normal, it’s not  – especially on a Sunday afternoon). <- I have worked with many Ministers, this is very unusual.

Whilst Murray fought on the Wimbledon courts, a far more dull, tedious and tiny conversation was taking place. But it affects every pupil in this country, and I think that it is for this reason, probs for his son who was chillaxing in front of the match in PostCodesomething, that Michael Gove rocked up. Not only did he rock up, but he stayed, he talked and he listened. Properly.

Look, this is as astounding to me as it is you, OK? I do not agree with _some/many/most/no idea of the stats_  no *some* of his policies, but the man is a good Minister and a good person because he did not do the usual Ministerial thing of sweeping in and out of an event with no interest or engagement.

You can be a good person as well as have some dodge policies, right?

In a democracy being fully briefed is half the battle, having receptive politicians: the other half (I too am surprised at my typing tonight)

Is democracy not about having people represent us and helping those representatives understand our point?

Well… I think/hope, we will see <- you see how shattered and fragile my illusions are, but you know what, I have no reputation to salvage, nor brand to represent and so I am probably the most obvious yet unlikely candidate to voice what we were all saying after he left (two fricking hours, not sure I ever got that with any other Minister!):

Michael Gove is a good man – in a democracy you need that – someone who will take time out to go to an event with no press whatsoever to see what is happening within his department and with information he ultimately controls, on a Sunday afternoon, when he could have sacked it all off.

I am speechless.

Edit 11th July 2012 Here is the official video, see for yourselves

YRS2012 and the Custard Factory

So, I have kept you all fairly well up to date with how we have managed to scale Young Rewired State and our Festival of Code weekend celebration at the end of the week, instead of a rushed single day with no time for proper chatting or collaboration, plotting and intrigue.

Our excitement at organising the festival to be held in the grounds of Bletchley Park with the National Museum of Computing hosting and doing all manner of wonderful things, was ridiculous. (You may remember).

Then one completely wonderful/terrible day a few weeks back, we realised that we had so many young programmers signing up, that there was no way we would be able to carry this off in the grounds of Bletchley Park. And no matter how wonderful they were, kind and accommodating – there was simply not enough room. A delicious but tragic position to be in.

Should we turn hundreds of kids away, or find a new venue, with only a few short months to go, in the middle of summer, the height of the Olympics and with bog all money? We had no real choice…

… we hit the phones, emails, mates, colleagues, strangers, ex-tutors, ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, current boyfs, current girlfs, twitter, airports, Number Ten, nuclear bunkers – you name it, we begged it. Fun!

I shan’t bore you with the details – it was a scary time.

Enter Birmingham City Council and Digital Birmingham – a wonderful, hugely under-resourced but fabulously helpful bunch of deliciousness. Within hours we were onto a winner and within days we were in Birmingham, looking at the most incredible venue ever: the Custard Factory (I promise it will not stay this amazing for long – go and have a look now before it is full of handlebar moustaches and penny farthings – every door opens into another beautifully naked space, groaning with street art and proper “urban chic” I think it is called.) I fell in love immediately, on behalf of the kids, of course.

Price was an issue. Naturally – most people putting on an event of this size with 500 kids, 50 centres, 200 mentors, celebrities, industry giants and whatnot, would have a budget to match. Not us – we have to work to fit the need, we cannot create the need and fill it, this is too young a game for us to be rigid, and if the demand is there we must rise to it, and if it isn’t we must make those people who are involved feel like the community is full to the brim even if there are only 50 of them. And so we cannot sell our souls for hundreds of thousands – which is what it would realistically cost, I think, in the normal world. And so we have what we have and we will make it happen.

Luckily we are working with the Big Cat Group who have been super helpful. Anthony Tattum and Lara Ratnaraja have not flinched at my ridiculous statements of necessity, and have instead either applauded all valiant efforts to reduce costs, or made necessary introductions and interventions. And we are finally here…

The plan is this:

From Monday through to Thursday the kids will all code in centres across the country, and where we cannot drum up a centre, they will be remotely mentored.

On the Friday the 10th August they will all make their way to the Custard Factory in Birmingham.

Through Friday afternoon and evening they will continue coding, have some chats from great people before bedding down for the world’s largest sleepover in spaces ranging from the Zellig rooms to the nightclub.

Breakfast is nice and early and heralds a chaotic (no doubt) morning of presentation heats to panels of judges followed by winning presentations to yet another panel of quite frankly astounding judges – names to be announced, we do not want to overshadow the celebration of the young talent by shiny grown ups!

Prizes and awards will be given and a party will be had, underneath the arches of course.

I expect people will start to disappear at this point, but we are going to have a survivor’s breakfast on the Sunday morning and have kept some of the spaces for those wishing to stay on (on the floor) and then it is all over and we start plans for 2013!

Some things I would like to mention:

1. We need to source 1000 chairs, the quote we received was for NINE THOUSAND POUNDS for 1000 chairs!! If necessary I will set up a chair donation thing for Birmingham and crowdsource them as we do not have that kind of cash! (Watch this space)

2. Feeding people will be fun. All suggestions very welcome – we cannot do a per capita rate we need options

3. We actually have a designated Green Room – <- I KNOW!

4. We could do with all hands on deck with Birmingham folk looking for non-Olympic stuff to do that weekend – feel free to let me know in comments here

*to note*

We have added ourselves to the Mozilla Summer Code Party as we know that we are merely a part of a worldwide movement of people doing awesome things. Let’s not forget the other stuff; indeed – if you can’t be a part of YRS2012, be a part of some of the other happenings.

PS Sorry there is no real custard in this blog post

Buy yourself something pretty

Earlier this week I wrote about the wonderful story of raising the £20,000 needed for the hardship costs for kids joining in with YRS2012, I was overwhelmed by the number of people celebrating and joining in with that success – love it.

This week also marks the six months since I received the following email:


You have been nominated by Mark Surman to receive a Shuttleworth Foundation Flash Grant to work with Young Rewired State.

It came out of the blue and was for $5,000. An amount that is enough to be excited about and feel like you just won something, but is not a scary sum with strings attached that adds to your endless list of deliverables.

This money came with no strings, I could do whatever I liked with it – so long as it was for Young Rewired State, of course, not red wine and taxis (well… ), I was to be open about the project (no change there!) and I was also able to use the Shuttleworth Foundation logo for the following six months on the YRS website. There was a request though that at the end of the six month period, receivers of this Flash Grant should write about how the grant helped them – so here I am.

Funnily enough the timing could not be more perfect. After raising the £20,000 for YRS2012 I have thought a lot about how exactly the right amount of money can be the difference between powering forward and screeching to a halt.

Meeting Mark

I had met Mark Surman, Executive Director at Mozilla, for the first time and for a very brief hour, about a month before this email from the Shuttleworth Foundation landed in my inbox.

I talked about Young Rewired State and Rewired State, he spoke about his plans for Mozilla and the education space.

We riffed about what really drove us, the passion we had for the potential for the open web, open data and open education. How young people were really growing up into an incredibly exciting world and that we were in the middle of that rennaissance period, it had arrived. We spent the hour we were speaking using everything we could find to draw all over, diagrams to show the patterns we were weaving in our minds of how this all fit together – all that lovely stuff.

[We did not write on bananas – this is just a brilliant picture]

But whenever Mark asked the more probing questions about how I thought I might achieve any of this, how YRS could scale, how my own personal enthusiasm could make any difference other than to those I directly affect – I was unsure. I could see the end game, I could sense the potential, it all felt right and I *knew* it was big – but I was not sure how I should play into that space and indeed if I should. I blustered and bluffed but I didn’t fool anyone.

I always knew that I would continue with YRS, regardless of anything, my heart lies in it, it is a wonderful thing, it will always benefit some people and I loved doing it – but was what I was doing enough?

Now I had never met Mark before, but I knew of him. I love Mozilla’s ethos and brand identity and Mark’s dude creds were formidable. I remember days and days of reading and following up on links he had recommended – it was just one of those moments, we all have them, a meeting where you come away just buzzing your tits off and with renewed enthusiasm and shutzpah.

The Shuttleworth Foundation

So then, a month (ish) later, I receive this Flash Grant and notification that Mark had recommended me for it. It was the combination of these two things that really turned things around, I believe, for Young Rewired State and its huge growth this year.

Since I received that email and proudly displayed the Shuttleworth funded logo on Young Rewired State I worked hard to focus my thoughts and plans. Because of the faith shown in me to really achieve something with Young Rewired State I felt almost like I had been dared to push the boundaries of what I hoped to achieve, to find a way to scale. For some reason this free money and this massive slap on the back gave me more motivation than anything in my entire life so far – I can’t explain that.

Scaling like a scaly thing

So this year Young Rewired State has grown from 100 young coders and 14 centres in the UK in August 2011, to 500 young coders and 50 centres.

This is an amazing jump but it is not the only change.

One of my favourite moments in YRS (and the same thing happens every year and makes me all emotional) is the moment the individual young developer walks into the centre on the Monday morning, not usually too much confidence knocking about and often used to coding alone in their spare time. They see ten other kids in the room. By the Tuesday they are shining, collaborating, learning, teaching, competing and getting excited. (At this point the emails usually start from parents, telling us how profound an effect even two days has had, the confidence, excitement and energy they see in their child – trust me, these emails floor us all, lots of gulping). Then on the Friday all of the centres come together for show and tell and they walk into a room of 100 other kids, exactly like themselves and their confidence and excitement shoots up to a whole other level.

By the time they finish watching and taking part in show and tell – a community is born and it is these moments that drive the YRS alumni to return year on year to foster and mentor the new YRSers.

Now I recognise that this is nothing whatsoever to do with me, this is just what happens when you create the right environment for this magic. That YRS does this, is happenstance, it was not concocted. But I also know that it is one of the most important things that happen during the week.

But what would happen if instead of only one crazy day of show and tell followed by a race for trains back to everywhere in the UK, these kids had more time together?

We did the only thing any sensible tiny organisation that runs on the smell of an oily rag could do and morphed that Friday show and tell into a weekend of coding and collaboration. A festival of code. We picked up the phone to the National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park and asked them if they would mind if we camped on their lawns, and they were delighted, excited even!

The YRSers will pitch tents, code, have talks, eat pizza – they will also do their show and tells and battle to win prizes, fame and fortune – but they will be together from the Friday through the weekend.

What greater nod to scale can there be than finding that one thing that holds the magic in what you are doing, and making that better?

So whilst it is a huge thing for us to be hosting so many more young coders this year – the fact that at the end of their week of coding in centres across the country, the community gets two days instead of two hours together this year – that’s the proper win.

Finally, of course, the $5,000 has gone towards YRS2012 and I would like to extend an enormous thank you to both Mark Surman for recommending me in the first place, and to the Shuttleworth Foundation for awarding me the grant for Young Rewired State. You have no idea how much of a motivator that was – I hope you enjoy the show this year and that next year we can begin to scale the festival of code.

Young Rewired State 2012 – an update

You may well ask why I am doing this on my personal blog: simply because the news is too tasty to wait for the soon-to-be-relaunched YRS and RS websites.

Young Rewired State 2012 is gearing up a notch. We still have b*gger all sponsorship because raising sponsorship is hard and takes time/money to do, neither of which we have as we need to keep the lights on in Rewired State by running our fabulous hack days. However we do have a huge community of people willing to help, so once more we are doing this on a wing and a prayer but we know it is going to be awesome – more than that we are super excited

Here’s the story:

We were sitting around my dining room table (our current office) trying to solve the problem of running YRS2012 slap bang in the middle of the Olympics, with a Friday show and tell in London. When Adam McGreggor our multi-talented genius said “Hang on a minute, why don’t we run it at the National Museum of Computing in Bletchley Park?” From there it developed into an excited frenzy of telephone calls, emails and tweets to the rather wonderful museum and Chris Monk and a decision to run the end of the big YRS2012 event as a big festival style sleepover in tents in the grounds of the museum, with access to the museum itself (yes, BBC Micros) and the show and tell to be on the Saturday afternoon.

This is genius. Not only because it is not in London, but also because we are always a bit sad that the YRSers from the various centres from across the UK do not get a chance to mingle much on the Friday when they all come together, as it is such a massive rush to do the show and tell and catch various trains. This way they can all work together, be mentored together and practise their presentations. Also, more of you can come and see what was built as it will not be a work day!

You can’t get much better than the museum. It is staffed by a litany of incredible volunteers and many of the young people will not get a chance to see the history of what they are doing now and it is the centenary year of the birth of Alan Turing. And it will be all festival-y and Summer and so on and so forth.

So we are very happy.

Naturally, the cost just went up by a few thousand! We will have to have a far bigger hardship fund pot for those young people who cannot afford the fare to Bletchley and we will need to cover all manner of things like toilets and tents for those who do not have any, and marquees and whatnot – but we are never shy of a challenge.

I will be asking for sponsorship soon and will find ways to crowdsource some funds – but if you know of any organisations who might want to be a part of this festival of young geek talent then please do get in touch with me We don’t do these things for profit, and we do have a great band of volunteers – but there are necessary costs and we do need to cover them. So please do help

Before I bounce off, a huge thank you to the National Museum of Computing who have been so gracious, excited and helpful. I would like to point out that the Museum is a separate entity to Bletchley Park itself, even though it is in the grounds of Bletchley, and as such does not benefit from large benefactor donations – so we are even more thankful to them. What a Summer we are going to have.

I cannot wait…

Update on Funding! The wonderful STEPHEN FRY (no less) has tweeted about us and encouraged people to support us through which has resulted in a great start in community fund-raising – do help us by pledging a tenner 🙂 and here is a copy of his tweet…

Stephen Fry@stephenfry 

The UK’s young coders are at it again #YRS2012 looks even more intriguing this year, help support it over here…