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OpenUK Awards: A great night in and a wonderful trophy!

Last week I had the pleasure of being invited to the OpenUK awards ceremony. It was originally planned as a big night out in London where like-minded open source advocates and community members could get together, chat about the latest tech or trends and meet new friends. Due to the current pandemic situation, however, they moved it online. Initially I was a little apprehensive as this just looked like another virtual meeting to add to the list. Thankfully I was mistaken!

The event started by joining an online space unlike any of the other events I had been to. We were seated at virtual tables, with an open video chat to everyone seated at the same group. Not only was this a great opportunity to have fun conversations with interesting new people; it was also easy to hear everyone which is not always true of the in-person dinner events! I was sat at a table with some very interesting developers working in related areas of app development, GUI toolkits and tools to make programming easier to get in to (I suspect this was not luck, the organisers did a great job sorting the seating).

Suitably delicious

When I say the event started by entering the virtual space I suppose that wasn’t really accurate – 4 days earlier a box had arrived from the organisers marked “Do not open until instructed” which added to the anticipation greatly! And what a treat – once the proceedings were underway the welcomes included a go-ahead for a sub-set of the goodies to be unpacked.

This included many delicious snacks and was divided into something akin to a three course meal. This was a really excellent detail – not only were we around like-minded people to celebrate the best in our industry but we were able to enjoy it with an exciting mix of new flavours and, if you added something to the mocktail, a little social lubrication.

Celebrating a bright future

After the welcome by Amanda Brock, who made us all feel very welcome, we were treated to a rousing keynote from Jono Bacon – a great speaker on community leadership who you should listen to if you have not done so before. After we were all uplifted and raring to go the event’s main ceremony got started with the kids competition.

We were introduced to the regional winning teams from around the country who had been working hard together to find new and creative uses of the MiniMu Glove kit. I think that everyone can remember (recent or otherwise) fun times spent with an electronics kit and a software editor, but these teams had taken it above and beyond. Using the sensors included and some smart audio control they had created useful and charming musical creations that impressed and entertained the audience. I was happy that the team from Scotland picked up the award – their project was really innovative.

Seeing the projects, the hard work and the bright young individuals involved really made for a positive feeling for the future of digital, engineering and open technology!

The main awards

The main awards ceremony, or as it was referred to on the night “the adult awards” was a great opportunity to see what was going on around the country in open source software, hardware and data. It was great to see the diversity of projects and the enthusiasm with which people talked about their work.

Among the short listed people and companies were some names I knew, and others that I didn’t. Thankfully there was an introduction video to each category so every finalist was given 1 minute to describe what they did and why they deserved to win the award. As usual the product based entrants had exceptionally polished videos – though I quite liked those that were a little more personal. It’s really not easy pre-recording this sort of thing to a web-cam in your home office but everyone did really well.

I was pleasantly surprised when it came to the final category – the “individual award” – because they introduced it as the “main event”. Goodness, to have been shortlisted for this award was truly an honour. I was also heartened to learn that all three of us were nominated for community leadership activities. All segments of this video mentioned the importance of encouraging new people to get into open source, and supporting them through their journey.

When it came down to the final decision, however, I did not win the category – that honour went to Liz Rice who truly deserved it. Well done Liz :). It was a thrill nonetheless to find that an award for being a runner-up was included in my box (the package was well wrapped and only uncovered during the announcement). It is my very first trophy for work in open source!

 

With the awards portion of the evening over it was time for some additional networking – and a chance to tell everyone interested what this Fyne project that I mentioned was all about. Thanks to those who were interested to learn more – but also thanks for telling me about the exciting projects you are working on too.

All told this was a fantastic event – it stood out against the collection of meetings that have moved online and provided an enjoyable evening and a new way to do networking in the mostly-online world we are currently in. Congratulations and thanks to the organisers and sponsors!

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