The Britpack and where we go from here
What started as a blog-roll, mailing list and a piss take may well be heading in the wrong direction after taking on a strange life of its own
This morning when I opened my inbox, I found a flurry of messages discussing the Britpack and what it is, could and shouldn't be and about whether or not the wider perception of it was elitist and somehow harmful. These discussions continued well after cornflakes and coffee time, so I think that it is a good idea to somehow widen the discussion, be open and to find out what you think.
First, a little potting shed history.
Way back when I first designed this site, I thought that it would be fun to split up my blog-roll into British-based designers and developers whose blogs I read on a daily basis; people such as Andy Budd, Dunstan Orchard, Jon Hicks and others, and those that were outside of the UK - the Johnny Foreigners. Being a proud and passionate scarf waving England football fan, my idea was on one hand intended to be humourous but there was also the intention to make a point about those people being British, especially as at that time many of the men and women making the biggest noise in the industry were continentals, Yanks and other Old Colonials.
Like I imagine everyone's blog-roll to be, my list was full of people whose writing I admire. I just happened to split the <ul>s with fancy <h3>s. A blog-roll with a fancy title, nothing more, nothing less.
Around about that time, Andy Budd, Richard Rutter, Jon Hicks and Stuart Langridge were invited to spend the weekend at Dunstan Orchard's stately home in Dorset. By all accounts, a great time was had by all. Macs were discussed, games were played and puppies were stroked. Those of us not invited no doubt felt a little bit left out. It was the first of the weekend get togethers that the internet now calls Geekends and there have been informal geek-togethers in London, Brighton, The Cotswolds and Ironbridge.
The mailing list
When Patrick Griffiths had the courage to lay it on the line and go balls out to put on the first @media conference, he did two other things that he will have my everlasting respect for. He showed huge faith by inviting me, Andy, Jeremy, Ian and others to speak and in doing so he gave me certainly my biggest break. But @media 2005 was also something special in that it had a huge feeling of community. So many friendships were made there, so many interests were shared that it was unsurprising that we set up an email list to make communication easier.
We still have that list and although it is used every day, it never gets to be inbox busting. It's a water cooler. We talk about work, friends, travelling: all of the common things that are discussed when friends get together. Recent conversations range from;
Invoice Payments via PayPal?
Does anyone know about receiving payments via PayPal? Is there a way to get PayPal to pay straight into a business account?
Paying for failed designs?
What do you do in a situation where the client has decided not to use your ideas? Lets say you've done 4 logo iterations (about 2 days work), but the client doesn't like any of them. Do you expect them to pay the full rate?
Is it just me...
...or did Upcoming used to have a liquid layout?
Show Scrivs some reverence
Enough of the Scrivs bashing, show him the reverence he deserves. When I grow up I want to be like Scrivs.
Over time new people have come and others have faded a little. But we still mainly talk about the same old stuff. It's not a boy's club (we have women) and it actually isn't strictly British as some of our friends live abroad and Patrick is actually Geerman. The list is like so many others, a place to ask sensible or silly questions, arrange meet-ups and attempt to get rude messages past Ian Lloyd's work email filters.
Which brings me neatly onto the pants. In March 2005, some of our friends in Holland got together one afternoon after school and formed Happy Clog. Not to be out done by this use of a national stereotype, we needed a logo and fast. Within a day, Hicks pulled out his now famous pants, at least that was the official story.
To tell you the truth, the pants had little to do with Dutch boys in short trousers and everything to do with taking the piss out of Paul Scrivens and 9rules. Even the proud member tagline was little more than childish giggling at 9rules' proud member badges. We decided on the mailing list to drop our pants on the waiting world at the same time in a mass virtual mooning.
The question of a web site has come up several times on the mailing list over the years and I have to confess that I only looked at the current site for the first time last week.
When I registered britpack.co.uk a few years ago, I had intended to use it as a gateway to our portfolios; a site where potential clients might come to find out who was doing what. Afterall, there are relatively few standards aware designers and developers, so why not put some in one place and use it as a business tool?
The fact is that we do work together on some projects. I'm working with Hicks right now, Hicks works with Oxton, Oxton works with me. Patrick photographed me for my book: no big deal, just business. So my plan to make it easy to hook up with our designers and developers, either singly or as a bunch made sense. But as is often the case with group decisions, the mailing list buzzed for a while and when a general consensus wasn't reached, a simple one pager with links was lashed together in time for SXSW.
The discussions about the site go to the heart of what the Britpack is, or isn't. As my blog-roll says;
The Brit Pack is more than a blog roll. It's a bunch of designers and developers who share a passion for web standards and accessibility. In the words of that gentleman of British design, Jon Hicks, Look out Johnny Foreigner, the Brits are coming!.
Maybe that isn't the case anymore. So that brings me to today's discussion on the mailing list.
We need to open up the Britpack. We really do. One thing I picked up on at SxSW (it's not new, but it's on the rise) is that we don't have a particularly good image.
As opposed to when it all started, there are now a bollock load of good Brit people. We look arrogant and elitist. I love the Britpack and at the same time I'm quite ashamed of it.
I'm not saying it needs to be a free-for-all - there could still be some criteria (such as achievements / experience in the web world - maybe we could even have a constitution!), but as it is it's bad. And it will get worse. And we need to change.
It's interesting that we're seen as elitist though. We don't exactly flaunt it, or do anything grand with it do we? Apart from the knob-joke badges on our sites, we're not exactly shoving it in peoples faces are we? Or do we? And do people think the Britpack is more than it actually is?
From the outside looking in, I can totally see how it looks exclusive, particularly seeing how the names of people on the list tend to be the same names as those on the conference circuit and the same names as those publishing books, and so on. We know that it's basically a mailing list where we talk about, you know, cheese and things, but people not on the list obviously have no idea.
As for theare we elitist?question, I have heard a couple of comments along the lines too. I think that the fact that there is not much on the other side once you're in, other than the mailing list and the badge, is difficult for people to grasp - there is no big agenda. But, like the VIP area at that MediaTemple closing party the other night (for those at SXSW), people's perceptions are that they have some kind of 'right' to be there.
So where does it go from here?
The skid marks
I think some of this was caused by the creation of the website - before then it was a bunch of badges and Andy's list with no clear definition of who's in and out, but now it's explicit and public.
This feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy: as a sly dig against 9rules' perceived elitism, we ended up being perceived exactly the same.
So there it is. Lots of discussion and some swearing. But most importantly people who are actually worried that what started as a blog-roll, mailing list and a piss take may well be heading in the wrong direction after taking on a strange life of its own.
Not one person wants to appear elitist and no doubt that conversations about this will go on well after we've had cornflakes for supper.
So lay it on the line, we're listening.
Update: Paul Boag adds his tuppence worth
#1 On March 16, 2007 05:26 PM patrick h. lauke said:
i've since edited the britpack.org site in an admittedly childish, jetlag fuelled reaction. the list of members is gone for the time being...
as i said on the list (and to echo something thomas vander wal said to me about twitter during lunch the other day), i see the britpack as a virtual watercooler. nothing more, nothing less. it's not a masonic cabal, we're not majestic 12...
#2 On March 16, 2007 05:34 PM Jon Hughes said:
It's such an odd coincidence that you bring this up now.
Only 2 days ago I sent a round of emails around to American designer/developer/web people - mostly people that were on your "old colonial" list on this site, as well as a few others. The goal is to populate the soon-to-be oldcolonials.org (After contemplating something about yanks, I decided to go with your term, as I don't much care for the Yankee's.)
The reason I decided to do this is because I LOVE what you and other have done by creating a list of nation-specific developers. I believe there is a huge cultural difference between most nations, and it is something that should be EMBRACED. It's the whole man vs woman thing all over again. "Not 'better' and not 'worse' - just 'different'" - (Note: Although I don't, for the most part conform to that... women are undoubtedly superior to men)
I never thought for a second that the BritPack was elitist, it's about pride, not elitism. I am all for pride.
For the record, before reading this post, I had already been planning on making OldColonials.org an open list. Again, there have to be requirements met, but by no means do you have to be a household name.
(I still have no idea what to do for a logo though... those "pants" are pretty great... :-/ )
#3 On March 16, 2007 05:39 PM Jon Hughes said:
"i've since edited the britpack.org site in an admittedly childish, jetlag fuelled reaction. the list of members is gone for the time being..."
What is the motivation for removing the list, as apposed to adding to it?
There's really nothing that can be done for those that hold grudges against successful people, don't cater to them. Cater instead to those that would like to see the people that dedicate themselves to making the web a better place. Cater to those that really believe that your site should be accessible to the less than 1% of people that may have to get around the internet with a screen reader.
The list itself is a great resource. It's only the matter of exclusivity that should be questioned.
Is the britpack elitist? Probably.
Do the members deserve to be members? Yes
Should you drop it? No.
The britpack is something I look up to - knowledgable and standards compliant designers, who tend to write lots of lovely books and so on. Top notch people.
The BritPack are shining examples when it comes to creative design and so on, and it's maybe something to look up to, to aspire to. A shining beacon for us all? It's quirky, it's nice, it's quintessentially British. If you want to drop the members list, do so. But keep the BritPack.
A written constitution might be interesting too: but remember to keep the quirkiness: "must like a nice cup of tea" and so on...
On the other hand, working in local government and developing mostly intranet sites, I don't get the opportunity to strut my stuff in the same way, so it's not like I would ever have the opporunity to join (boo hoo) - although you have kindly got me down as a "Diamond Geezer", which is much appreciated old bean.
But maybe us local government or otherwise on-someone's-payroll type need our own Public Sector equivlaent of the BritPack in order to be able to say "hey, we've got some decent designers/programmers here too", and we care about quality websites as well, even if often our end product ends up hidden under someone else's branding because we don't run a web design company...
But please, please, don't even consider disbanding the BritPack.
#5 On March 16, 2007 05:50 PM Andrew Weaver said:
As an 'outsider' I've never had a problem with it seeming elitist. It always appeared to me to be a bunch of friends with shared interests in the same type of job.
In the past it has given valuable publicity (and perhaps more importantly, a personality) to UK web development, and if it has raised the members' profiles and given them opportunities in the speaking and book-writing fields along the way then I'm happy to congratulate them rather than be jealous.
#6 On March 16, 2007 06:00 PM Luke Dorny said:
An interesting post, and predicament.
The same thing happened only weeks ago when flickr announced it's "Okay, everyone move to yahoo! logins, please" and Dan Rubin announced the "Old Skool" badge for your flickr avatar.
It's human to want to be part of a cool group. It's human to not want to be associated with a group you dislike, and alas, it's also human to be jealous of the group of people that you just can't join in with. I fear that *this* is where the claim of elitism is created (real or imagined).
To tell you the truth, I've always wanted a little group of friends to create a club or group. That is human nature as well. The Royal Pipe Smoking Gentleperson Club on flickr did enough of this gesture for me.
Whoops, gotta go change Aidan's diaper. Posting this comment as is. ;)
#7 On March 16, 2007 06:01 PM Richard Medek said:
Wow�I can't believe this is an issue for anyone. Someone thinks an organization whose badge is a set of Union Jack underwear is elitist? One thing is obvious here � that all of you guys (and girls) in the Brit Pack are friends. I don't think people are upset that they're not being represented by your organization; it sounds like people are upset because they don't get to be your friend.
If you guys start taking people in as members (heh), it's going to mean the Brit Pack is no longer a group of friends who all happen to be web designers; it'll turn into an honest-to-gosh organization that'll need a mission statement, probably some letterhead, and its own version of an HTML 5 formulation that'll need to be spec'd out.
If you guys don't have a good image, it's because 99% of the web design world that I'm aware of want to be the famous 1% of web designers. You guys have clout � not by being a Brit Pack member � and I sense a little jealousy.
Anyhoo�I'm starting my own half-Colombian-half-American Pack anyday now and then you'll all see who's the coolest!
#8 On March 16, 2007 06:02 PM Luke Dorny said:
Ahhh, I agree wholeheartedly with JackP's comment above.
I didn't even realise there was a mailing list, I just thought it was a conference joke that actually got carried through...
#10 On March 16, 2007 06:49 PM Chris Heilmann said:
I've never seen it as a real problem. I liked the pants logo, but I somehow didn't see the point of tinting a web professionals group in a certain national manner. If there was one reason for me to go "online" with BBSes and later on the web it was to connect to people world-wide without having to pay a lot. I generally saw the pack as nothing more than a "hey we are buddies" collection. I often wondered if I should join, first of all because I like the humourous part of it, I do live and strive in England and being German myself I just like the idea of invading becoming a part of something I shouldn't be part of but chose to be.
I think there is not much to say against the britpack, I mean at least there are more members that really do things than other "organisations" like the webkrauts.
I just heard about the MT VIP room, and it makes me wish I had gone to SXSW. Should I have been invited to it I'd have first of all asked them why they spend money on drinks when they could be fixing their gridservers and MySQL DBs instead and I would have handed out bottles to the mortals outside, as there is nothing I hate more than elitism in the webdev field. We only came this far by sharing and learning from another and I know a truckload of people who can code and design the pants off me but are just not cut out to write about what they do or give public speeches. Makemeaspeaker.com is a good start we should tap more into that talent.
It is true that the Britpack is sometimes perceived within the UK Web standards-based development community as a coterie of the self-elected 'best of British Web development'. This attitude has probably been reinforced by the conferences, the books, the clear:left supergroup, etc. Maybe it's the 'Brit' in Britpack that hits a nerve with some.
The perception of exclusivity stems also from Britpack members' fame (among Web developers! Not sure how much that's worth...) and that it seems to be either a prerequisite for or consequence of membership. Envy, guys, envy.
But it's nothing to worry about, really. As long as the Britpack name continues to be used in jest, what harm can it do? The Multipack in the Midlands (UK) works in much the same way, and is primarily social with a forum and IRC channel for discussion of whatever we want, be it Web-related or not. We can offer each other advice, point to resources, or take the piss out of each other. It's useful on a personal level for members to be in touch with one another, just as it is for the Britpack.
If a Johnny Foreigner is allowed to say a few words on this:
1) I've said this before and I'll say it again: a moderate dose of elitism is a Good Thing. Maybe the Britpack comes across as elitist because they all talk at conferences and write books and stuff. However, please take a step back and wonder why this is so. Obviously, it's because they're the best Britain has to offer right now. So it's logical that all these things go together.
2) The only way a group like this can turn bad is that they ignore outsiders who're obviously good enough to become full members. I'm not sure how the Britpack decides on enrolling new members, but frankly I can't imagine you becoming a closed "in"-group.
3) The flip side is that anyone who wants to join the Britpack (or WaSP or other national groups) has the duty to prove he or she is worthy of that honour by writing great articles and giving great presentations at barcamps or geekends or whatever. That comes first, membership comes only after they've proven themselves.
4) People who denounce others as "elitists" quite often want to become a member for the honour of it, but don't want to do all the hard work that goes with it. I often get the feeling that "elitist" equals "I don't want to do anything but I do want to get In".
5) As a way around the elitism issue, I was thinking of making the entire Britpack honorary Dutch. Any takers? It would require you to learn to curse fluently in Dutch.
#13 On March 16, 2007 06:50 PM Nick Harris said:
I have to agree with most of the above. It's simple jealousy that may have some people screaming "inner circle"... (tee hee)
Disbanding it would be like John Hughes pulling "The Breakfast Club" because a bunch of school kids were upset that they weren't friends with Judd Nelson. Sort of.
I am, however, all for some sort of association for british independent designers, with entrance criteria. Perhaps all current members could vote on whether a new member would be granted access based on skills/ethics etc. This could only help the british web industry. Whether that association grew from the Britpack or not, well, that's up to the Britpack to decide.
#14 On March 16, 2007 07:02 PM patrick h. lauke said:
the thing is, the britpack as such was - as far as i'm aware - never MEANT to be about fitting certain criteria, being a speaker, etc ... the only criterion really was "they're cool people we want to be able to include in our little in-joke mailing list to talk bollocks and the occasional web related rant". the britpack isn't GAWDS. it's not a badge of honour to be part of the britpack, it's a badge of friendship (geez, how tree-hugging lovey-dovey can i sound?)
#15 On March 16, 2007 07:11 PM Jon Hughes said:
"Disbanding it would be like John Hughes pulling "The Breakfast Club" because a bunch of school kids were upset that they weren't friends with Judd Nelson. Sort of."
It took me a minute to figure out you weren't talking about me (Jon Hughes) and about the director (John Hughes) - I have never seen the Breakfast Club.
Now that I'm making another post, I wanted to shed light on a point I missed earlier about why I think the BritPack is a good thing, and other have already said it:
They are friends.
Quite frankly, I don't see enough of this in the professional world. Everyone is competing.
My dad works construction and I liken web development to construction quite a bit.
You have a client, a project, a contract, and you build something. Almost all the same process applies other than overhead (It costs $12/board, but there is no cost per pixel)
I don't see construction workers having a "club" of them all... because they are too busy competing. I just love the fact that web developers actually LOVE what they do, and want to contribute to the community as a whole.
#16 On March 16, 2007 07:16 PM Jon Hughes said:
Sorry, after looking at the imdb for "The Breakfast Club" I noticed this:
Emilio Estevez ... Andrew 'Andy' Clark
This is too weird to be coincidence, is there something I'm missing here?
Well, naturally I've been following the conversation all day and you'll know what I've said about it (Andy). But for those not on the list, I'm really surprised that people could be offended by it, but also recognise that it may appear strange why some people are 'in' and some are not.
Regardless (and beware, much punnery is coming this way), I've taken the decision to remove my pants in public. I would hate to think that Joe (or Joanne) Public would take offence at having my pants flagrantly shoved in their face or under their noses, so I've 'shed the shreddies' and if the general consensus is that the site is misleading/offending, then maybe it should go. Whatever, I'm just annoyed on the behalf of the people who got around to putting a *proper* page together for the domain only to find that they didn't get planning permission or whatever and are now going to watch it get pulled down.
It's all a bit pants really, isn't it?
#18 On March 16, 2007 07:20 PM pauldwaite said:
Whatever you do, don't lose the pants and the Proud Member slogan. I didn't notice that Proud Member was a pun for about a year.
If you're worried about elitism, maybe a "How to join" page? Explaining that it's just a little self-mocking club for friends and colleagues, so you can join when you end up working with us? Or something? I dunno.
Oh I also second JackP's entire comment.
#19 On March 16, 2007 07:35 PM Jon Hughes said:
"but also recognise that it may appear strange why some people are 'in' and some are not."
Going in the same vein, if you are to disband the Brit Pack, what is next?
I notice you get the fancy blue arrow and the brit logo on your post, while the rest get plain black and no logo.
Will that go too?
Then we'll have to go to Andy's contact page where he pretty much has the britpack, johnny foreigners, and old colonials listed there... hey, I'm not linked, surely that's elitism.
At that point any set of links to other designers could be considered elitism.
The fact of the matter is, it's a list of friends and people that are greatly involved with the development of the web. There's nothing more on the site that would suggest it's anything but that.
I realize that most of the BritPack may be thinking more along the lines of Public Relations. as it may affect their career, and that's a personal decision none of us can make but you. But from someone on the outside looking in, I would feel that disbanding the BritPack would be a major blow to the unity of designers, not just within the Britpack, but everywhere.
I'm surprised in seeing the BritPack portrayed as an organisation with aims and goals. I've always seen it as a mailing list of Brits to share ideas, information, particularly about travelling outside the UK on conferences and exhibitions. I see nothing wrong with the group in itself.
Its not like you have to be a BritPack member to do talks and write books. Granted, the group does contain the gems of British web development, but then it looks most of the group have got off their asses and made their way to SXSW at least once. Perhaps its not surprising the level of talent in the group - but its a result of passion, enthusiasm, hard work and excellence, not about being an email address subscribed to an email list.
Is it elitist - well isn't any closed email list elitist? Is it harmful - no.
You know, I've never heard anyone make a comment about the Brit Pack being elitist, and I never imagined them to be elitist. I always thought you were just a bunch of talented friends who had the hilarious idea to be proud...members.
I wish, a little bit, that I was on your mailing list, just so I could read all the amazing things that I imagine you are writing to each other. Well, I did until Colly told me that the whole point of the list is to answer questions that Ian should have just Googled. Maybe there are some people who have that little thought but in their case it builds and builds until it becomes a resentment.
The world is full of resentful people. It doesn't matter what you do�if you are successful, or talented, or get any attention, or have friends, or own a house, or have an education, or a marriage that lasts, or anything, really, someone, somewhere is going to resent you for it, instead of being happy for you.
I respect you for wanting to make sure that your group isn't doing anything wrong or discriminatory, but I think you should all just enjoy yourselves, have fun with it, buy the resentful person a beer, and continue helping poor Ian.
I rather like ppk's idea of inviting the British to curse in Dutch.
@ppk, you great big zakkewasser. moederneuker.
How's that? I wondered when my little book 'Essential Foreign Swear Words' would come in useful.
This is exactly what I mean. Zakkewasser is rather mild, while moederneuker is just a translation of motherfucker and not at all pure Dutch.
We'll discuss this further at an appropriate time, you eikelebijter.
Sure thing, PPK. I just need to have a word with Colly first. But not in Dutch :D
#26 On March 16, 2007 11:19 PM John Oxton said:
Well, I've skim read this crap and all I can say is I am totally pissed that you haven't linked to me, god knows I need the traffic right now... I hope that badge shows up next to my name! :D
Anyhoo, that aside when we going to dinner at The Bull in Beaumaris?
#27 On March 16, 2007 11:23 PM John Oxton said:
Whoops, you did link to me.. ELITIST!
#28 On March 16, 2007 11:32 PM Jon Hughes said:
I'm going to move to brit so I can be an elitist!
#29 On March 17, 2007 12:23 AM Ian Wood said:
Nothing wrong in taking a little pride in what you have to offer the world.
Elitist? I doubt it. Humoured ? Yes, in a very British way.
We Brits have traditionally failed to sing our own praises so when it does happen, some may mistakenly perceive a superiority complex (pitty seems as we clearly are!) Perhaps its the lack of practice of 'big uppin' ourselves, is why we look shoddy on teh occasion someone attempts it.
Let's face it, being included in such a list would be a true honour to anyone; recognition of your technical ability even in a lighthearted arena should be something enjoyed and shared.
Most importantly of course it celebrates the finest nation on Earth and could be the catalyst for the realisation of my dream, to rebuild The Empire and drag the rest of the world into civilisation...
I support the brit pack and all the decent advice and help on my journey through webdesign!
By the way, for anyone who didn't understand the comment I made about Ian, it was from an interview i did with Colly in Digital Web magazine, where we were joking about this club he was in called The Brit Pack and being silly. He was trying to debunk the idea that it's some sort of secret society, and was basically just trying to convey that it's just some blokes exchanging the most ordinary information.
I'm glad I checked back here because just recently I was hoping to learn some Dutch curse words, and now I feel fully equipped.
I need to go now....have to get over to that brilliant new cooking blog, if I could only find the link again. Oh, that's right:
blog on cooking that is actually interesting and makes me laugh
#32 On March 17, 2007 03:55 AM Nick Cowie said:
Never saw the britpack as elitist, more as a good PR move. So good that some West Australians got together (after a few beers at a conference) and the West Coast Bloggers was formed. Note this site was thrown together and is in the process of being web2.OMGified with a new logo. I think we got the joke.
No need for a mailing list, we are all part of Port80, which has a forum and monthly pub meets, which have been going on for a few years, this comes from living in the most isolated city in the world.
I see the britpack much the same way as the WCB, a bunch of friends with similar interests, who happen to have a badge to raise their profile. Nothing to stop other people forming small groups based on similar interests and a common denominator (region or other ie the AndyPack - you, Andrew K. and others ;-) to drink beer, talk and do a little self promotion.
#33 On March 17, 2007 04:09 AM brothercake said:
I don't think the logo works for me here - Andy has me listed as something else ;) But I'm keeping the pants on my site .. I don't care what anyone thinks.
@ppk - a South African guy recently told me that "Koch" means something rude (at least in Afrikaans). Can you elaborate..?
Interesting discussion. Plus, I have now learned the greatness that is the word "eikelebijter". That we've inspired a group in Australia is marvellous, if a touch humbling :)
#35 On March 17, 2007 11:39 AM Rob kirton said:
You may / may not recall me. I was one of the two blokes (the other being David Jospeph) who button holed you about the Britpack thing and also preferences in music at the end of a gig you had in Newcastle with MH last year (maybe end of '05.)
You also may / may not have got the thrust of what we were trying to get across. I think most of us got the joke with the bit pack thing, it couldn't have been more of one unless of course you did a "no rules" as opposed "nine rules" thing. We were trying to say that it could be easily misconstrued as an elitist thing.
You have actually helped build a great brand. Grow it and do something more constructive with it. Building brand awareness has in many lines of business, traditionally been an expensive, blood sweat and tears sort of thing. I don't say that hasn't been the case with the Britpack; however it is certainly easier to do now in a world of viral marketing, on-line social networking and the blogsphere.
Think of the original Google "Don't do evil" and go do something good with it.
Brands such as Innocent have managed to keep their principled approach whilst running a commercial operation, there is no reason at all why the joke element could not be kept, yet the brand grown to spread a serious message about web standards, good practice and a high quality of work.
#36 On March 17, 2007 03:06 PM Gary Barber said:
I suppose the Brit Pack or any social group (West Coast Bloggers included Nick - sorry) can be seen to be elitist only when viewed by strangers to the group. Or when strangers approach the group who are all friends and ask to join. And you ask (over a beer) in reply who the F! are you.
#37 On March 17, 2007 05:52 PM Frances Berriman said:
Okay, this is a fairly personal response, since most of it is based upon the fact that I know a fair few BritPack members and consider them friends.
The way I've seen BritPack is as a group of British web devs working on stuff together and doing stuff together. That's nice, and I ultimately have no problem with that. But then as an outsider you start to wonder why you're not part of that. Even as a joke, the group is still obviously doing things, having meet ups, wearing shirts, working on projects, giving advice - and that's not a joke to them. If it's going to stay as a closed group, the criteria for why certain people are in there and others not should be really clear. If it is just a group of friends - SAY THAT, if it is freelancing Brits - SAY THAT. What ever the ingredient is, spell it out and then there's no issue.
I suppose it's been more of a sticking point for me at this year's SxSWi since I've had people assume I was BritPack because of my British passport, and I've had to say hey, no I'm not - that's a small group of people. They've said "sorry, I assumed you were since you're friends with those people". Well, yeah, I am friends with them but obviously not enough to be on their mailing list. (Not just me either, I can think of others)
#38 On March 17, 2007 07:13 PM Dean Edwards said:
Must. Keep. Pants.
#39 On March 17, 2007 08:24 PM Karen Stout said:
Christ, I can't believe anyone seriously has a problem with this Britpack thing. Soon we''ll all have to justify who our friends are, why we've chosen them as friends and why we're not also friends with Joe Bloggs round the corner. I think it's fair to say from most of the responses here that most of us who aren't in the Britpack do not spend every morning crying into our coffee because we are not part of the group. And for those that are, start up your own group if it bugs you that much.
Dean: I agree completely, although obviously I'm here sobbing into my beer because I haven't got a little Union Jack logo next to my comment. ;-)
(Ed says: You now have a sparkling, spangling Union Flag badge whenever you comment.)
#41 On March 17, 2007 09:05 PM John Oxton said:
Dean... not dramatic enough
Must!.... Keep....!!! Pants..... [*urghhh*] is, I am sure, what you really mean.
Look at that badge, sexy huh?
(Ed says: Shiny new badges for Stuart, Brothercake and Patrick. Sorry it took so long)
"The way I've seen BritPack is as a group of British web devs working on stuff together and doing stuff together."
Hey Frances, there are designers on the list too! :D
"Even as a joke, the group is still obviously doing things..."
Emailing each other...
"...having meet ups..."
About once a year, which aren't exclusive Britpack-only either.
You got to admit, the pants look good on a t-shirt, but only 2 or 3 Britpackers have one anyway. But yes, we all wear shirts.
"...working on projects..."
Project collaborations are never done on the basis of "working with someone from within the BritPack", it's who's available, and who you can trust. Quite often that means another Britpacker, but certainly not exclusively.
"giving advice - and that's not a joke to them"
Not quite sure what you mean with this one. We don't offer advice as a group.
A general point (not aimed at anyone) - it is really just a private discussion list. But it is a list where we discuss private and confidential matters, and as such we need to be careful about who, and how many, are allowed on the list. We would lose that safe place to talk if it was opened up to everyone. It tends to be that once most people on the list get to know someone, and know they are trustworthy, then they are invited.
#44 On March 18, 2007 09:44 AM paul haine said:
"But yes, we all wear shirts."
/flashes everyone and then legs it
That's it, I wore one (that I got printed last year for @media) at this year's Great British Booze Up, as did Patrick (actually German) Lauke. From now on I shall call it my 'subversive shirt' :-D
Blimey, I've never thought the Britpack to be elitist but perhaps that's because I know its history. You're just a bunch of friends formed around the time of @media2005 and publicly announced the fact with tongue firmly in cheek. Should the Britpack grow as in allow newer friends to join? No, I don't think so - it was an in-joke of a time (now nearly 2 years ago) and hence "exclusive". Your circle of friends is much larger than that I'm sure so anyone playing the "elitist" card needs to be reminded of the history (maybe post an official bit on the website?) - it may already be there but tbh I haven't visited for ages...
Naturally as a fellow gov-worker I agree with JackP:
"But maybe us local government or otherwise on-someone's-payroll type need our own Public Sector equivlaent of the BritPack in order to be able to say "hey, we've got some decent designers/programmers here too", and we care about quality websites as well, even if often our end product ends up hidden under someone else's branding because we don't run a web design company..."
I attend events, meet people, read blogs and occasionally write myself but what I want more than another club to join is an employer that will appreciate and reward my passion for web standards.
#47 On March 18, 2007 12:46 PM Tim Parkin said:
"Working on stuff together and doing stuff together"
Well we managed to just about build a static web page together (and only just) but that obviously hasn't gone down well.. Apart from that we've met up a few times (although it wasn't just britpack members). In fact, because I live up north, I've only been to two britpack organised events.
I think Jon made the most important point which is that the list is small enough that there is an implicit 'web of trust' such that we're happy to talk about personal/sensitive issues because there is only really two degrees of separation between any members. This means that it is inherently driven by friendship, albeit filtered by common interest.
#48 On March 18, 2007 01:41 PM karmatosed said:
Well I don't see it as an elitest thing... then again as I'm a brit and 9rules member maybe I will have things thrown at my head ;) I like the idea that in the UK there is something to shine out as a brits can do it too. I can argue until I'm blue in the face or pants that 9rules isn't exclusive but I think it's something any group that doesn't let anyone join, will have said about them at some point.
To me, the brit pack is a great example of a group of people from my country doing it the way it should be and support each other. You have a private mailing list - great as far as I am concerned as from what I see every person who has those brit pants deserves it. I like that maybe there is a chance anyone could be offered some pants if they prove they have the hips for them. It's something for all in the UK to look up to - god knows the UK gets forgotten enough online so I say kudos for the pants.
Whether the pants started out as a joke or not they are seen as a beacon and something to one day maybe someday wear. That has to be some bucket load of irony there in that people even want to have pants. The problem is that opening up looses the trust or at least means careful steps have to be done to ensure the sanctuary aspect of the group. I don't know many UK webbies that don't one day want pants - but you can't have the sole entry right being brit and web, that would lead to a pants shortage with those sort of flood gates.
Maybe when it comes down to it there is a bit of jealousy going on with the exclusive stick being hit on the pants? Heck, I know I would (and a hell of a lot of others would) love to have some pants - do we deserve those pants? Well, if we did I think we'd have pants already so probably not. Should you open up your pants? Probably but that needs a lot of thought.
@brothercake: I do not respond to baseless allegations. As far as I know Afrikaans is a pretty civilized language, and they just wouldn't do that to my name.
General: a little Dutch swearing and cursing lesson seems to be in order. Maybe @media.
In any case, I'm tempted to do "In Praise of Elitism" at next year's SxSW.
#50 On March 18, 2007 11:24 PM Frances Berriman said:
@Mr. Hicks (and I know you're a designer; who doesn't?)
You kinda missed my point. What you do doesn't matter. If you don't want what you're doing to be an issue though, you as a group should be deciding (and agreeing) what it is you are and state it - magically all the issues will go away then.
The second part was me talking about trust and friendship too... but I guess from a different angle.
That's all though. I was just trying to give a small opinion in a sea of yes-men and jokers.
#51 On March 19, 2007 01:25 AM Graham Bancroft said:
I've always taken 'pants' as meaning something else ;)
#52 On March 19, 2007 03:44 AM Ben Buchanan said:
I always thought the britpack was a fun way to highlight your national pride and be a convenient excuse for a few pissups. My only problem with it is that it's too far for me to come over to casually gatecrash the pissups ;) That and the fact us aussies can't be arsed creating a funny logo for the Auspack...
On the subject of elitism, I recently read Alain de Bottons book 'Status Anxiety', which touches on reasons why people make comparisons and want to join groups. It's human nature, and pretty futile to rail against. I've always seen the BritPack moniker as witty and benign.
#54 On March 19, 2007 12:05 PM paul haine said:
"I've always seen the BritPack moniker as witty and benign."
Which is exactly what we want you to think...it'll make BRITPACK: PHASE 2 all the easier to swallow.
#55 On March 19, 2007 01:01 PM Richard B said:
It's all very childish to be honest. The guys in the Brit Pack have worked incredibly hard to where they are and deserve to have that "status" whatever that status may be is what you make of it.
When I started designing and building websites initially back in 2000 I felt very lost by the mess that was the web. So I quit the industry and shut up shop. In 2006 I did a few google searches about this thing called �web standards� and these were the guys who were mentioned over and over again along with the same guys over the pond like Zeldman, Shea, Inman, Rubin and Croft to name just a few.
I started to feel that passion again, and what they were preaching (amen) was infectious and all of a sudden the iMac was switched on, books were purchased and I was reunited once again with my first love � web design. So before I start to go on about my personal history, I�ll stay on subject.
I have emailed several times these so called web celebrities and they have been nothing short of great with their feedback, comments and advice. In fact I guess they actually feel a little embarrassed by all this bitching, after all we are all looking and working towards the same goal. To create and to design beautiful & accessible sites for the web. If they have their own group then so be it, to be fair they should because they do nothing but great work, preach the holy book of web standards and provide great insight to their work and the process behind it. They take the time to pass on what they can even when they have enough work to do already. Fuck, don�t we all have enough work to do let alone pass down useful information?
To those who feel it is elitist, you go and spend a year writing a kick ass books, or travel the world to give presentations that inspire. Or better still, you start your own group and show just how much you care.
Apologies for the length of this comment but quite frankly, it�s time to move on.
Anyway, real men hardly ever change their pants!
I think I shall chip in, though I should stress that I'm not overly concerned with this issue. It's really rather overblown already. I think it comes from miscommunication and perhaps mixed intent on the part of Britpack members.
The problem stems from the fact that some people see the Britpack and would rather like to be members. This is either because they see the Britpack as a great brand of professional recognition and achievement due to the reputation of those who are already members, or because they'd like to be best friends forever with Jon Hicks.
Most of us who know you all personally are very aware that it's a friendship thing. That membership is decided communally and that restrictions on that membership are very much necessary to keep the group friendly, and keep all the members familiar. Too many new members too quickly and suddenly your group where everyone is everyone elses friend is full of strangers and the entire point of the Britpack falls apart for you. I'm a member of mailing lists, I know how that can happen and completely agree.
However, you do sometimes contradict this when you start using Britpack membership in professional context. If you're standing up on a panel and refer to someone as a �fellow Britpacker� or some-such, you're taking it out of the realm of being a virtual pub and making it into a reason for professional respect. Of course that's not what you're thinking if you say something like that, but you start to make the group cross over. And if you start making out that membership of the Britpack is a reason for professional respect, then other professionals are quite seriously going to want to be a part of that to get the same recognition.
I get the impression that some of the Britpack would rather like to use it for professional recognition _as well as_ a friends club, whilst others are happy just knowing where their next pint is coming from.
So long as being a friends club is all you want to be, you don't have to do anything. Just ask that members don't go making out that it's a professional achievement to be a member and carry on letting people in on your own personal terms.
Sometimes you might need to explain to individuals as to why they're not a member; someone who knows you all, drinks with you all and happens to be talented web developer as well might feel a bit excluded if you're not careful (I wonder if this is what Fran is getting at above), but that's just the reality of being someone's friend.
If you *do* want to make change this into a professional thing then you should state the criteria and be more open about how to get in.
I see why you think you're at a crossroads of what to do with your club. I presume this is caused by different members wanting different things. If it were me, I'd ask those who wanted a professional, peer recognised brand to start something new and see where it goes, rather than spoil a social event for the others.
#57 On March 19, 2007 04:35 PM Luke Dorny said:
Well stated, Mr. Ward.
Wonder-BritPack Members� activate!
Form of� ?
#58 On March 19, 2007 04:51 PM Frances Berriman said:
Well done- you said what I was trying to in a much more eloquent manner (and yes, that is what I was trying to get at - and I do want to be BFF with Hicks). Thanks.
Just one *minor* point - BFF with Jon Hicks has nothing to do with the Britpack. It DOES however involve the gift of cheese.
Just a complaint about the actual britpack site. It says:
Made in Britain…at the bottom. Surely this should be something along the lines of "Made in the Glorious British Emprire, By The Grace Of God. Long Live The Queen"?
Or do you see yourselves more as "Cool Britannia" than "Rule Britannia"?
#62 On March 20, 2007 10:04 AM Peter Holloway said:
I suspect that the 'elitist' tag comes because all the members of the Britpack ARE such great web designers and communicators. As to any 'elitist' behaviour, after leaving a comment on this site a couple of years ago I received a personal phone call from Andy!
I, for sure would love to be part of a Brit pack of top notch designers (representing the N. Ireland contingent perhaps?), and including me would definitely contradict the 'elitist' tag ;)
Perhaps what is needed is a britpack affiliate logo - for those who are entirely in agreement with the idea of encouraging great British talent in the web design arena, whether or not we have yet achieved the highest levels that we all aspire to.
What about setting up the BritPack Juniors? :D
More seriously, if the BritPack is taking itself seriously with voting on membership and entry criteria etc then it's only natural that the outside world will see it in a more serious way.
The fact that people perceive a problem creates a problem IYSWIM
The Brit Pack: The Masons of web design ;-)
[nudge nudge, wink wink]
I've always thought the Brit Pack thing was a little eccentric, *very* British, and only a little exclusive. But I don't think exclusivity is a bad thing, at least not in this case. It's just a bunch of mates working in the same area having a bit of a lark.
But the Brit Pack has come to mean more than that to many. After countless books and worldwide speaking agendas, the Brit Pack logo has become a stamp of authenticity, a badge of honour, a symbol of skill.
These days there are are *loads* of amazing, standards-compliant, British web designing bloggers out there who don't proudly 'boast the briefs', and they probably feel left out. If you're that good, where are your Brit pants eh?
So what do you do? You have three choices. You either bin the Brit Pack ('burn the pants, burn them!'), keep it, or change it.
Binning it would be daft. They're great pants.
Keeping it the same is only going to cause you more of this grief.
Changing it, therefore, is the only way. Give the pants a touch of Blairist reformation and start handing out a pair to every righteous British subject. Tally-ho chaps!
You shouldn't need to invent the one true layout to be invited, or have to put your face about at the right conferences (trust me, it's an expensive habit for lowly freelancers), you just need to have passion, dedication and devotion for the web, standards, and all that malarkey.
Oh, and you need to be British.
And you should like cheese.
Having been to a couple of high profile web conferences and been on this earth for the best part of forty years there are two things I think we should all consider.
Birds of a feather...
If you think you can, or you think you can't, you are right.
Watch any social/business/personal situation, and you will see that we all are attracted by people like us. Philosophers have written about it for centuries, it is human make-up for us to survive.
When the 'Brit-Pack' starts damaging others, or makes them give up their seats on the bus for others then we have something to discuss.
Until then, they will remain the 'big-hitters', the 'top-sellers', the 'entrepreneurs' the 'elitist' or however you perceive them.
I can guarantee, the way they think they are, and the way you think they are, are very different.
So, if you're jealous deal with it.
If you think that you should be part of it, tell them.
If you think they are going to bring down all the good work that we all (or just you as an individual) are doing then again, go and tell them.
But Please, don't hide behind a comments page or an email client. Break into their meetings (if you can find out the secret?!? location), jump on the head table and scream your objection from the top of your lungs!
These people are real, they do all the things that you and I do. They have feelings, aspirations, and goals. We all started in the same place. If they are closer to theirs than you are to yours, that really is not their problem it's your's
Grow up. And start dealing with your own insecurity, rather than trying to make others feel it.
Like many others who have comments I have a great deal of respect for the BritPackers, and consider them to represent the very best of British web people. They've worked hard to get the status they have, and it's very little to do with the BritPack itself. More power to you, I say.
I would say I'd like one day to be considered part of the BritPack collective, but as I'm from The People's Republic of Yorkshire I don't think I qualify.
#68 On March 23, 2007 07:24 PM Kelvin Jones said:
Sometimes people talk for the sake of talking. Probably best not to listen for the sake of listening.
#69 On March 24, 2007 05:29 PM Saul Goode said:
People seem to have covered most of my thoughts. One thing I thought worthy of note is that a group of friends with a slightly geeky sense of humour (no disrespect, I got picked last for PE myself), get together and form a mailing list and they get slated for being elitist. The fact is that they are leaders in their field, as a result of their own good work. If a group of competent professionals get together, form friendships, and don't launch a member scheme, it does not necessarily make them elitist.
If anyone does want to feel special I am forming a breakaway group, of mediocre web designers, who lack the ability or inclination to talk to their peers about web design (or girls about anything). We will be going to @media wearing only woad and waving bronze swords. The only entry requirement is that you can show your direct lineage proving that your dna got to Britain before the Romans. And money, don't forget the money.
You will get an authentic certificate on druid made paper, will be taught a funny handshake, and the mysteries of Stonehenge. - Enquiries only on the back of �20 notes please.
God save the Queen? � German usurpers one and all, I bid you good day.
I say GO 4 IT!
but what does an Irishman know!
#71 On March 28, 2007 02:03 PM Matt Richards said:
The Britpack is a good thing. It's inspiring.
The very second I knew of its existence I wanted in, to be recognised as a valued "member" of the british web development community. Sure it's elitist, but hey!? c'mon, a little elistism is a good thing from time to time, it promotes friendly competition, it's nothing more than friendly banter.
I'm a british web developer, living in the UK and I'm proud of other brits who are globaly recognised. Us brits ought to be proud of who we are, where we come from and what we do, I mean we're running out of things to be proud of on almost a daily basis! Consious, accessible, standards compliant development and design is something we really should shout about. Big up the brits! Big up the britpack. Big up to all those "Johnny Foreigners" too, but in all honesty, I'm more into promoting the "local" scene. On the scale of things I'm pretty small time, I'm not _that_ interested in what goes on over the pond on a daily basis, but I am interested in whats going on close to home, in the UK, Wales and specifically North Wales (especially as it's not _that_ big a place and there aren't _that many_ people in our game).
The britpack is an important who's who of key figures within the uk web development community, an insight into the mindset of the british web developer, from a british perspective. An inspiring read for any one