Monday, July 5, 2010

2010-07-05: Foo Camp 2010

I attended the 2010 Foo Camp in Sebastopol CA, June 25-27. For those who are unfamiliar, Foo Camp is an invitation-only "unconference" -- which is basically a conference that consists entirely of birds-of-a-feather sessions as well as the impromptu hallway and dinner conversations that make conferences useful.

There were approximately 250 people there and by my estimation they were mostly young (25-35) entrepreneurs (current and former). There were a smattering of others as well: artists, writers, professors, VCs, etc. The best way I can describe Foo Camp is a combination of Burning Man (culture of participation), SIGGRAPH (culture of demonstration), and a country club (culture of capitalism). Geeks aren't really known for being extroverted, but the format of Foo Camp pretty much requires meeting new people and interaction with people outside of your existing circle of colleagues. I was surprised at how approachable most people were.

Formulating the schedule consists of a big scrum on the opening night to place stickers on the schedule board. On Saturday the contents were transcribed to the wiki, but the actual schedule changed frequently. Sessions covered many topics and varied greatly in the number of attendees. The highlights of Friday and Saturday were the Ignite presentations: 5 minutes, 20 slides on auto-advance (15 sec each). The videos from Foo Camp haven't been uploaded yet to the YouTube channel, but hopefully soon.

Getting an invitation to Foo Camp is a pretty big deal, and you're reminded several times throughout the weekend that a return invitation depends on the quality of your contribution to Foo Camp. I was there to talk about Memento, which was the impetus for the Foo Camp invitation. Given the entrepreneurial focus of Foo Camp, the interest in archiving and preservation was obviously not as a strong as it is in most of the conferences and workshops I attend. Still, I made a few really good contacts that I will detail in the future.

I had a great time, but it was very exhausting. Johan, who has been to a couple of SciFoos, told me that few people camp. That may be true at SciFoo, but there were many campers at Foo Camp. Sebastopol is a pretty small town and the hotels were booked, so I drove in from Santa Rosa each day. I took a few photos but there are a handful of other photos and blog posts that are better capture the spirit: Laughing Squid, Dean Putney, Scott Berkun. The hash tag was "foo10".

Very special thanks to Tim O'Reilly, Sara Winge and the rest of the folks at O'Reilly for the invitation and event. Three days sounded like a lot at first, but it was over in a flash.

--Michael

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