Seattle Mindcamp 2.0, a local self-organizing conference, took place two weekends ago – I arrived at 1:30pm and was surprised to find the entire matrix of session slots filled. It’s a self-organizing conference, so you can’t t argue with first come first serve – fortunately Bryan Zug grabbed a slot for he and I to run his Good thing rapid discovery slam.
The thing I noticed most was how different the vibe of a conference is depending on the physical space it’s in. Mindcamp 1.0 was in a big empty floor of an office building. 2.0 was in a community center, basically a small school. The energy was very different – it was harder to get around, and even though the number of people was 20% larger, it felt much more crowded. The area by the session list, a narrow hallway, was jammed tight between sessions. At 1.0, it seemed easier to meet people as folks were always sitting around at tables in the main area, but here standing was the rule. The main lounging area was pretty small and crowded.
- Bryan Zug‘s idea for a slam, where people can talk briefly about any cool inspiring thing, was tons of fun. People read from books, showed gadgets, told personal tales of woe or connection, and I had no idea, as one of the organizers, what I’d see next. (But we totally blew the post event coverage: we have no record of all of the cool stuff people showed – mea culpa).
- Ario brought a trunkload of gaming gear, and I got to play Warlords 2600, in full four player glory, for the first time in a decade. A bunch of us spent a couple of hours in some poor woman’s tiny little office, eating pringles and having a great time.
- Donte’s ancient video of animinations for computer search algorithms. It was shown as a bizzare, kitchy early geek thing, but I’d actually seen it before, somehow, somewhere in my fading CS education. It’s a noble effort, but oddly sad and annoying by modern standards – however it’s hard not to be drawn in once you start watching, even now.
- The Billmonk talk: I had no idea who these guys were nor what to expect, but they ran the best session of the day. They talked about their start-up without falling victim to all the annoyances talks by start-up founders do: they were honest, they were funny, I believed what they said, and they were trying to be of use (and not self-serving). The Q&A session was highlighted by excellent commentary from another local start-up veteran standing at the front (I spoke with him later, but alas, didn’t get a card).
Only one lowlight:
- Lack of diversity of sessions and attendies. This might be entirely unfair, as most people seemed pretty happy. But despite the overflowing session board, I struggled to find sessions of personal interest. A large percentage were “Do something cool with technology X”, which is right for this hacker-ish audience, but not my kind of thing. Someone called the event geekcamp, not mindcamp, and that might be a more accurate, if less flattering, name, given the dominant Amazon, Microsoft, 20-40, geek, male, demographic. The result is a gadget, geek, tech-centric notion of what minds are capable of.
On most counts the event was run better than last time – There were some reasonable complaints about the venue (parking, some of the room sizes) but given the low cost of this event, that would be entirely unfair. Most complaints about v1 (wi-fi, pre-event info) were solved, and for a volunteer run event they did a great job and deserve kudos: well done!
(Photo above by Chadm)