Foo camp is an annual O’Reilly unconference event and I was fortunate enough to be there again for foocamp06. It’s an invite event, but all the details, notes and summaries are public at the event wiki.
Disclaimer: If ra-ra reports annoy you, skip this post – I’m positive about the whole thing. Yes I’m an O’Reilly author, yes I think the FOO gripes are mostly noise, and Yes I realize how convenient these opinions might appear to be.
- My best unconference experience. I had conversations with so many good people outside my circles it’s beyond comparison. It was an intensely fun, intellectually challenging, and an entirely social weekend – I finished off a Moleskine with all the notes, contacts and ideas I found.
- There were often a dozen simultaneous sessions (plus various interactive machines, projects, and, well, people) and I gave into chaos and jumped in: there was no right way, a metaphor for many things. I missed lots, but didn’t mind.
- Random cool memories (skip if this annoys): Learned brain memory tricks from IMDB’s s HB Segel, had red wine spilled on me by Brian McLaughlin, sat across from Ray Ozzie as he showed me the history of shorthand, had an awesome audience including Kevin Kelly and Hal Varian listen to my innovation talk (can you say role reversal?), learned a new world of termenology for novel sex acts (innovation comes in all kinds), waxed philosophic by the fire till 4am with the folks from Poly9, and got to talk about Hyper-G to someone other than my dog.
- Most people let me pick their brains for the innovation book – some even tracked me down after my session (it’s not too late), including Backyard Ballistic’s author William Gustelle, a work I’m a huge fan of – I had no idea its author was in the building. I highly recommend his work.
- Joshua Schachter‘s “That sucked” session, where the floor was open for people to tell tales of things gone wrong. Every conference in the world needs a session like this: we learn more from failure than success. Paul Graham‘s tale of the bug that caused a plotter pen to fly across the room will stay in my mind forever.
- The fact that i was so caught up with cool shit that, despite my best intentions, I missed Jane McConigal‘s Zen Scavenger hunt for the second year in a row.
- Jogging Saturday at 8am on the awesome trail behind the apple grove. Awesome because I was 1) actually up at 8am 2) actually running and 3) had it mostly to myself.
- Was fun and friendly with lots of discussion. Had about 15 people which was perfect.
- Dion Hinchcliffe videotaped it, and offered to send me a link. I’ll post when I have it. Catarina Flake has her notes from the session.
- If you were there, I want to know your name so I can thank you, let you know when the book is out, or possibly get you a reviewer copy. Please say hi.
- Known participants (thanks!): Hal Varian, Kevin Kelly, Chromatic, Catarina Flake, Rob Hayes, Jennifer Tidwell, Gina Trapani, Havoc Pennington, Tara Hunt, Paul Hammond, Dion Hinchcliffe.
Lowlights / Observations:
- The variance in session quality is astronomical: which is amazing as this had little impact on my total FOO experience. However a “how to run a good unconference session” tip sheet with light touch advice and examples would close the gap (draft in progress – here it is).
- It’s my own fault, but I realized towards the end there were no writing focused sessions. With dozens of other authors/writers running around, something literary would have been fun.
- I’m guessing fewer sessions were recorded or taped this year. I don’t know why, but the vibe was much less about blogging, posting and publishing in real-time than last year. Maybe this is not a lowlight – not sure.
- Missed FooBarCrawl. Hadn’t even heard of this until I got home. Would have planned for it and went even though I live in Seattle. Awesome idea. If I’m invited back next year, I’d definitely do this.
- Need to ask people who run sessions to do a better job capturing whatever was there: the post session notes are sparse, despite the wiki living on forever. Its sad to look up an amazing session I missed, or could have post hoc contributed to, only to hear the crickets of a blank wiki page.
- (Fantasy) Wished for an audio/video wall between FOO and BAR camp, by the fire. Plus there should be a planet wide primal scream done simultaneously by all campers world wide.
I’m still jazzed about the whole thing: I haven’t stopped writing since I got home Sunday night.
Thanks to Tim, Sara, all the people who brought cool things to share and everyone who makes this thing happen.