Seattle MindCamp wrapup

Seattle Mindcamp

This weekend was the first seattle mindcamp: a seattle version of the O’Reilly FOO camp and Bar camp. I’ve been to a few of these semi-self organizing events before, and here are my notes:


  • The seattle tech sector lives. There are few open get-togethers in Seattle for tech sector folks, despite the size of the industry here. It was telling how easy it was to get 150 people to sign up for this event, and it’s embarassing that no one had done it before (Kudos to Andru). A few people mentioned idea day, which I haven’t been to yet. Thanks to all the organizers and volunteers.
  • High quality sessions. There wasn’t enough time: I missed good sessions. The mix was good: less tech-centric than the last FOO. I threw myself in the middle of things, and got involved in 3 sessions, but that meant I didn’t go to many others. Ario, Joe and I did one on leading software teams (we met through the event wiki), I did a solo on why smart people defend bad ideas and ran a UI critique session with Mr. Richard Stoakley Thanks to , and others for letting us critique their sites in front of a crowd.
  • Show and tell of ideas . Everyone had something to show or talk about, and the informal vibe made it easy to share. I spent a half hour chatting with Andy Edmonds about browser design and software instrumentation. Learned about the Firefox Attention trust effort from him as well. I saw live demos of, Ruby on Rails, a choose your own adventure DVD and two good sessions on information overload and web annotations by Ario. Given the number of sessions it was easy to bail on anything that bored me.
  • Left with a mental buzz. I heard so many different ideas and passionate people that my head spun for the next 24 hrs. It’s easy to forget how stimulating it is to meet new people who are passionate about what they’re doing.


  • Wireless didn’t work. I felt bad for the folks who talked for 10 mintues at the start of the day for how they set up the wireless system (and how cool it was). After a few hours of everyone failing to get it to work, those guys were hard to find: it wasn’t their fault, as the building had less bandwith than they were told. It turned out ok: I was glad people had more reasons to close their laptops and talk to each other.
  • Little incentive to stay overnight. The Sunday morning schedule was weak and there was a no alcohol rule: two strikes against staying. The building was huge which also hurt the stay overnight factor. Many folks I met left by 1am (myself included). I came prepared to stay over, but I couldn’t make a good argument for it.
  • Some first time event mistakes . I used to run training events and I’m familiar with how hard it is to get it right. On the whole they did well. My notes: many had never been to a self-organizing event before and had no idea how to prepare or what to expect (Lots of “I would have brought X” or “I could have talked about Y”), the directions were confusing (even at the complex itself: there were no signs outside) , there was no phone number for people who got lost and the website didn’t help people hook up before the event (Something FOO did a good job of with photos of everyone up on the site and at the event itself).
  • Post event value opportunities being missed. There was talk of capturing as many sessions as possible, but I have no way of knowing if that happened. The Seattlemind website and wiki hasn’t been updated since Friday. Everyone’s understandably exhausted come Sunday, but there’s time now to collect slides from all presenters, roll together lists of podcasts, etc. If nothing else it makes it easier for folks to prepare for Seattle Mindcamp 2.0 .

Suggestions to future Foo/Bar/Mind camp organizers:

  • Have a “First time at camp?” FAQ . Make it easy for folks to understand exactly how to prepare and how different it is from regular confererences. Don’t make up the FAQ: ask people who just went to their first one what they were confused about and what they wish they’d known before they’d arrived (Don’t codle them with detals but get them over the hump). I’d write it if someone would use it.
  • Encourage pre-event connections. Name tags are not as good as faces. When people sign up, ask for a URL for a photo and include it. Also, many sessions listed on the wiki didn’t happen: why? not sure. There was plenty of room late Sat and Sun morning. There was just no supported way to tell those people before they event I was interested in their topic. The wiki/website made it hard to dig up e-mail or contact info for other people.
  • Have a single primary pre-event news and update feed. In the days before the event it was hard to find details on updates and changes. There was the seattlemind website blog, personal blogs of organizers, the main wiki page, the session_ideas page, and various other child wiki pages. Instead, make it easy to track news, requests and updates in one place to fuel the self-organizing process. This same primary feed should be the way to get post event news (podcasts, slides, etc.) as well.

7 Responses to “Seattle MindCamp wrapup”

  1. ario

    awesome recap Scott… you’ve made my life a whole lot easier for when I go to do my recap tomorrow (hopefully).

    I especially second this last recommendation… there should be a single channel for all this stuff.

  2. Bryan Zug

    Good follow up. Agree on all of the points. Yes — please head up the FAQ ;)

    It’s funny — I had 2 sessions I wiki’d and ended up only doing one because I didn’t want to hog the schedule. In retrospect, one of the sessions would probably have been a great Sunday morning session (“The Good Thing Rapid Discovery Session”) — should have gone for it.

    Oh well — there’s always MC2

    Overal though — only about a third of folks ended up hanging around Sunday AM (guesstimate) — not sure if more would have even if the content was compelling — seems like there are other factors that did not lead to a tipping point of overnighters.

  3. Justin Martenstein

    Thanks for the feedback, Scott. We should have a post-mortem some time in the next week or so and I’ll make sure to bring a copy of this post.

    The lack of post-event data capture has definitely been something that I dropped the ball on. We (I) didn’t put a lot of thought into the wiki other than just a basic information repository for the logistics of the event itself. If anyone has any suggestions on how to encourage people to post their session notes and thoughts on the wiki, please let me know.



  1. […] 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. […]

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