Seattle mindcamp was this past weekend and surprise: they let me in!
Here’s the short report:
- New format rocked. The innovative organizers chose to take a risk and have pre-filled out forms for sessions. It made a dramatic difference: the quality of session titles and descriptions was very high. Encouraging people to plan paid off, without losing any of the free-form vibe or last minute idea possibilities. A lesson to all future unconference organizers.
- Fun randomness. This is why i come – I met a female bodybuilder, talked to some friendly burners, shook hands with Tom Bihn. Awesome. it’s these non-tech interactions that interest me most. Chad McDaniel suggested a non-geek camp, same people, but non-geek topics, would be a more mind opening experience, and I agree. The Discovery Slam Bryan Zug and I ran nailed this (pun intended, thx to street performer guy), but it was just one session.
- Ran a fun session on the innovation book. Had a great crowd, exchanged ideas, laughed and had good times all around. Many of the myths I heard are already in the book, but heard some comments that I’m still thinking about (If you have more thoughts, let em fly). Thanks to all that were there. Also sat in on Scott Ruthfield’s excellent session on innovation in big orgs.
- Food, environment, lack of rules. The unstructured vibe always makes things fun, since as soon as it gets dull or I can’t find anything, I can make something up, or head guiltlessly home. Everything else was taken care of – kudos to organizers.
- Some process problems. The new system, as expected, had some kinks. Sessions started late and without their organizers (they didn’t know they were up first).
- Crappy pitches. I heard so many bad pitches for start-ups, projects and people, it drove me nuts – it was embarrassing. I did a lightning talk late in the day on how to pitch an idea, which might not have been useful, but sure was therapeutic. I think you know the start-up seriousness of a crowd by the average quality of overheard pitches.
- Few projectors / wi-fi. There was no warning, so for Ario‘s UI design session, we assumed the requested projector would be there. No dice. Session canceled and we had to send 30 people on their way (some hung out for small group critiques). I don’t care much for wi-fi at conferences, but like projectors, session organizers need to know what to expect before we show up in the room.
- Are 3 word intros worth an hour? It’s an unconference tradition, but Donte, Ario and I came up with less time consumptive alternatives: Idea: Let people who want an intro put a photo with their 3 words (or whatever they want on it) up on an ftp server. Have that projected in slide show mode before sessions, during meals, on the website before the day, and any other time when passive media has some value.
- Where are the ladies? Kudos and all my platonic love to those that were there (all 8 of you, yes I counted), but there’s something bogus about mindcamp if it’s really “boy-geek camp”. Making mind camp less “geek-camp” (encouraging artists, writers, designers, to come) would not only make my brain happy, but would balance the gender ratios too. But perhaps this is the seed for a different event… (Sex camp!). No, I mean, roughly, Renaissance-mind camp. If you’re into this, leave a comment.
Kudos again to all the organizers – appreciate what you made happen!