Mindcamp 3.0: report

Seattle mindcamp was this past weekend and surprise: they let me in!

Here’s the short report:

The good:

  • 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.

The complaints:

  • 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!

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6 Responses to “Mindcamp 3.0: report”

  1. Scott Ruthfield

    Thanks for the kind words, Scott – I enjoyed attending your session at least as much as I enjoyed moderating mine.

    I don’t know if I’d like a true tech-free camp, but I certainly tried to schedule my session attendance around slams and non-pure-software events – which is why I skipped, among other things, the startup pitch. I was devastated to miss the balloon animal-making session, and not just because it distracted attendees during my session.

    I’ve been trying to think about some sort of “introduction to moderating a session”, ummm, session. I like the idea, given how many people were new to moderating any sort of conversation, and who had trouble either pacing their sessions or keeping the necessary amount of control to make sure the sessions were positive experiences for most. I just don’t see how you accomplish it practically (and don’t presume I’m the right person to do it). Maybe it starts with a blog post of sorts…

  2. Heather

    I was one of the babes at Mindcamp 3.0 and I have to say that all of the women that did show up were really beautiful. So that was nice. I was hoping to be the only one and therefore the cutest but no such luck! I think that next year, in line with your “how to pitvh an idea” session (that my partner, Aaron, attended, by the way) I will do a “how to facilitate a group discussion” session at the beginning of camp. If you haven’t already, come see my video that everyone hated.

  3. Stuart Maxwell

    Scott – Thanks, as always, for the thorough and honest feedback. I’m pleased with how Mind Camp has developed, and I’m looking forward to tackling some of the issues you’ve raised at the next camp.

    Heather – I think a “how-to” session at the top of the camp would be a great idea! Please do this. (And, FWIW, I liked your video. What up with the crankies?)

  4. Heather

    Stuart – Thanks for the kind words. I think the crankies have worked very hard to prove their importance in the world despite being atypical and judged early in life. It brings up crap for them when it seems like someone may be flipping them some more shit despite all the value that their intelligience and analytical nature has produced. And once any of us feel attacked, it is really difficult to reengage our thinking minds and see that some chick is just trying to be clever and really is mostly making fun of herself. At least that is my theory. :) And maybe a little Asbergers Autism?

  5. Margaret

    Why were there no women there…? Because this is the first I’ve ever heard of “mind camp” . . Let me ask this: what is the average age there??

    Sounds really fun and atypical. I wanted to sleep at the N/N Conference this past fall.



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