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Mon, 07 Nov 2005
Mind Camp 1.0 report

Where to start?

A big thanks for everyone who took time out of their schedule to come this weekend. These sorts of events depend entirely on the people who attend, so if it was good (and I think it was), then the credit goes to all those who showed up and participated.

I was pleased to see a number of people from Bainbridge Island, including some folks that I was unaware of. Steve Sivits, Michael Gerlek, and Todd Blanchard also made the trip. I had never met Steve or Todd before, and its great to discover more people on the island.

A number of folks are posting their reactions to the event, and much of has been positive. The thing that is most important to me is that during the closing session/wrap-up, I heard a lot of people say that they had met cool and interesting people. The reason that I got involved with Seattle Mind Camp was because I wanted to see technology people in the Puget Sound get connected to each other. One of the things that I miss about Silicon Valley is the sense of connectedness, which seems to facilitate people knowing who's doing what, and which is a facilitator of a culture of innovation. I wanted Mind Camp to be something that would contribute in some small way to improving that sense of connectedness, so nothing could have pleased me more than to hear that people met other cool people that they were unaware of. Of course, it would be great if several years from now you could point to a project or company that got started because of Mind Camp, but we'll have to wait several years to see if that happens.

About the only real problem that we had was with internet access. The SeattleWireless folks tried to deploy a mesh network across all the laptops at the camp, but this turned out to be problematic, so that the network was flaky for the early part of the event. Once it was obvious that the mesh wasn't going to work, it didn't take that long to rig up an more conventional network (which still used the mesh to connect the access points -- the problem turns out to be a bad interaction between the mesh network, mobile clients, and Window's wireless networking support). Unfortunately, we discovered on Friday that there was much less bandwidth coming into the building that we expected, and by that time, it was too late to fix that problem. That was not SeattleWireless's fault at all. During the wrapup, several organizations volunteered to make sure that we never have this sort of (backhaul) problem again.

I actually didn't even open my computer until a few hours before my session, and I didn't bother to try to blog something while the event was going on. After all, if I came meet people, why spend the time with my nose buried in e-mail, etc. I didn't even get the pictures out of my camera until tonight.

While we were waiting to get started, I met Scott Laird, and Eric Sooros (who I had met previously), both of whom are camera geeks. Acutally, I would put Scott in the major camera geek category, due to the L series lens and the external flash. Both of the had apparently read my post about the nifty 50, and immediately offered to let me try out lenses from their arsenals. Unfortunately, I got so engrossed in other things that photography took a back seat, so I never actually took them up on it. But I loved it that these guys were so willing to let a relative strange bolt several hundred dollars worth of glass onto his camera. Very much in the spirit of the weekend. I did post some more photos to my Flickr photo set for Mind Camp 1.0.

Here's a brief run down of things that I did, some on the program, some off.

I attended a discussion on women in computing -- the session title might have said technology but Liz Lawley pointed out that computing is the only field in which female enrollments are declining as opposed to increasing. It's been interesting to hear these discussions in different contexts, with different participants. Apparently I missed out on really good session on Engelbart style augumentation.

I attended pieces of Julie's talk -- Elisabeth and I were in and out of the room several times, but as far as I could tell people resonated with the issues that she raised. We may even have found someone who can help make a full multimedia version of the presentation available.

Information overflow was a big theme. There were two (unwittingly, I think) competing sessions, one explicitly on information overload, and another, led by Liz Lawley on the difference between information networks and social networks. I never really considered that these two might be different, and I'm still not quite sure that I think that they are, but there was a lively discussion. If nothing else, the discussion reinforced for me that it's all about trust when it comes to information flow/networks/attention. And for me, that's one reason why blogs that have a personal, not only professional voice, will continue to be important. It's hard for me to really develop trust without a sense of a person. One other surprise for me was the amount of consensus that something like My Yahoo will become the predominant method of getting information via RSS. The argument was that it's easier to get someone to use a new webapp than it is to get them to download and install a new app. More pondering.

Julie and I took a break in the middle of the afternoon to build some howtoons derived marshmellow shooters. Early Saturday I took a sidetrip to the Home Depot in Tukwila to get the materials. Unfortunately, I didn't notice that the T-Joints that I got we threaded in the shaft, which made it much harder (but not impossible) to get the things working.

My session on Chandler turned into what I can only call the worst demo ever. I had intended to demo a recent version of Chandler including read/write calendar sharing, timezone support, and a few other things, but moments after I plugged the machine into the project, it froze up solid. Waiting for a machine to reboot when you are supposed to be demoing seems like an eternity. I was able to get through most of my demo, but I couldn't get the sharing part of the demo to work, despite the fact that I carefully tested it out before at home. With all the hitches, I didn't have time to go through the slides that I had prepared that discussed some of where we are trying to go. Mercifully, not that many people left, and people had lots of questions about the software, the process, and more. But boy, did that smart.

Apologies to Andy Edmonds for falling asleep during the attention.xml session. Highly ironic. By the time this session rolled around, my body had reached its limits, and Andy happened to be the one in the fatal timeslot. Fortunately, a summary of the session made it onto the Mind Camp wiki.

Shelley Farnum, formerly of Microsoft Research had a fascinating session on her experiences with Groove during the aftermath of Katrina. Shelley accompanied someone from the Groove team to help anyone who wanted use Groove to facilitate Katrina recovery operations. There were lots of interesting observations both about recovery operations and about software/technology in this context. Nancy White mentioned that this session went on till 1AM (after starting at 10pm). Sadly for me, I had to leave to go to another session.

And what was so all fired important that it was worth missing the disaster recovery for? Well, sitting down with
Scott Laird, who among other things, is a contributor to Typo, a Ruby on Rails based blogging system. I learned quite a bit about Type, but I also learned some interesting things about Rails and about the Ruby community.

I've long been an admirer of Avi Bryant's work, and I was looking forward to the opportunity to meet him this weekend. Avi and I sat down and he gave me a demonstration of Dabble, which is a very cool web based database app. The data modelling capabilities of Dabble look spiritually similar to what we are trying to do in the repository for Chandler. Avi also gave me a very nice demo of Seaside, a continuation based web framework for Smalltalk. Other useful things that I learned about Avi: he's from Vancouver, not very far away, he plays mean harmonica, and the he did hack some Ruby for a while.

Preventing me from getting to bed last night (of my own free will) were Brian Rice, his security geek friend Paul (whose last name I forgot), my friend Sarah, Eric Butler, and one more person whose name I never got. It all started innocently enough, when I wandered over to a conversation where I had overheard the worlds "Lisp Machine". From there on out it was downhill. Lisp, Squeak, Slate, and more, culminating in a full bore "let me show you why Squeak is cool" demo that lasted till 3am, which is when my body gave out the second time and I went to sleep.

Sunday morning I went to Todd Blanchard's presentation on Objective CLIPS, which is a clever job of gluing together CLIPS, F-Script, and Core Data. It was an eerie experience watching all the CLIPS rules firing while Todd manipulated the GUI. Just more evidence that everything that was old is new again. At least here, there are no wheels being re-invented. Todd also brought a copy of the book that he recommended to Julie. Lots of Squeak going on this weekend.

I was sitting on the floor using the power outlet, minding my own business, when I overheard the words Blue like Jazz in a conversation between Justin Martenstein and Bryan Zug. Having read the book, I invited myself into their conversation, which turned a bunch of interesting dimensions. I'm looking forward to unpacking some of those in the coming weeks.

Eventually, we wound up with a few more people and the beginnings of an impromptu post-mortem of Mind Camp, which was good preparation for the scheduled one at 11AM. Brief (and I think) incomplete notes on the wiki. I heard two big themes (as well as several smaller ones) during the feedback. The first was that we could have done a better job of communications, in terms of setting expectations for people. A lot of people said they had no idea what to expect, several people said I wish I knew that we could bring XXX gadgets, and some people thought that we were focusing on the blogging/Web 2.0 space. The second theme was that people want to get together and actually make stuff, whether that's software, hardware or whatever.

Since I've been somewhat vocal, a number of people asked if Mind Camp turned out the way I wanted or or met my expectations. It easily did, even with the caveat of it being the first time and so forth. The most important thing isn't what I think, but whether or not people get more connected as a result of what happened this weekend.

[00:59] | [places/us/wa/seattle] | # | TB | F | G | 2 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
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