Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

28 Jun 2010, 14:05 p.m.

Foo Camp Follies

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2010 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

I spent this past weekend at Foo Camp, an unconference for/by/of makers, leaders, and generally interesting hacker-ish people. Thanks to O'Reilly Media (the tech publisher with the woodcuts on the covers, not the blowhard FOX guy) for hosting it at O'Reilly's office in Sebastopol, and especial thanks to Sara Winge and Tim O'Reilly for organizing it and for inviting me.

I'll be thinking and writing about ideas and people from Foo Camp for a while, but I can immediately provide a few amusing anecdotes and quotes:

  • I ran Powerpoint Karaoke, during which Amber Case presented my "Three Models of Power" slides. When she saw the slide "Groupthink, Asch, and the Prisoner's Dilemma," she said, "The Prisoner's Dilemma is, f***, what the f*** am I going to think about for the next twenty years, I'm in a f***ing prison!"

    Oh, and the slide decks I borrowed from SlideShare were "Understanding Mastery" (thanks, Ben Scofield!) and "Web 2.0 - Chancen und Risiken fuer Unternehmen". The battledecks I created borrowed heavily from this Roger Harrop deck and John Nunemaker's "Don't Repeat Yourself, Repeat Others". If people want the battledecks, let me know and I'll send you the PDFs and source files.

  • I taught the workshop "You, Yes You, Can Do Standup Comedy" (notes, slides, more notes). During the weekend, people hearing of this asked me, "what's your stand-up comedy about?" I would bring up an idea that I haven't yet developed into a routine: Agile vs. waterfall bedroom negotiation methodologies. This led to many puns about Cucumber, test-driven development, and "fail faster."
  • Relatedly: not sure what to do with the phrase "Vorlon safeword."
  • On Friday night, we scheduled our sessions by writing on big stickynotes and slapping them on a posterboard schedule grid. On Saturday morning, I woke far too early, thinking, "was that my imagination, or is that a rooster crowing?" It was not my imagination. After I showered, dressed, and ate, the sessions were still four hours away. I realized that no one had yet copied that schedule to the conference wiki. So I sat with a laptop in front of the grid and did it. Selena Marie Deckelmann plunked herself down and helped out. I asked for a bit more help from passers-by, and got it from a woman I didn't know, "Jennifer." I helped her learn a bit about MediaWiki formatting as she filled in the last few lines of the day. Only afterwards did I realize that I'd pressganged Jennifer 8. Lee. There's an unpretentious egalitarianism within Foo Camp and this is an example.

    One session title included the word "humans," and the author's scribble initially misled me to read it as "hummus." This amused me, so I transcribed the title of the session as "hummus" and no one ever changed it. I'm not sure whether that's a crowdsourcing fail or a silliness win.

  • I led a "Models We Use to Understand the World" discussion that filled a whiteboard. I mentioned three books: George Lakoff's Metaphors We Live By, Elliot Aronson's The Social Animal, and Albert O. Hirschman's Exit, Voice and Loyalty. Scott Berkun recommended the Dictionary of Theories edited by Jennifer Bothamley. The status play resource I mentioned is here. Sample concepts: The No True Scotsman fallacy, authenticity vs. adaptation, confirmation bias, kyriarchy, the Overton window, the fundamental attribution error, and "Rules divide and narrative unites." I'm still thinking about that last one in particular.
  • Three of us drove back to San Francisco yesterday, during LGBT Pride weekend. This led to the exclamation: "As queer as a six-dollar bill! Inflation, don'cha know."
  • I defined hackers as systems thinkers who like poking at edge cases, changing constraints, and seeing what behavior emerges from that.

So, great conversations, laughs, many events and thoughts and interactions I'm still processing, and gratitude. And exhaustion. Flying back to New York today.


28 Jun 2010, 19:19 p.m.

If Sheridan had just used his Vorlon safeword, Kosh would have stopped mindscrewing him?

"Who are you?"<br/>"I am John Sheridan."<br/>"Who ARE you?"<br/>"Albatross!"<br/>"Oh. Uh, sorry, the restroom's down the hall and on your left."