Kiwi Foo Camp

A belated post about the great experience that was 2009 Kiwi Foo Camp.

The first question people have, is what does Foo stand for.  Foo stands for Friends of O’Reilly – that being Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media.

Kiwi Foo Camp is a local version organised by Nat Torkington (and his wife) who works for O’Reilly. It is for “technology industry people and policy makers”.

This was the first one I had been invited to – they are invite only, and I was thrilled to be invited and pleasantly surprised by how many people I knew there – and even more pleased to meet dozens of new people.

There are a number of great things about Foo Camp. The first is that there are no stupid people there. Yes, I know that sounds a bit wanky, but what I mean is everyone there was interesting, and interested. It is a retreat for those who are intellectually curious. You get to have a range of discussions that are stimulating, and fascinating. You also learn how much you don’t know.

The second great things is there is no agenda. It is an un-conference. What do I mean by that? Well when we get there on Friday, we work out the agenda by ourselves. And no not by sitting in a big circle – more like a human Wiki.

There are six classrooms available and around twelve slots on Saturday and Sunday morning. So they have up on the wall the 72 session slots. And any attendee who wants to speak on a subject just writes on a large sticky what their topic is in a sentence, and sticks it in a slot. And eventually you have all 72 slots filled.

But even better, you can change things around. For example there was a session on fibre to the home and on copyright laws at the same time in different rooms. So I just unilaterally moved one session to another time. And other people could and did move sessions about so they could attend the ones they want. And whatever we end up with by end of Friday night is the agenda, so to speak.

There were sessions on everything from highly geekly programming stuff, to digital photography to surviving the recession to ideas for Bill English to grow the economy etc etc.

On Saturday evening we had a great debate with Russell Brown, Rod Oram, Bernard Hickey and others debating “Is New Zealand fucked?”. The debate itself was funny enough, but at the end every audience member could also get up and speak for 30 seconds on their view – but they had to start with “Fucked” or “Not Fucked”. Apart from the hilarity of hearing the F word around 300 times, there was also some great insights into NZ.

I observed a great game of Werewolf, with around 30 participants on Saturday Night. Next time I’ll join in, now I know the rules.

Kiwi Foo Camp wasn’t just a talkfest. It is also where key people came together to further the anti S92A “guilt by accusation” campaign. We had a great session brainstorming ideas (such as the Blackout), and also had a session on the long term issues around copyright law internationally and domestically. Kiwi Foo Camp made a real difference to stopping S92A having come into effect last month.

The Kiwi Foo mailing list sort of got hijacked after the event to co-ordinate the campaign, and at its peak there were 200+ messages a day – almost impossible to keep up – but worth it.

So all in all, a great experience was Kiwi Foo Camp. And big kudos to not just the organisers such as Nate, Jenine and Russell – but also the wonderful catering squad who fed us so well.

Other blogs coming out of Foo Camp are this post by Lawrence Millar (NZ Govt CIO), The Strategist and Artifical Code.