They’re eating breakfast at FOO Camp right now. I’ll join them in just a few minutes, and tuck in for some geekery, some intellectual soul food, and some inspiration during the full day and evening of sessions ahead. Sessions and serendipity, too. The unconference format (this is my first unconference, by the way) is nothing if not a “designed serendipity” environment. The phrase is from Michael Nielsen’s new book on networked science Reinventing Discovery, where he cites the source of the idea, Jon Udell, who recently was at Virginia Tech as our first Distinguished Innovator In Residence. Jon was here at FOO Camp last year. I wish he were here this year. I always feel a bit lonely and lost at these new gatherings, so I try to throw myself into the proceedings as best I can. It’s easier with the extremely warm and welcoming staff at O’Reilly, who’ve done a great job of getting this party going (and to judge from prior years, keeping it going). And I’ve already started to meet some of my illustrious and driven fellow campers. Last night at dinner I met Eric Gundersen of Mapbox and had a fine conversation about our separate work and mutual obsessions, including our shared membership in the Jon Udell fandom. So I suppose Jon is here, after all, though it’d be more fun without quite so many degrees of separation.
I’m also following and contributing to the Twitter stream at #foocamp (Tim O’Reilly’s choice, though Sarah, who thought up the idea of FOO Camp originally, said the tag was #foo12–somebody bring in an aggregator here), and learning by the way about others who’ve been here in the past, as well as the thin stream of resentment that such gatherings occasion. One snarky tweet said attendees were “pretentious tools” who were straight out of the movie Metropolitan. I’ve always thought it would be interesting to be in a Whit Stillman movie–the people are acting, after all. And hearing the charge of “complicity” (a tool is complicit, yes? a house slave?) brings back not-so-fond memories of the bully colleague in a former English department who’d trot out that line every time anyone wanted to do something generous or trusting involving the administration. You know, “the man” who’s “doing us wrong.” Sometimes he is, of course. But I digress….
It’s a fascinating experience here already. I hope for more connections, and look forward to what the day will bring. I’ve signed up to lead a session tomorrow in the last time slot: “Helping Faculty UNCLENCH–about computers.”
I will continue to wrestle with my own worries and insanely cosmic dreams.
I’ll keep you posted on what transpires.