FooCamp, for those of you who don’t know, is a small invitation-only camping ubergeek event at O’Reilly Media‘s campus at Sebastopol in California. The whole thing was set up purely so that the O’Reilly lot could then set up a free bar, called the FooBar. It’s a pun, you see, and one worth gathering a few hundred people together to realise.

I was really surprised to get an invitation this year, and really very chuffed, so I’m really excited to be here. There are a lot of people here – most of whom I don’t know, but lots of whom I do. It’s a nice mix of catching up with old friends such as David Weinberger and making new ones like Philip Rosedale from Second Life.

Only got here yesterday afternoon, which was spent putting up the tent, helping David put his up, and generally chatting with people. During the evening, there was a general introduction session where we all (all 326** of us) had to stand up and say who we are, our affiliation and three words to describe ourselves. Mine was ‘Suw Charman, social software consultant. Scaring businesses. Kittens.’ You have to nominate yourself for a talk, so I’ve done that. ‘Social Software: Happy Stories from the Real World’, which will be about how people are really using social software in business… or it will be if anyone actually turns up.

Meantime, Google Earth are sending a plane over to photograph the campus to a resolution of two inches, so up the road people are building a crashed Cylon raider, and Tom Coates, Cal Henderson, Simon Willison, Michael Sparks and I have built a giant space invaders game on some land just behind O’Reilly. Should be fun to see how it comes out in a few weeks when they’ve uploaded the images.

The only hiccup is that I really didn’t do enough research as to the weather here. I was expecting it to be warm, and during the day yesterday, in the sunshine, it was. But by evening, it was freezing cold, and I froze my ass off in my tent overnight despite a nice down sleeping bag. Today, I shall be demonstrating how to wear all the clothes at once.

Having built the space invaders, it’s now time for the first of the sessions that I’m here to see. No notes, because this is more about listening and taking part than it is about taking notes, although I may summarise later if I don’t get caught up in a long, late-night game of Werewolf.


So the plane came over at just about the same time that the sun came out and the wind picked up. There was much running about and picking up of white cardboard pixels that had blown about, putting them back in the right place and weighing them down with windfall apples and stones. We can only hope that the Google plane managed to get a shot of the space invaders when they were looking their best.

Also went to my first session, which was about a cool brainstorming technique using scifi as it’s starting point that Michael Sparks gave. Was hysterically funny, to the point where we got told off by one of the other sessions for being too noisy. Oops. Sorry. Currently in a session about Second Life which I came late to because I was having a great conversation with Rael Dornfest, whom I last met via a web cam carried about by Kevin Marks at Etech (I was on the webcam, Rael and Kevin were having lunch).

I have to say, though, that FooCamp is possibly one of a very small number of places where one could find oneself staring up at a flock of birds saying ‘Are they birds… or something Philip Torrone built?’.

* For a very flexible definition of ‘ubergeek’, I think.
** Roughly