Foo Clips

FoocampI approached my time at O’Reilly’s Foo Camp a little differently this year, spending less time at sessions diligently taking notes and more time just hanging out talking to interesting people. Here’re my Foo Clips:

  • Marvelling at the speed with which Collarity collated camper’s registration information, crossed it with content from the wiki and generated a bunch of tag clouds on topics, companies, campers and a huge printed graph.
  • James Duncan‘s exploratory session on P2P Insurance raised some interesting questions on the nature of finance. His thoughts are particularly timely given the emergence of Zopa, Prosper and others. James speculated that customers could list their insurables and others can pledge to cover them…similar to IDII’s Rent-A-Thing, minus the reputation management.
  • Standing in a huddle with Ian, Kevin Kelly, David Sifry and trying not to say I’d only just signed up for Technorati and apologising to Kevin that I didn’t recognise his recent speech at The Next Web as his Wired article We Are The Web!
  • Telling Mike Migurski, from Stamen about my idea for visualising startup migrations based on LinkedIn data; Mike also got me excited about Fuller’s Dymaxion Maps.
  • Sharing ideas on blogjects and spimes with Julian Bleecker (author of Why Things Matter) – including mine and Surj’s idea of a remote control blogject that blogs what you’re watching on TV.
  • Onomy’s Geo Explorer Table was insanely addictive…it just needs wiring to Google Earth. Also, Onomy’s FooCast was another cute example of tangible media….photos here.
  • Accidentally bumping into O’Reilly’s Chip Pettibone (Safari product manager) and realising he’s the brother-in-law of Parker at our Boston labs.
  • Seeing Aaron’s ideas for a meta-grid service take shape in real-time (and helping out a little). Tim O’Reilly’s endorsed Aaron’s ideas and hopefully we should see some concepts emerging soon…perhaps something Carbon will be helping with…
  • Riffing ideas for with my friend Rich Gibson…I think these ideas could reinvent the culture of Powerpoint presentations and I’m super-excited about helping Rich realise his vision.
  • Seeing Jim demo the 2B1, the first device from OLPC; it never occurred to me before, but Believr could provide some interesting services for the 2B1…I didn’t realise Jim was one of Mike Bove‘s students.
  • Brainstorming in Michael SparksSciFi As Reality session was really fun. Michael led a group of four campers through his brainstorming methodology, resulting in our group conceiving of a series of TV shows on the concept of homing luggage and luggage with feet 🙂
  • Scaring Eric Bonabeau about the state of innovation and the brain-drain at Orange and France Telecom. Eric is Vivek‘s best friend…
  • Picking Paul Graham‘s brains about kick starting a startup culture in Yorkshire with Orange Beta and entering some of Carbon’s ideas to Paul’s Y Combinator fund (thanks to my Orange colleague Steve Strassman for the intro).
  • Brainstorming applications for the upcoming release of Quicktime with Apple’s principle QT engineer, Eric Carlson. We conceived of a version of iDVD that could Burn to the Web, perhaps publishing to, as well as to DVD discs. Eric was also very impressed with my Fingertipz demos…he couldn’t confirm whether Apple had a patent on Spotlight for mobiles.
  • Speculating with Lee Felsenstein about the weaknesses of the OLPC project and whether his work on rural telcos in the developing world could be adapted for urban regeneration areas, such as the North of England; I suggested taking some of the work from Software for Skyscrapers, my work with IDII on identity and reputation as a starting point. Also, we talked a little about open source telephony and the Greenphone‘s applicability to Fonly‘s work. Lee’s work is really inspiring, like Aaron’s Aidphone.
  • Meeting a kindred spirit in Greg Sadetsky of Poly9 – we talked a lot about creating tech hubs, the emergence of an indie games scene…and he loved Fingertipz.
  • Thanking Simon Phipps for his help in setting up our SME thin-client collaboration with Yorkshire Forward and Sun…he didn’t remember that we had dinner in Denver at Digital ID World 2003 🙁
  • Serendipitously reaching for the same slice of pizza as Craig Warren Smith. This was the highlight of my weekend, learning about Craig’s work on Spiritual Computing and sharing my plans for Believr. Craig invited me write an article on Islam and digital technology and help contribute to upcoming brainstorms with Nokia and Microsoft in Seattle. Funnily, Craig introduced me to Dirk Trossen and Dana Pavel, from Nokia, with whom we’d been working with for some time on contextual computing!
  • Counting the number of Tangerines – or children of Orange; Surj Patel, Todd Pinkerton, Carl Shimer, Steve Strassman, myself, Ian Hay…hey wait, these people are all connected to the Boston SF people?
  • Fascinated by some very insightful visualisations of Wikipedia editing activity and user behaviour.
  • danah‘s roundtable on the Future of IM was interesting, starting a debate on the social needs of IM users, from etiquette to mobility and smarter presence management – a subject close to my heart…
  • Getting three free t-shirts – from Upcoming (its very cool), Chumby and, of course, Foo Camp.
  • Carl Shimer‘s story of Numbler, his web-based spreadsheet service was almost tragic. Numbler is actually pretty fantastic, but was unfortunately eclipsed by the launch of Google’s own service. Carl does have some differentiation to play though – Avi Bryant and I suggested mechanisms such as microformatted spreadsheets embedded in blog posts…imagine an MLB table embedded in a baseball fan’s post; readable, reusable and syndicable by others.
  • Missed opportunities to talk more to Marc Hedlund about Orange Beta, Todd Friesen about Believr, Brady Forrest about the future of O’Reilly, Bill McCoy on Reading 2.0 at Adobe, Avi Bryant about Pipes and filters for the web and playing Werewolf! Most regrettably, I didn’t get a change to thank Tim in person as I was so absorbed in conversation with Craig Warren Smith, I missed the closing session 🙁
  • Driving to Bodega Bay and down the Pacific Coast Highway (with Todd Pinkerton and Ian) back to San Francisco, while Aaron was burning up wifi in the lobby of the Serrano.
  • Breakfast at David’s Diner (Seinfeld-style) with Ian, Aaron and Toby Oliver…my French Toast and Beef Bacon comfort food almost caused me to miss my flight to O’Hare…

Embarrassingly, Ian and I had scheduled a session on Sunday morning to demo Fingertipz and some other projects from our research programmes. However, waiting for our free Chumby caused us to miss our own talk! Fortunately, we were able to demo the concept designs to curious people throughout the weekend.

When Muslims undertake the Hajj pilgrimage, we leave our egos and our wealth behind – only your character and your soul has weight in Mecca. Everyone is an equal, the poor sleep next to the rich, the great pray with the good. Foo Camp is the Hajj of the tech industry, it’s a privilege to be invited once and you’ll never resist the chance to return.

UPDATE: Here are Ian’s notes from Foo.


  1. excellent post Imran, much more detailed than my own but as I said in that post I should have taken more notes as I realise I had a lot of good conversations that I should have listed out but haven’t, maybe I should have a go now but the memory is specific details is further dimmed, the overall themes are still there though (and I can just link to this post of course!)

  2. Unconferences and the Return of the Relationship

    I’ve been meaning to write about FOO Camp for a while now, but life has just been a blur from about 5 days before it until, well, the end of next week actually! I was fortunate enough to be invited by Tim O’Reilly to attend his three day garden party alon


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