unconference example 1 – FOOCAMP

Foo Camp is an annual hacker event hosted by publisher O’Reilly Media. O’Reilly describes it as “the wiki of conferences”, where the program is developed by the attendees at the event, using big whiteboard schedule templates that can be rewritten or overwritten by attendees to optimize the schedule. The goal of the event is to reach out to new people who will increase the company’s intelligence about new technologies, and to create opportunities for cross-pollination between people and technologies that are on the O’Reilly radar.

Tim O’Reilly describes the goal of his company as “changing the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators.” Foo Camp has evolved into an important mechanism for finding those innovators. O’Reilly asks attendees to nominate new and interesting people to be invited to future camps. The invite list is calculated to create cross-disciplinary “aha!” moments, new synapses in the global brain, with a focus on emerging technology.

On O’Reilly’s website, it states that ‘Foo Camp is only as much fun as participants make it. Be prepared to lead or participate in a session, ask interesting questions, show off what you’re working on, and generally leave your mark on the weekend.’

Scott Berkun says that ‘By 1) creating a great environment, 2) inviting great people, and 3) getting out of the way, amazing things happen. This sounds obvious but experiences with all 3 elements are rare. How many times in your life have you been somewhere with all three? For an entire weekend? I’m amazed, inspired and exhausted every time I get to go for this reason.’

There have been a number of Foocamp spinoffs; science foo, health foo and a kiwi version known as baacamp. The best known is BARCAMP which was set up by a couple of FOOCAMP attendees and which we’ll explore in the next post.

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