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Collaboration illustrated: Seattle Mind Camp 1.0 report

November 7th, 2005 · 6 Comments

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Saturday I spent at Seattle Mind Camp 1.0. The letter I received with my ticket described the event as

a self-organizing, digitally minded, entrepreneur-driven, overnight Seattle confab- get ready to find out what happens when you get together with 149 other forward-thinkers for 24 hours in an empty office building.

Due to an extensive schedule for our family, I was only able to attend the first 10 hours of the 24. But what I experienced impressed me and made me hungry for Mind Camp 2.0…only six more months to wait!

First, I want to thank Andru Edwards, his family, and the rest of the organizers for their excellent work. Getting a conference started seems a bit to me like getting a bird – or rather a mechanical creation such as an airplane – into flight. It’s a work against gravity and entropy. It involves sacrifice and endurance, time, money, energy and caffeine, the ability to think of details in advance and also the ability to take the tomatoes that may be tossed your way at times. Thanks to the group that gathered together this year and made this idea turn into opportunity!

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Creating the culture of Mind Camp

At first, I confess, I felt awkward, walking into the room. I realized that I felt more connected through blogging on a national level, perhaps even international level, than I do on a local level. Seattle-area bloggers are in my aggregator, but I’ve spent more time at conferences hanging out with people who live thousands of miles away from me. And yes, my travels this year and family schedule have affected our ability to attend the local Meetups, increasing the distance to the local community.

Who lived here? I wasn’t sure. But I was about to find out…at least some of them….

I also realized that I wasn’t sure what Mind Camp was. Many conferences and communities have established cultures. For example, when you are walking into Foo Camp, you are literally walking into a family – Tim O’Reilly’s family – and a set of relationships built by his company and networks. You are also walking into a history. There are rituals and routines, expectations and experiences, flickr photo sets and posts from years past.

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New conferences create their own culture. Seattle Mind Camp is the third new conference I’ve attended this year. At Northern Voice, I think I was too nervous about my first speaking engagement to notice social dynamics and situations. Blogher built community through blog and email dialogue prior to the event. Seattle Mind Camp seemed to me perhaps a little raw but also refreshing and new, a culture we were shaping and forming, like clay. Crayons, and candy on the table encouraged creativity and fun from the beginning.

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Small Thoughts had large significance for me

As the mother of three young attendees, I appreciated the family-friendly aspects of Mind Camp. The Small Thoughts room designated for kids seemed particularly thoughtful. Our girls had run of the space, and certainly utilized it, tossing foam balls across the corners and coloring with pen and paper on the floor. Thanks for the Small Thoughts! Others were thoughtful too, considerate of our request not to capture our kids on camera, and giving them gifts of time, attention and Channel9 guys. Thanks to everyone for accommodating our kids!

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Although I’d had a year of neuroanatomy in college, I had forgotten terms such as occipital and parietal lobe, which became necessary for navigation. One piece of culture became the labels used for rooms, neuroanatomy terminology. I spoke in the Frontal Lobe (an intriguing image).

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Nancy White and Ponzi Indharasophang’s Remix Poetry was a wonderful idea. They took the three word introductions and turned them into potential poetry with tape and tagboard. The girls had fun moving the words around on the wall. I liked the idea of taking these individual identifiers and making them into community property with creativity.

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Collaborating begins at an early age

Collaboration was a theme often seen, as MindCampers gathered together organizing projects and sessions, enjoying discussions. The way I experienced it intensely was through Nancy White’s care for our children. During one session, a discussion on women and technology, she invited our girls to join her with pens and pad. The picture they created together illustrates collaboration I think in a vivid and fun way.

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Collaboration Illustrated: what Nancy and the kids created

Speaking of women, I could probably count the female attendees on two hands. Certainly on my fingers and toes. From the list on the Seattle Mind Camp site, I had somehow expected a higher percentage. Yet the women who were there participated powerfully, as Ted pointed out to me. Ponzi, Nancy, Liz Lawley, Shelly Farnham, Kathy Gill, Jessika Satori, Tara Hunt and I all led sessions or did demos, to name some of the women.

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Ponzi, Chris and Liz: women in technology

Ponzi in particular started an excellent discussion on women in technology. The more of the “where are the women and what can we do about it?” conversations that occur, the more I feel I understand the aspects and issues, and the greater opportunities for change to take place. Confronting our own biases and beliefs is the beginning. Adding more diversity into the early adopter pool is another. Shelly Farnham mentioned the way developers work in their offices isolated in a dark box. Liz, describing media images of women in computing, asked “why can’t the person using the computer also be kicking ass?” Shelly described how test subjects can be inoculated against cognitive interference. How can we encourage women who believe “I don’t think I’m good enough”? Mentoring was mentioned and I think this has powerful potential. I’d like to see more explicit mentoring of women in the community and I am considering how I can contribute to that effort.

Making Masks at Mind Camp

By request, I gave my “Making Masks: Blogging as Social Tool and Family Lifestyle” presentation again. I’ve learned and grown through this talk in the past year, and I may describe more from my own personal experience later. What I enjoy the most is the discussion that follows my presentation. It was a good crowd of people in the room, at least one (beside my family members) sitting through it for a second time, and I was grateful for the excellent questions asked. Thanks to everyone who came.

Making Marshmallow Shooters at Mind Camp

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Then Ted and I took a break from sessions and made marshmallow shooters with the girls, using the howtoons instructions. This was a last-minute idea we put together Friday night. I ran out to Safeway at 9:30 at night to stock up on marshmallows (approximately 500 miniature marshmallows per bag, I calculated, using a kitchen scale (50/ounce)!) and Ted stopped by Home Depot on the way to Mind Camp early Saturday morning to buy tubing. Buying materials for ten guns, we had hoped a group of younger attendees would join us, and later, Lane, Liz’s son, also made one. Ted fashioned his own style.

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information overload

For the fourth session, I had a hard time deciding between Liz Lawley’s session on information networks versus social networks and another on solutions to information overload titled “Dealing with the information glut”. Ted went to Liz’s and I figured we could compare notes later if I went to the other session. And I do have an intense need to figure out how to manage my email and blog feeds better.

Sometimes though you learn the most from a session, not by finding answers but by beginning to ask the right questions. Although not everyone in the room seemed to be in agreement, I felt the “information glut” group saw blog feeds and email as information to manage. For example, someone complained that even the best bloggers will sometimes write about their breakfast. Lots of talk too with the phrase “the wisdom of the crowds” and using delicious to see how others value posts.

I realized that I do care what other bloggers eat for breakfast. The reason I still read dozens, hundreds of feeds, is that I feel a personal relationship with these bloggers. I care about them, and that means I care about their oatmeal or bagels too. I’m looking for the rare writings as well as the popular ones. The reason I stay up late at night isn’t that I’m responding to business emails, instead I’m building relationships with my replies. I’m not managing information, instead I’m making friends.

As the conversation topics turned to recommendations of David Allen’s Getting Things Done (known as the cult of GTD) and 43 Folders, resources I’ve used, I wondered whether Liz’s session would help me find a solution to my problem, a problem that I now saw as social in nature. So the kids and I went down the hall. Combining these two groups would have been interesting, since they were each addressing the same problem but using different tools, vocabulary and perspectives. As I walked into Liz’s discussion, I started to hear some of the same ideas, such as using a gatekeeper or maven to help manage information. The idea of “filtering things through trusted sources”, to quote Liz, was common to both. As someone asked in the session “how do we find the people we trust to find information?” Kathy Gill emphasized that building a trusted network takes time. I left this hour with more questions than answers, yet feeling I was closer to finding a solution simply by seeing my problem better.

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Chandler slide

The last one I attended was Ted’s Chandler demo. Of course, I could always get a demo at home. But I like to see Ted talk. He had some technical difficulties, calling it the worst demo ever (hey, I thought that title belonged to Microsoft!). Even so, I learned a lot from his slides and demo, and I think others became interested in Chandler too.

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After a delicious dinner the girls and I headed home. It took a while to pack our bags, pick the multi-colored marshmallows off the carpet, and say goodbye to our friends. I was sorry to leave but hope we’ll be able to stay longer at Mind Camp 2.0. When Ted came home today, I had plenty of questions, wanting to discover what I’d missed. Ironically, I’m imbibing my caffeine here at home, not there, writing this report.

Connections made:

If I expected one thing, I was hoping to make connections across the community, both new and old. Mind Camp was certainly a way to meet great people. As Ted wrote:

The reason that I got involved with Mind Camp was because I wanted to see technology people in the Puget Sound get connected to each other. One of the things that I miss about Silicon Valley is the sense of connectedness, which seems to facilitate people knowing who’s doing what, and which is a facilitator of a culture of innovation. I wanted Mind Camp to be something that would contribute in some small way to improving that sense of connectedness, so nothing could have pleased me more than to hear that people met other cool people that they were unaware of.

Like Ted, I hope the collaborations continue!

Catching up with Beth Goza, I found myself in an intriguing discussion of Second Life with Robert Scoble and others. It was great to see Jack William Bell; I’ve been thinking often of Anita and their family and wish she had been able to be there too. I also was glad to get to know Shelly and Jessika. Lion Kimbro shared some insights with me. I hadn’t seen either Scott Koon or Eric Soroos since they each became fathers but I’d enjoyed the pictures and news from their feeds. Bryan Zug and Scott Axworthy each spoke with me after my presentation. I also had a chance to meet Avi Bryant (whom I first noticed via Roland’s post – wish Roland could have been there too!) , Ario Jafarzadeh, Brady Forrest (sorry I missed his presentation), Jennifer Batten and Stuart Maxwell. I hope Chris Pirillo and Ponzi didn’t mind the marshmallows when they became incorporated into target practice. Robert Scoble seemed quite busy keeping up with emails and the fellow bloggers now in his family, but he took the time to say hi to the kids too. Ted and I hope to continue connecting after Camp…

Bainbridge connections

Larry Sivitz, husband of Susan and father of Lizzie greeted me. Michael Gerlek, whom we met in childbirth class five years ago, was at Mind Camp. Todd Blanchard, who had commented on my blog earlier this week, kindly brought the Squeak book he had recommended in my Hacking for Kids post. Sarah Gould took the train up from Reed College to participate. Beth Freeman (and Eric), we missed you – hope all is well…and hope you can come to 2.0! Perhaps we’ll have to try an island version too…

More coverage

More posts on Seattle Mind Camp can be found via Technorati, (it’s been interesting to watch Mind Camp go on and off the page as a top search for the hour) also Scoble’s posts here and here contained some links to other posts. Liz Lawley at misbehaving and Tara Hunt point out sexism in the coverage which is particularly painful and ironic in the light of our women in technology discussion.

Pictures here and here on Flickr.

Here’s to 2.0!

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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Nancy White // Nov 7, 2005 at 10:47 am

    Julie and company, it was delightful to camp with y’all this weekend. I particularly appreciate your noting the collaborations, which were happening in every corner of MindCamp. Wonderful.

  • 2 Boris Mann // Nov 7, 2005 at 12:30 pm

    We need MooseCampers! — http://2006.northernvoice.ca/moosecamp

    I’m sad I missed MindCamp, but my mind was under assault by the flu. I’m really looking forward to this coming February…

  • 3 Beth Freeman // Nov 7, 2005 at 6:08 pm

    I never got my ticket 🙁

    Nice review – thanks!

  • 4 Bill Harris // Nov 10, 2005 at 10:12 am

    Julie, that was a great summary of an event I wish I could have attended.

    You write about the desire to connect technology folk in the Puget Sound. Dave Taylor wrote something similar (http://www.intuitive.com/blog/staying_in_touch_with_the_colorado_entrepreneurial_community.html) about Colorado.

    First, the Northwest Entrepreneur Network used to have great networking potential for those willing to show up at their early-morning breakfast meetings. The MIT Forum and other events are also potential places to meet folks on a more regular basis, but it’s still not multiple times a week, as Dave dreams about in the Bay Area.

    Second, given traffic and distances in the Puget Sound region, what about us all figuring out ways to make these connections happen without the need to travel? What would that look like, do you think?

  • 5 Mike Wilkerson // Nov 14, 2005 at 10:06 am

    I had some related thoughts on the blend of in-person and blog interactions around Mind Camp (I was there too), and I wrote about them in the article linked in my URL.

    I got to meet your husband Ted and have a nice chat with him. He likes to brag on you 🙂 The conversation made me wish I’d known to attend your session on Making Masks!

  • 6 Julie // Nov 16, 2005 at 2:07 am

    Thanks everyone! Delightful to camp with you too Nancy! And yes, we’ll see if we can come to Moose Camp, Boris. February will be fun!
    Sorry, you didn’t get your ticket, Beth. We missed you!
    Mike and Bill – here’s to more connecting at Mind Camp 2.0 – hope to see everyone again then…and some new faces too…

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