Tag Archives: O’Reilly

FooCamp – After the fire

Well, I made it.  After driving back and forth numerous times to the O’Reilly campus in Sebastopol I am now back in Marin and reflecting on what an incredible time I had at FooCamp.  Here is the Wikipedia definition of FooCamp which is fitting as I found myself at one point talking to Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales over chicken and black beans.  Michael Arrington over at TechCrunch, who was also in attendance, has posted his review of FooCamp here.  One of the best parts about the event is that only your name appears on your little tag with no mention of affiliations other than your favorite Star Wars character (which I didn’t quite get).  For the semi-technorati illiterate like myself it makes for good fun as you get to just walk up to people and say, “Hi, what do you do?”  I met a whole slew of people who I knew nothing about but after getting home and Googling their name I would sit back and say, “No s@#$!”

It was an impressive collection of PhD’s from MIT, astronauts, investors, journalists and dozens of tech icons.  The brain power was overwhelming and I had a hard time geting my head around some of the discussions.  (After dinner one night some folks got together and synthesized bacteria to smell like bananas.)  At one point it occurred to me that if 1% of the folks in attendance focused their energy on some of the problems facing the aid industry we would be in a much better place.

I took part in a disaster tech event run by Jesse Robbins which had a good size turn out.  Some folks presented a very cool app having to do with geo-location and information in emergencies. The development was for Google’s Android and not the iPhone 3G so I was a bit off in my previous post where I surmised that the weekend would be about the iPhone 3G.  (As a matter of fact almost no one spoke about the new iPhone 3G.)  We told some good stories, brainstormed possibilities but mostly just spent our time trying to explain to the rest of the room just how difficult it is to work in an emergency setting.  As always, the biggest obstacle to progress is the total lack of understanding, on the part of both the tech industry and the relief industry, as to how things get done in our worlds.

I am hopeful that by attending such events (I am pretty sure I was the only aid worker in attendance) I can not only come away with new ideas that can make our job easier but also educate and energize the tech community to rally around our efforts and come up with some solutions that could greatly improve the way we do things.  Hopefully, FooCamp will serve as a catalyst for future events that will draw the both the humanitarian aid community and the tech industry closer together.

I had a great time and thanks to Tim O’Reilly for throwing the event.


I am off to FooCamp in a few hours.  With the Friday traffic on 101 getting worse and worse every year I think I’ll stick to backroads and enjoy the scenery.  I can’t leave quite yet as I have iBricked my wife’s iPhone and I am stuck here until it is restored.

It should be a good time and I look forward to meeting some interesting people.  I am guessing that the new iPhone 3G will take center stage but it looks like there will be a lot of other stuff being dicussed.  I think the new iPhone has the potential to change the way field workers operate but I’ll write about that in another post.

The fog has thankfully returned after the brutal heatwave of the last few days and the O’Reilly campus is bound to be cool and hazy.  Glad I am not camping out but if AT&T and Apple don’t pull through and finish updating my wife’s iPhone I might still end up sleeping outside.

Where 2.0

I watched a great presentation at Where 2.0 by Jesse Robbins and Mikel Maron about disaster tech. Jesse is a champion of what works and what doesn’t and is part of the team over at O’Reilly Radar. I first had the pleasure of meeting Jesse after watching him dismantle a well meaning (but totally off-base) individual at a local disaster tech conference some time ago. Mikel just spent some months working his way across India all the while working with locals to develop OpenStreetMap.org. I have to give it up to Jesse for introducing me to Eduardo Jezierski over at InSTEDD during my quest for a ‘Twitter for Thuraya‘ app. Eduardo and I spent several days hunkered over a desk, building out their SMS GeoChat platform at Where 2.0. I am hopeful that you’ll soon see a Beta product for field workers. If it wasn’t for Jesse and Mikel keeping the fire alive the mainstream tech world would probably let disaster tech drift away in the current.

Paul Currion is another straight shooter who continues to deliver reality to all of those starry eyed folks who believe laptops and Web 2.O are going to save the world. For a dose of this reality be sure to jump over to humanitarian.info.

p.s. – I’ll have the Cradlepoint MBR1000 review up in the next couple of days.