*Camp debauchery

This weekend I was at *Camp, which for those not in the know was an unconference about * (and somehow explaining it further seems as useful as explaining a joke if you don’t get it).

It was highly enjoyable.

So what were the lingering memories? First was a strange ache in some muscles on my side. Was I involved in some weekend shenanigans (after all, everyone knows conferences are just an excuse for excess debauchery)?

I couldn’t remember any debauchery, but that’s not necessarily definitive proof. Then it came to me – Neil had brought along a Wii, and I’d tried it out for the first time. Obviously I’m not games fit, as a session or two of boxing was enough to leave me breathless, and aching the next day, as well as my character on the canvas in every instance.

There were some great talks. Three that came to mind were Network Neutrality – The View from America, by visiting Princeton academic David Robinson, Securing the Electronic Ballot by Alex Halderman, also a Princeton academic, and Phil Barrett’s talk on User experience.

These also happened to be the only three presentations by foreign visitors. But they’ve helped set a benchmark for all of us. I was interested in the topics, and impressed by both their knowledge, and their presentation skills.

Alex’s talk about his research into electronic voting, and the security flaws his team discovered in the Diebold and other devices, was fascinating, as was his perspective on what should be done. I felt honoured to hear him talk.

David’s talk stimulated perhaps the most interesting post-discussion, and the whole experience both clarified and complicated my views on Network Neutrality.

Phil’s talk, in spite of him ruining the palm tree game by telling us what we were looking for, was fascinating, and I can think of a host of Free Software projects that could do with an hour or two of his time. I attended a Scribus demo, and found it surprisingly bad (Scribus, not Adrianna’s demo!). A style not applying when I’d expect it to because I hadn’t clicked a broom icon, which was hidden in a menu’s submenu, and off the screen requiring me to scroll down, and all sorts of unexpected behaviours, didn’t enamour me to the software. When it wasn’t crashing that is. I’m still considering using it for a book I’m writing though, as my partner swears it can do the job, and perhaps we were a bit ambitious is running the next generation version.

My talk (and believe it or not the first time I’ve ever used presentation software to present) on the various Wikimedia projects, was presented to a vast cavern, populated by one or two of the hardcore sipping coffee or headache pills (although Tania seemed to like it). Perhaps next time I shouldn’t sign up for the first talk on a Sunday morning. I also apparently can’t count in Xhosa, but after only 7 days of learning, perhaps that’s not too surprising.

Other posts on *Camp can be found on Planet Geekdinner. These include posts by Adrianna Pinska, Joey da Silva, Neil Blakey-Milner, Neil Muller, Stefano Rivera and Paul and Kerry-Anne Gilowey.

Neil made a comprehensive list of people to thank, but a big thank you to him for his key role in making the even happen. As Tania said, let’s not do it too often, just every two or three weeks.

And thanks to Joey for hauling me out to the Brass Bell when I was out on my feet at the end of the day – I did get my second wind!