My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, a Research Assistant Professor in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, and a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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geeks and werewolves (some notes on FOO)

This past weekend, i went to FOO Camp – Tim O’Reilly’s annual sleepover gathering of geeks in the backyard of his office. (Yes, i camped in an office park.) Because some consider it an elite event (you must be invited), i get squirmy about screaming, OMG this weekend was unbelievable! But the truth is, it was. I can’t do justice in providing a recap, but the conversations were quite illuminating and i felt refreshed, especially because i got to meet so many new and interesting people. One of the most fascinating of such new connections was Moshe Cohen from Clowns Without Borders. Laughter really is the best medicine. Speaking of which, there was much werewolf and a reverse scavenger hunt in cahoots with Ms. Jane. I even got to see Greg Stein give birth to a baby girl to break a tie! I’m really a big fan of connecting people through play and i love watching Jane do magic in engaging an audience. It really is great when people who should know each other first meet through play. One of the coolest things about Werewolf is that there is an intimacy that provides furtile ground for future professional conversations. I’m a strong believer that meaningful ties require more than just a work connection.

While i may have hosted far too many hours of Werewolf, i did also help host a session on teens misbehaving and attended many other talks. My favorite was a broad discussion about the future of IM hosted by Master Artur. I also got a prototype of a Chumby to hack. I haven’t fucked with it yet but i’m super impressed by the cutsie-ness of the device, the shwag, the octopus, the name. There’s just something that’s so endearing about it. And it’s fuzzy! Speaking of fuzzy, how much do you love Tim wearing my hat?? But anyhow, i will play with the Chumby and get back to you.

To get to FOO this year, i did a roadtrip with Kareem and Graeme from Fox. The conversation was unbelievably fun and uber geeky (in that delicious kind of way). Plus, we stopped at In-N-Out twice and i got to play with a really fun GPS toy that Kareem calls Peaches.

Returning for a moment to the issue of elitism, i want to highlight Bar Camp. Bar Camp started out as an alternative for FOO and some framed it as the gathering for people who are not “cool enough.” There was animosity, jealously, and disappointment attached to it. It made me feel all guilty for going to and loving FOO. And then i moved to LA and connected to the Bar Camp folks here who have used that concept to build a community of geeks who gather monthly for food and are stoked to find ways to connect. Regardless of its origins, Bar Camp is an unbelievable mechanism for members of local communities to get to know the geeks amongst them. I’m completely in awe of how rapidly this meme has spread to cities around the world. During Bar Camp Earth this weekend, there were Bar Camps in Lithuania and India! In the next couple of months, there will be Bar Camps in places like Johannesburg and Shanghai. There may even be one near you.

One of the main reasons that FOO is closed is that it needs to be small to work. It was definitely pretty big this year, but still manageable. But it wouldn’t work with 1000 people even though there are certainly thousands of geeks who would benefit from such community building. The cool thing about Bar Camp is that it’s allowing many more people to enjoy the #1 benefit of FOO: connecting with interesting people. While FOO certainly has many Internet celebrities, Bar has people in your local community. The biggest value of both types of events is that they are doing so much to develop and enrich the geek community. While blogs and online connections are great, there’s nothing like physical co-presence.

Update:

For those interested in what was contained in this year’s scavenger hunt, Jane posted the complete rules as part of her write-up on FOO:

Please find the following objects:
1. A fully installed functional body modification (demo, please)
2. Spiritual computing object (demo, please)
3. A prop from the set of the 2042 Japanese remake of Snakes on a Plane (scene, please)
4. A viable alternate energy source (demo, please)
5. The new Third Life interface
6. When ThingLinks Go Wrong
7. Evidence of the most insidious viral marketing effort of the year 2007
8. The FOOFRACK™ Continuous Partial Attention Device
9. Proof that one of your team members is actually a Cylon, a Werewolf or a VC in disguise
10. A craft object from the BRAINS! Issue of Make Magazine (Vol. 13)

Rules:You have 60 minutes to “find” these objects.You can only use the 10 objects your team already has-no trading, no substitutions.You can hack and mod your objects any way you want.You cannot use an object to represent more than one item on the list.
Your success in finding these objects will be judged based on your live demonstrations and explanations. Prepare to be persuasive!In the case of a tie, teams will play a 60-second death-defying, single-object tiebreaker round.

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