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Recovering from Kiwi Foo

It’s over. I’m shattered. And it was absolutely fantastic. Lack of sleep is however has taken a toll. Kiwi Foo (a.k.a Baa Camp), an O’Reilly Media spin-off unconference organised by Nat Torkington was held in Warkworth over the weekend. The photo-stream over at flickr captures the activities.

Attended by a mixed bag of individuals from geeks, user experience designers, artists generally – we’re all artists in some way – business bods, government; you get the picture. The one shared interest was the emerging technology space, how it is changing our society and making sure that we are doing the changing. It was the cross section of interesting individuals, the interactions, the sharing of perspectives that made the event very special from my point-of-view. I’ve taken away a lot of tacit knowledge I doubt I would have obtained elsewhere – Thanks Nat and Jenine. Also if it wasn’t for the Great Coffee that Russell procured I doubt I could have operated on so little sleep.

Friday evening started with a powhiri that I caught the tail end of. A few formalities of the administration and group introduction type followed. Then the establishment of the schedule for the next few days. In the FOO tradition the schedule is not predetermined but constructed adhoc on the first evening. Participants made a mad rush to large sheets of paper with day and time slots hanging from the Mahurangi College staff room walls. Filling out their particular topic. This was all done a couple of hours before the first session. I managed to get a reasonable time on Saturday afternoon to put my case for Atom based Web APIs to the test [more on this in later posts].

The first formal session I attended, along with many others, was a discussion (and it was a discussion) on broadband issues and policy with David Cunliffe the Communications and Technology Minister. I have to say I was impressed with his understanding of the issues and his willingness to listen and take on what was being raised by the audience.

Not being a ‘networking’ wonk, nor someone who has been following local issues, I didn’t realise how bad the current situation actually is. Especially with regards to peering and the robustness of our backbone. Basically the market hasn’t provided so now the issue is being addressed at the first level: unbundling the local loop. Though that is just the beginning. The point was clearly made there has been massive under investment in the network and unbundling is a great, if belated, start to getting things on track again. However as the network is upgraded policies have to be adopted to ensure that enough space and power is placed in the boxes at street level. This is required ensure third-parties can put their equipment in and to enable peering at the street level. It was clearly articulated by several in the audicence the economic impact the lack of peering has had and how it extended beyond bandwidth issues right up to day-to-day Internet usage. Rod Dury declared the need as the “Internet Efficiency Policy.” Peering is a really big issue that needs to be sorted and David declared “from tonight peering is now a primary issue.” Of course the huge round of applause, with a few hoots, followed such a definitive statement. The next morning I had a follow-up conversation with Andy Linton that clarified some issues from the night before that I had not understood.

Another round of sessions followed but at 9:30pm I decided to socialise and partake in the fruits of the more “interactive” sessions: quadraphonic music and body illumination – if that is what you can call it. Both very cool. I particularly liked the quadraphonic sound arrangement that blasted from four car stereos parked around the school netball courts. Unfortunately I cannot remember the name of the artist.

Saturday started early. I decided to stay in the Whare Nui and despite the cacophony of sleepers’ vocals I had a good four hours of sleep. Up, bright eyed ready for great breakfast discussion.

The first session I attended was Tim Norton giving a description of his trials and tribulations with starting and funding technology businesses. The discussions contributed further “stories” and perspectives from others on both-sides: investors and business start-ups. I always find the in-person “war stories” really helpful as they lend a personal touch to an individuals experience that I just don’t get from other sources other than your own experience. Following this I attended sessions on Rapid Web application development that discussed various languages, frameworks, patterns and approaches to application composition. Flex, Jiffy, Django, Pylons and Rails where all discussed in some way. I also attended sessions on User Experience Design, Copyright Amendment Bill, Ambient Signifiers, User Stories and a demo of Xero. I really wish there was two of me so I could have attend numerous sessions running in parallel.

Saturday night went for a while. After a lot of socialising and meeting new people I end-up playing Werewolf until 4:30am. The game is a stable at O’Reilly gigs but I had never played it before. It was great fun and a fantastic way to meet others. Having started totally green and being identified for what I was – a Werewolf – I ending up being the evil participant four times in a row. At least I learned the game fast – orchestrating a complete clean up of the Werewolves in the final early morning game.

I attended only a single session on Sunday. This was not planned. Instead I ended up talking to Ian Hay (from Orange) and Don Christie for most of the morning about mobile technologies and applications. A fantastic discussion. The final session I attended was on the One Laptop Per Child project it’s aims, issues and expected time frames. Chris DiBona had brought a prototype with him so every one had a good look at the hardware and the sugar GUI. After that I managed to have some interesting conversations with Robert O’Callahan and Ben Goodger both working on Firefox about offline storage , application composition with routing and directions of Firefox. Basically I had many interesting discussions throughout the camp.
Anyway it was great fun. I was absolutely stuffed but stoked to have attended.

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