I really didn’t know what to expect, or what expectations to set for those participating.
I wanted to use a session to get deeper into the ‘Big-Here Tricorder’ concept I had written about here.
The slot was right at the start of the sessions on Sunday – would this work for me (low expectations i could exceed) or against me (low energy I couldn’t fight)
I put together the most minimal of introductions to the subject I wanted to attack (PDF of the slides here, 927k).
My preconception of Foocamps past was that 1-way “talks” with lots of slides were frowned upon, and anyway I wanted to exploit the group of people there to help build something.
The timeslot was only 1hr, so in order to try and produce as much as possible I elected to split the group into 3 streams.
Fortunately, Matt Webb and Simon Willison kindly stepped up at very short notice to help run an interaction design stream and an S60 python coding exploration stream.
Meanwhile I roped a few people into wandering the streets of Brussels to ask the questions on Kevin Kelly’s ‘Big-here’ quiz and capture their answers on video in a sort of ‘lightning documentary’
So – what happened?
It was a bit of shambles TBH, and I’m not sure any of the three streams were particularly successful.
First of all, it seemed that being thrown into a ‘workshop’ situation seemed to confront people a little in terms of it being the first session and on a sunday too! I think also the introduction I gave was hurried and perhaps lacking in concrete details for people to work from. Also, despite the ‘hey, we’re an emergent democracy’ vibe, probably not a good idea for the workshop-leader (me) to leave the room for 30 minutes.
Our small group, despite valiant efforts lacked anyone who spoke the native language(s) and so the barrier to understanding once one went beyond the most basic of questions was impossible to surpass.
Matt’s stream (at least from the impression I got walking back into the room) – at best had trouble getting down from discussion at a very high-level about the ‘big-here’ as a concept, and at worst slipped into stale old LBS concepts such as ‘find my nearest pizza’ etc.
Simon’s stream looking into how to code the thing seemed at least to make the most tangible progress – managing to analyse the bits and pieces of code necessary to make something in the area of the problem come to life. Hopefully I can get some of the notes and links off Simon to add here.
For a first timer, I still think I could have done better. Being generous, perhaps you could say that people left the session with some thoughts of their own that they might pursue. In hindsight, I should have done more work to constrain and concretise the problem in order to get the most out of people in the limited time, and also I think ideally something like what I wanted to achieve would have needed half a day really – in order to get people warmed-up and cranking.
Or perhaps we should have all just wandered around Brussels with videocameras asking the unsuspecting populace questions from KK’s quiz?
[Here's a movie hurriedly made from clips taken with my Nokia N93, Vimeo, Quicktime, 5.8Mb]
It was great fun, wandering around Brussels asking people where their poop went…