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zerosum dirt(nap)

Reflections on *Camp

November 15, 2009 by nap · Comments

Last weekend I attended the first-ever New Hampshire PodCamp, organized chiefly by my friend Leslie Poston along with a crew of enthusiastic volunteer co-organizers (myself included). I only made it to the second of the two days due to prior obligations but had a good time and enjoyed meeting everyone.

If you’ve never been to a PodCamp (I hadn’t) it’s sort of like a branded BarCamp event that focuses more on how people are using technology — such as podcasting, blogging, social networks, video and music on the web — than on straight-up technical topics. I gave a presentation on Developing Twitter Micro-Apps, which I think was pretty well received.

We talked about why building apps that leverage existing social networks can be advantageous, how you can have fun with it, and how to get going really really quick with easy-to-use Ruby tools like Grackle, Rails templates, TwitterAuth (a Rails engine), Darcy’s BirdGrinder toolkit, and my own simple Retweet / Sinatra recipes. You can check out the slides if you want to learn more.

[ Note: The slides were made with slidedown. Although it’s still a little rough in places, it’s quickly becoming my favorite tool for creating slideshows in plain text. ]

That’s me looking pretty intense, live-coding some Twittery shit during the talk. Because, I’m hardcore like that. Unfortunately I didn’t have anyone record the live-coding portions of the presentation, in which we built a conversation aggregator as well as a simple faux-popularity reporting service. Ah well. Other attendees gave talks on topics as various as building interactive and community television outlets on the web, Facebook app development, film promotion, digital photography, and creating Firefox add-ons.

The event itself was held at the New Hampton school in the middle of nowhere New Hampton, NH, which is about an hour north of Manchester. It was quite isolated but the campus was beautiful and the solitude gave people a chance to get away from everything and kept everyone in one spot, resulting in less distractions and more focus on community. Although I really enjoy urban city-center events a lot — especially when they intelligently integrate other elements of the host city into after-hours events — there’s something really nice about isolated rural events (the first New England Railscamp was another example of this)

As someone who has never been very involved in organizing non-virtual conferences / events before, it was also interesting to observe and assist with the process of venue selection, sponsor lineup, and so on. In short: it’s a lot of work, but the payoff is great if it’s done well. Congrats and a big thank-you to Leslie (and all the other co-organizers) for putting this all together. There’s already talk of scheduling the next one for June 2010.

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