Tim O’Reilly describes it better, but I’ll do my best: Foo Camp is an invite only free event at tech publishing mogul Tim O’Reilly’s corporate headquarters. “Foo” stands for “Friends Of O’Reilly” but in reality not everyone has met Tim in the past; I certainly hadn’t before being honored by receiving my first invite this year. The event aims to bring together a broad mix of people: entrepreneurs, activists, investors, artists, scientists, all at a variety of stages in their paths to change the world for the better. Putting them in the same place at the same time, all that’s left to do is stir and wait for the magic. It’s organized as an “unconference”, meaning the sessions, while there are plenty, are organic and a delightful mixture of discussions, presentations, and calls-to-arms.
Being invited to Foo Camp meant a great deal to me. My biggest source of inspiration has always come from people, and a new friendship with someone who has an infectious spirit and story to tell can give me fuel–literally–for years. Whether it was Nat Friedman dropping programming terms before I knew a shell from a shawl (I’m now a professional programmer), Brian Camley and other Lucent Global Science Scholars geeking out on physics before I knew a quark from a quack (I’m now pursuing my PhD in Physics), to countless other friends who, if they look closely, could surely glimpse (or be smacked in the face with) how their influence and reinforcing interactions paved the way for my successful and rewarding personal, intellectual, and professional life.
I’ve tried to do my best to give back some of the inspiration I stole from the pool to others while stocking up on protein packed chunks for exciting new projects. Foo was the perfect venue for this. I talked big data and parallel AI algorithms with leading public sector researchers in the field, the cross-section of physics and AI with eminent scientists, gave a session on parallel visualization to a room packed with people with access to the full data hoses of the hottest companies on the planet, iPhone development with the CTO of a company providing exactly the service I was searching for, entrepreneurship with top VCs, gender issues with prominent pundits, politics with those with the access and drive to change nations, and met more founders–male and female alike-than I could count. Definitely life changing!
So what’s next for me? If you were at Foo your influence is already simmering and there are some exciting times to come in which you may very well recognize your handiwork. Most of all I’m looking forward to being inspired by and aspiring to inspire everyone I met over the coming years–whether in person or from afar.