Foo You

I attended—or at least turned up for awhile—the first of what I hope will be a regular an event called Foo Camp, a sort of Bible camp for uber-geeks and Web wonks. The weekend was organised by Nathan Torkington, an employee of Silicon Valley based O’Reilly Inc. and occasional Idealog contributor, and by Russell Brown, a regular Idealogger and founder of Public Address. Nat, a Kiwi, now lives here in Enzed.

It was cool, just the sort of event you’d expect if the open source software philosophy was applied to a conference. About 100 people rocked up to Mahurangi College in Warkworth (some from Sydney, many from Wellington, now the centre of Web 2.0 in NZ it seems) on a Friday afternoon and by late Friday night the weekend’s agenda was set—determined by the participants, including the presentations, the locations and times.

By far the most interesting was the talk by Rod Drury about his new company Xero . Rod made a small shed-load last year by selling AfterMail, an email archival system last year to US company Quest. Check out our interview with Rod here .

Xero is an exciting idea: make accounting and money management for small business, simple, online, real time and cheap. Given that there are many millions of SMEs worldwide struggling with the same boring problems, a simple system like this could go ballistic. The next Idealog (out Feb 19) has a feature story about Xero. I cannot say more!

Another really interesting person at the event was Bruce Ferguson, formerly of Kog Transmissions. Bruce and his business partner Mike Hodgson are video artists doing the most amazing stage shows, installations and outdoor stunts. We’ve written about the pair before but for some reason failed to give you all a link to his web site , which has the coolest work on display. The Dark Room, as his company is called, is just another reminder that New Zealand is replete with world class creative talent. Curiously, Bruce is the most un-commercial operator--just a kindly, well spoken and gracious man. The mystery of the creative economy is how any of the boffins, geeks and artists actually make a buck (Rod’s Maserati was parked outside as a reminder that at least one of us does).

I was at Foo camp only briefly but was charmed by the warmth and excitement that’s shared by open source practitioners. It’s a great philosophy based on generosity and creativity. If only the rest of the economy was so well behaved.