Recession Foo

It was of course impossible to ignore the financial maelstrom that's currently enveloping the world at Foo Camp. The atmosphere was sombre, and much of the discussion centred around what to do to get ourselves out of the mess. However, as we don’t know how deeply the downturn will bite yet, and there is a long long gap between the present and past recessions leaving entire generations accustomed to thinking that the good times will last, well, there was more bewilderment than anything.

Re-inventing the village soviets, becoming our grand or great-grand parents, scaling down, being mean and green whether you like it or not ... I don’t know. The Saturday night debate was aptly called “NZ is fucked!” with two teams (David Slack, Rod Oram and Roger Dennis on the opposing side and Bernard Hickey, Lance Wiggs and Sam Tobin saying ‘yes, we are!’) and Russell Brown as the moderator.

The opposing team won hands down, accompanied by a loud and coruscating round of support from the audience - which is how it should be, of course. I don't think it's wrong to say that many in the audience were left with doubts as the affirmative team's arguments were if not eloquently delivered, rather starkly convincing. Luckily for the audience, they weren't told half of it. We really will face some serious challenges this year, and it won't be a great deal of fun.

Keith Ng talked $1.5 billion broadband at Foo and I wished I had gone to that session. It just wasn’t possible though—I was cornered by lots of people and was treated to some really excellent discussions with them, outside the sessions. This is what happens at Foo, and it’s gold, pure gold. As conferences go, there’s not many that I can think of that’ll best the quality of discourse you get at Foo Camp.

This year, I missed the hardcore geek element and crafting which had been toned down a bit. The web browser session was humdrum, but the Reprap 3D rapid prototyping stuff was excellent. See the video below.

The food was excellent and Nat and Jenine great organisers. There were some suggestions on how to make things better for the next Foo, but I say leave well alone, because it sure as hell isn’t broken. I'm just surprised all conferences aren’t like this.

While the goal of Foo isn’t to come up with “deliverables” or whatever, it somehow manages to do so nevertheless. First year, Internet peering was put on then Communications Minister David Cunliffe’s agenda. This year, the supply of single malt whisky was very helpful in coming up with the idea of an Internet blackout to protest against the dangerous and bad new copyright law.

That protest really took off, actually. Matthew and Bronwyn Holloway of the Creative Freedom Foundation, Rachel and Regan Cunliffe of Throng, Alistair at Scoop and many others have joined up to make some noise about it. I dipped my oar in over at my Geekzone blog, and managed to get Stephen Fry (yes, that Stephen Fry) to use his SuperMegaTwitterPower—the man has almost 200,000 followers—to help out. The blackout will continue until the 23rd, so please follow it on Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and everywhere and write to your MP. The nasty sections 92a and 92c must be repealed, and the whole law as it stands, rewritten.

Foo Camp 09 debate

Messieurs Hickey, Tobin and Wiggs make their point, namely that NZ is fucked. Oh dear.

Juha listening to the Great Blend debate at Foo Camp

Taking time off from listening to debate to pose for Nick Steenhout

All of us at Foo

A big bunch of brilliant people.

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