Search this site

Page 1 of 2  [next]






Flew out to Rochester for the weekend to hang out with friends and partake in another BarCamp.

This barcamp was pretty different, in content, than previous ones. I'm reasonably certain it had a lot to do with the location: RIT. Being that the participants were mostly students and professors, the discussion content was much less web2.0-focused, which was immediately refreshing. Various topics ranged from ruby, to scapy, to amazon's web services.

This was my 5th barcamp. In every camp so far, I've lead talks on specific subjects: ssh tunneling, vim, etc. Focusing on one topic has never been a feature of my style, and I realized that this morning during the early sessions. At any given conference, I inevitably become involved in conversations which touch a project I've done, and I'm generally going to say "Hey, I have a tool that does that!" a few times.

So that's what I did my talk on today. I was planning on talking about grok for the entire session, but instead I talked about a pile of random projects I'd done in the past year or so. I picked a pretty wide set of projects hoping to keep people interested. Ones I covered were: keynav, liboverride, grok, sms traffic reports pam_captcha, xboxproxy, xdotool, firefox tabsearch, firefox url editor, and captive portal bypass.

I probably could've talked about a few other projects, but I think limiting it to about 10 was a good choice.

I gave a brief demo of all of the projects I could. I ended my talk with some comments about RIT's rollout of WPA, and pointing out that WPA in a wifi network as large (by users) as RIT's you aren't protecting yourself from anything: man-in-the-middle arp poisoning still works. I'm certain there are fixes that you can implement on the access points, but I doubt those fixes are enabled.

I went to a few talks, but forgot my notebook so I don't have notes. Oops. The night closed with a bunch of us rotating on Rock Band.

BarCampBlock in review

After two days of meeting new friends, catching up with others, a blitz of demos, piles of sessions, food, and drink, I'm pretty beat. As Tara put it in closing session, "Tired, but content." If I had to pick one idea out of the entire conference, it would be that raw, published content is better than no published content. This is why I am scanning in my notes for the sake of having the data out there. Where there is data, knowledge and information can be gathered. This idea resonated throughout the conference. Open standards, interoperability, and even open source, all help to turn raw content/data into useful information.

Put the data out there, and someone else might take your idea/data/project and run with it. The community is a wonderful thing, and community is exactly what makes BarCamp.

This was my 4th BarCamp. Every camp I've been to has been organized and attended by a different group of people, and as a result have had a different experience at each camp. This camp had 600ish attendees - way beyond my expectations. The map I was given when I signed in was invaluable given the locations and walking involved. This map also had a good introduction to the barcamp idea, important websites, and the massive list of sponsors. Another great idea was on the badges; the badges were professionally printed and had URLs for the backchannel, wiki, and other webpages right on them.

I have 12 pages of notes on various experiences and sessions during this event. I spent much of tonight going over my notes and found myself wondering what the goal of my reporting should be: Should I summarize or just dump my notes online? I'd rather provide documentation than typical reporting. To that end, I'll be scanning my notes and posting them online. Most of the pages are covering sessions, so I won't duplicate that data here.

BarCamp as an organism is something quite spectacular. It may begin as an event being organized by a small group of people (an amazing feat by itself), but it becomes organic begins to evolve as soon as the event starts. The openness of the event means anything goes - small sessions, large sessions, discussions, presentations, product demos, theoretical, practical, etc. Information exchanges rapidly and freely.

It's not only an event for geeks. Non-technical topics such as legal, marketing, venture capital, social theory, and many others are pretty common from my experiences at these camps. This technical/non-technical diversity is actually a very nice attribute of BarCamp.

BarCamp is also one of the few "tech" events I attend where I rarely use my laptop because there's lots of incentive to stay offline to socialize and attend sessions.

BarCampBlock itself had some impressive diversity, too - women, men, ethnicities, geographics, and age groups. What properties of BarCamps attract so much diversity? Whatever it is, it's a good thing.

So, about the camp specifically in no particular order.

BarCamp Kids
How do you ensure all people can attend? Implement features that increase accessibility. BarCamp Kids was a daycare set up so parents could easily attend. Volunteers attended to the kids to make sure they were entertained and safe. Comments from the parents who took advantage of this indicated that both the parents and kids were very happy with this feature.
It was actually a block-wide event.
This map shows the venues involved. Huge thanks to all the companies who donated their workspaces, furniture, and other resources for we BarCampers.
Wifi worked!
Any event where network connectivity is a must has the simple opportunity for wifi to perform poorly, or not at all. While each venue typically had a different wireless configuration, I found that any time I needed to get online I had no trouble doing so. Great job!
Easy parking? In Palo Alto?! Yes!
Both days, I parked less than 50 feet from the SocialText offices (the main area). My experience with parking in Palo Alto is that it is an unpleasant experience. Turns out that, on weekends, the city is quite vacant and parking is plentiful. Awesome.
Plenty of food and drink
From what I saw, we never were lacking snacks and drinks. However, I did find myself having to search hard for diet drinks (I happen to like diet coke for taste). Another group (JS-Kit?) had brought 3 kegs of beer for consumption. The party, sponsored by and Facebook, eventually rolled into an open bar party because there were an excess of drink tickets.
DemoCamp was a 2-hour event consisting of many 5-minute lightning talks. The execution was pretty good, but the bar was a bit too loud. My feeling is that the location was good - good size and good projector/sound setup. The Blue Chalk bar was a great place to demo, because after a long day of barcamp sessions, people want to hang out and have a drink. Hang out, have a drink, and watch demos? Sounds cool to me. Turns out the reality was that there was more side chatter which made it hard to hear many of the demo presenters.
What didn't I like? The content of DemoCamp. Many of the demos during DemoCamp were confusing or just bad marketing, unfortunate for those groups presenting. I found that some of the presenters clearly had no idea what their product was and spoke only in abstract. One demo played a very confusing video showing people (programmers?) poking another person who had a "bug" sign on him. Others didn't effectively present the goals of their product. One group demoed something (a plugin? I really have no idea) related to iTunes, but all I saw was a demo of someone using iTunes showing standard features of iTunes. A lightning talk is a great opportunity to put out free marketing for your new product or startup, and it seems like perhaps that opportunity was wasted by many of the groups. Maybe I was in a minority who felt more confused than informed on most of the demos - but random polling showed that my confusion was a majority feeling.

Next DemoCamp could benefit from having a "DemoCamp dry run" where a small attendance could offer to review the demos and provide instant feedback about the presentation style and content so the real DemoCamp would give more benefit the participants, both demonstrators and viewers. If there's another DemoCamp in the bay area, I'll volunteer to prescreen. Bad demos don't help anyone.

For more information on the event, head on over to the BarCampBlock wiki to view the schedule of talks, event details, participant list, and session notes.

Before I close, I want to thank everyone who came. Attendees, volunteers, organizers, and sponsors - without any of which we would not have BarCamp.

Also, check out my BarCampBlock photos or perhaps all BarCampBlock photos.

BarCampBlock - This weekend!

This weekend is BarCampBlock over in Palo Alto. It looks like more of a party than a BarCamp, but a block party with BarCamp elements can be nothing but awesome.

I'm going. You should, too.

This will make my 4th barcamp (New York, San Francisco, and Stanford previously). If you're interested in my experiences at prior barcamps, feel free to look at my posts covering past barcamps.

Video of my SSH Tunneling talk at Barcamp Stanford

I got A.D.D. tonight while working on Pimp and decided to Google myself and see what came up. I do this once very few months. Normally the results aren't terribly interesting. However, since I'd recently attended a few barcamps, I noticed that some folks had written about some of the talks I'd given.

I found a video of my 'firewall bypass/ssh tunnel/encrypt-your-traffic' session I held at BarCamp Stanford. Thanks to ValleyGeek for posting this. I'm assuming the author recorded it.

Towards the end of the talk I start rambling about nat traversal. Hopefully I got the point across that nat<->nat traversal isn't easy, and that tunneling is a way to do it.

Along with that video, I found my urban-dictionary entry for 'Fo Shizzle Friday'. I can't remember why I created that.

BarCamp Stanford in Review

BarCamp Stanford has come and gone. Like prior BarCamp events, it ends with new friends and new knowledge.

This BarCamp was like the others I have attended: different. There were fewer tracks and sessions. The time organization was more ad-hoc than structured. One session set was organized using a method called open space. This camp was special to me in that I met *way* more people this time.


Friday night's BBQ was a fantastic idea. I showed up around 5:45pm and met up with Chris Messina. Shortly after, Nima and others returned with food. More folks flowed in as the evening progressed. The selection of food was quite nice - grilled peppers and pineapples, sausages, salad, and portabellas. It always takes me a little while to warm up to social situations, being whatever I am that makes me shy. As such, I tried to be useful and aided in food preparation. After grabbing a sausage and some grilled peppers for snacking, I floated around aquainting myself with people I haven't met and catching up with folks I knew from previous BarCamp events. Dick Karpinski had lots of interesting things to talk about, as did others. I met some fine folks from Yahoo! and other local companies. Lots of user interface and public policy people were present, aswell, which made for a better BarCamp.

The BBQ closed around 10pm with Todd giving some remarks about the event and calling for those who were sleeping on campus to follow him. I went home for the night.


At Tantek's suggestion, I gave a session loosely titled "Corporate firewall bypass for fun and profit." I covered using PuTTY to encrypt your more general traffic such as web and mail with both local port forwarding and dynamic (SOCKS5) forwarding. I went over how you can bypass even draconian firewalls with simple tunneling over ssh. I also covered why you especially want encrypted traffic on an open wireless network. I finished up with coverage of arp poisoning, nat traversal, and a few other things. Those in attendance seemed pleased with the content. Thanks to those who came!

The next session was on online identity, and how to fix it. I was aware of most of the problems discussed, but hadn't heard of any of the technologies geared towards solutions. Notes can be found on the BarCamp wiki, here. There was lots of good discussion, most of which I don't recall the details of. It was heavily attended.

Lunch time: Stanford's SSP sponsored pizza. Woot!

After lunch, I attended a microformat discussion lead by Tantek Celik. I learned quite a bit more about microformats. Notes from this session can be found here. I'm fairly convinced that microformats are a good thing. The best part about them is that many of the microformat standards are simply microformat implementations of existing standards, such as hCard (a microformat version of vCard).

The next session I attended was on the idea of community. Notes can be found here. I must confess I wasn't paying too much attention, as I was busy doing other things such as hacking on a few random ideas or updating the wiki notes. A short way through the presentation, someone came in and announced that the Busycle had arrived and was open for riders.

I ran downstairs to take a ride. This thing sat about 12 people plus the driver. Everyone had to pedal to get it moving. We also had to synchronize not pedalling when the driver needed to shift gears. It was really fun to ride.

The next session was directed using "open space" - something I hadn't had experience with before. There were very many sessions held at the same time. Everyone split into small groups in different parts of the camp area to have discussions. The discussion I attended was "Best/Worst AJAX UI" - which had very little to cover. It ran mostly with some of us showing demos of cool/crappy applications. One of the guys from Yahoo! showed off their maps and finance interfaces. We also showed Meebo and YouOS as interestingly unique class of applications - these applications don't suffer from the "broken back button" syndrome that many "Web 2.0" (I hate that buzzword) applications often suffer. This is likely due to the desktop-feel of those two applications.

The day closed with a few remarks about where/how the night should progress. We split up into groups and ventured from Stanford into downtown Palo Alto. I ended up at a Thai restaurant. After dinner, we collected at a bar called Blue Chalk. I had a beer, and later left with some folks to go back to the dorms for the night.

I stayed at the dorms until most folks went to sleep. I remembered I had brought no clothes or toothbrush, so I drove home around 1am.


Sunday was super cool. There were a few morning presentations on mashup tools and tricks. Bjorn Hartman gave a presentation on mashup tools. It was cool to see someone mash flickr and hardware together. Kent Brewster gave a demo of SpiffY!Search.

After that, ideas were thrown up for mashpit groups. People broke into a few groups: identity "2.0", Coworking, Decentralized Coworking, flickr slideshow video mashup, technology and politics, and educative systems. I kept to myself and worked on a Selenium mashup of my own.

Notes on my selenium mashup can be found here.

The flickr slideshow movie generator was very cool. The demo allowed you to search flickr for text and generate a video clip of any number of photos, automatically. Certainly faster than manually finding pictures and gluing them together yourself in a video, eh?

The other groups had other interesting presentations, but weren't doing software so had nothing to demo. The coworking group came up with some cool stuff, as did the tech policy group.

At the end of the camp, Silona Bonewald mentioned that I should attend the League of Technical Voters' 48-hour hackathon in October. I've put it on my calendar. Current plan is to attend. </BarCampStanford>

Until next time, BarCampers!

BarCamp Stanford in Review

This weekend was incredible. I'll post a review when I have time tomorrow. Huge thanks to Stanford and it's Symbolic Systems Program for sponsoring pizza and the venue. More thanks to Microsoft for sponsoring the BBQ.

BarCampEarth:Stanford - This weekend

BarCampEarth @ Stanford starts on Friday. I'm not sure what I'll present on just yet.

I'll brainstorm tonight and hopefully come up with something. If you're reading this and in the Bay Area, you should go! If you aren't in the bay area, check out all the other BarCamp Earth's happening.

BarCamp San Francisco, Day 3

If you're reading this and were at BarCamp San Francisco, I was the guy wearing pajamas throughout the event. Shoot me an email, let's keep in touch.

I'd been meaning to write a general summary of the kinds of technologies prevalent at this BarCamp, so here it is: The typical "Web 2.0" demos and discussions were present, aswell as political and legal discussions. Lots of Drupal fans were also here; I keep hearing more and more about Drupal as time goes on. This BarCamp seemed to have a greater focus on mobile technology and microformats. Unfortunately, I didn't get around to finding time to attend the mobile technology sessions. Along with that were a large number of microformats-oriented sessions, which were cool. A few of the technorati guys were here and were big pushers of microformats. There was also a great deal of schwag to be had. I picked up a few T-shirts, a mug, some stickers, etc.

The last day (sad!) of BarCamp was today. The numbers have dwindled somewhat as folks went home never to return. I attended a lightning talk on S5 and a very cool introduction to Microsoft's Atlas framework. I was hoping to see a whole track dedicated to lightning talks (aka speed geeking?). I'm sad to go, but I'm bound to go to more BarCamps after this one, my second barcamp.

S5 is a simple web-based presentation software. It has features that make me say "Hey, I want that in my presentation software!" It's standards compliant and uses microformats. It's a very neat, simple, easy, and new-tech presentation technology.

Atlas is the first framework I've been exposed to that incorporates client and server code generation and interaction. It's cool to see how you can expose C# functions to websites via ASP and JavaScript. I'm certain other frameworks exist to do similar things, but I'm not in the market for it so I don't know about them. Cool presentation.

I gave my Unix and Vim presentations today, which was sort of the impetus for the S5 presentation, so that others (including me) could learn about S5 and it's coolness. My future presentations will likely be using S5, now that it's matured. I'm told lots of extremely useful features are in testing and should be released soon.

So much for not my worry of not having anything to present on, eh? 6 sessions of various kinds, and I attended many more. I'm flat-out exhausted, but I can't stop thinking about the weekend.

It's more than just the sessions that make BarCamp worth it to me. New technologies are really cool to see. Everyone like demos, right? My favorite part about BarCamp is meeting the people. Camps and conferences like BarCamp create such a useful avenue to talk to fellow geeks, business folk, lawyers, and whoever else attends. The greater portion of last night was spent talking about lots of random socio-political geek stuff. Talking to industry and non-industry people about where they think the mad train of technology is headed. Everyone seems to be willing to talk to everyone else. That's my kind of town.

A super mega huge thanks to Microsoft for hosting, all of the great sponsors (coffee!), and everyone who helped make this event a huge success. Who knows? Maybe large corporations will see this event at Microsoft's office as a sign that they, too, can host a BarCamp, or sponsor another BarCamp-style event.

BarCampEarth is coming in 2 months. I haven't seen anything about a bay area camp for BarCampEarth. Maybe if I find some time and others to help plan, perhaps we'll have a BarCamp in the area for BarCampEarth?

For now, it's back to the Real World. Riding BART back has actually provided me a great opportunity for writing and reflecting about the event and the weekend. Double-plus for rapid transit!

In closing: S5, Atlas, AJAX is still in, microformats, *Camp Network Kit, social geekery, and beer.

BarCamp San Francisco - Day 2 (barcampsf)

8am wake up. Concrete is bad for good sleep.

The concrete flooring here at the Microsoft office was certainly not the most comfortable. I woke up a number of times to adjust position. Oh well, I got sleep. It's not quite BarCamp if I don't sleep over, right? ;)

I held 4 sessions today, wow! Here goes for a summary of them:

In keeping with tradition, I gave an introductory presentation on AJAX. There was good attendance, and as in NYC there were still a great number of people who came to BarCamp but don't have huge clue about what some of these technologies actually are. I'm always glad to spread the clue. I also held a discussion about productivity software. During the productivity session, someone introduced me to ActiveWords. I watched some of the demo videos and I was left fairly impressed with the capabilities. Check it out for yourself if you run Windows, it's quite cool. Later today I was approached by a man who introduced himself as "Buzz" asking if I'm the guy with the pajamas. Turns out, this is Buzz Bruggeman, big whig man at ActiveWords Systems, Inc. Neat! He sat me down and showed me all of the cool things he does with ActiveWords. As a result, I found out about some new productivity software, and for that I consider the productivity session a huge success, personally.

ActiveWords is super cool. It addresses one of my bigger issues with computer interaction: Impulse-driven use is nearly impossible. Let me explain. Everyone has impulses during workflow. For instance, "I want to bring up gmail" - simple, right? First I've got to find firefox in the taskbar, bring it up, assuming I can find the particular firefox window I need. Then I have to hunt through a series of tabs which may or may not have useful information in the icon and titles. Hopefully I eventually find it, right? Quickly? Probably not. Why can't I just say "bring up gmail" and have it happen just like I described, but without the need for any extra effort on my part? You can't, though. ActiveWords attempts to address that. I was relieved with the ease by which it seemed you can do all of this impulse-driven work flow with ActiveWords.

Buzz is certainly a good salesman, I was sold after a few minutes. While I may not buy it, because my work environment is unix, I'm happy to plug it. I'm installing it as I'm writing this, so I'll review it shortly. Meanwhile, back to BarCamp SanFrancisco!

Where was I? It's about 11:30pm. There's a physician blogger sitting down the hall who many people are polling about funky medical questions and such.

Sessions, right. After the AJAX and productivity sessions, I mingled with many of the fine folks here at BarCamp. I think Chris Messina put it best when he described BarCamp as putting the hallway-type conversations in the spotlight. That is, conversations people have outside of the scope of work and deadlines and whatnot. Those are the best conversations anyway, right?

The next session I held was a firewall bypass session, mostly covering the use of SSH to tunnel traffic (for fun and profit?). Those in attendance seemed to think it was cool, so success there. I'll post notes to the BarCamp wiki later.

The next session I helped orchestrate was the "BarCamp Network Kit" project. The impetus for this session was due to random networking issues plagueing the network this morning and through the early afternon. I rememebered how BarCampNYC had lots of slow network issues, so I put up a session to discuss a potential "BarCamp Network In A Box" project. There were a good deal of strong network/sysadmin people here, The results of our discussion can be found With luck and lots of collaboration, and assuming someone steps up for organizing a BarCampEarth event in the bay area, perhaps the network kit can be demonstrated then?

[2 hours later...] I took a break from writing and went with some folks to a bar in North Beach(?). Something around 20th and Mission. Car bombs, talking about work, talking about other interests, and further alcohol consumption. Good times.

So it's not 3AM, and I'm exhausted from today's activities. Tonight is much better than the last, as many people are still awake. Two (swedish?) folks are working on getting some WordPress thing running, others are discussing politics and technology. I've been doing some ad-hoc sysadmin help for a folks that have been fighting the typical LAMP stuff just to get some form of blog or website online. It really ought to be easier to get a website up, eh? One particular instance was Debian running Apache2. I'm used to Apache2 built from source, but Debian makes *lots* of changes downstream before packages get to users. Why? Is it too much to ask for a bit of consistency?

There's been some interest in both my vim and unix seminars, so I'll probably do both tomorrow. Anyway, it's getting to be quite the naptime. I'm looking forward to tomorrow's events.

BarCamp SanFrancisco starts tonight

I attended BarCamp NYC back in January, and it was awesome. Now that I'm in the Bay Area, I'm going to attend BarCamp San Francisco, which starts tonight.

I'll post more about the conference as it progresses.