Robert J. Sawyer

Hugo and Nebula Award-Winning Science Fiction Writer

SciBarCamp in Toronto

by Rob - March 4th, 2008.
Filed under: SciBarCamp.

In 2006, I was a participant at the inaugural Science Foo Camp (or SciFooCamp; “Foo” is short for “Friends of O’Reilly,” the giant computer-book publisher).

The event was co-sponsored by O’Reilly and the journal Nature (which published one of my stories back in 2000 — “The Abdication of Pope Mary III,” a little number called “gob-smacking” by Publishers Weekly).

SciFooCamp was held at the Googleplex — the international headquarters of Google — and I loved every minute.

Something a bit similar (and a direct spin-off) is being put together in Toronto this month. Says Timo Hannay of Nature:

Together with a few friends in the Toronto area (including Lee Smolin, who you may have met at SciFoo) I am helping to organize an “Open Source” version of SciFoo, named SciBarCamp, in homage to both SciFoo and BarCamp. The event is being held in Toronto from the evening of March 14 (a Friday) to Sunday March 16.

I’ll be there, and am very much looking forward to it. Unlike the invitation-only SciFoo Camp, SciBarCamp is open to anyone, although there is a cap on attendance.

(The name BarCamp is a sly reference to the original O’Reilly FooCamps; “Foobar” is a common hacker term, and “bar” is what comes after “foo” …)

The idea is that you come and participate for the whole weekend — you’re either in or you’re out, basically, just like summer camp. :) And participate is an important word; this isn’t a passive series of seminars. Rather, people are expected to present or at least engage in Q&A at the sessions that emerge.

In fact, one of the things I like best is that people are penalized for using PowerPoint:

The talks will be informal and interactive; to encourage this, speakers who wish to give PowerPoint presentations will have ten minutes to present, while those without will have twenty minutes.

More info is here.

At the original SciFoo Camp, I led a session the possibilities of the World Wide Web gaining consciousness (and publicly acknowledged that this was brainstorming for my upcoming WWW trilogy).

To give a sense of how high-powered the original SciFooCamp was, the photo above shows a few of the people who came to my session there: Stewart Brand of the Long Now Foundation, Google co-founder Larry Page, and SF writer Greg Bear.

More about my time at the original SciFooCamp in 2006 is here.

I’m very much looking forward to SciBarCamp (not the least of which because it’s being held at Hart House at the University of Toronto; for several summers, I taught an intensive course in writing science fiction at Hart House).

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site

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