Live by the Snark, die by the Snark

I wrote about how I thought MashupCamp was kinda lame and exploited the meme of ‘the Camps’ awhile ago, but its recently gotten some push-back from Doc Searls which I’d like to rebut by quoting liberally and interspersing my comments…

So I gotta ask… Why knock David for what an article said about him? Why sarcastically suggest a puffing connection between between David and the article when all the evidence you’ve got is coincidence? Why knock one camp for not being a clone of another? Why “My camp is better than your camp”?

Actually, Doc, there was more than coincidence. People who were interviewed at MashupCamp told the reporter about BarCamp (and FooCamp and SHDH and all the other inspirations for MashupCamp), which I, in my own opinion, think are very important back-story to the MashupCamp. MashupCamp was not an isolated phenomenon. And was not the beginning of somehting new, but part of something that’s been going on for awhile. The article irresponsibly ripped it out of context.

My criticism here was probably a bit misdirected, I should have made it more clear that there was irresponsible journalism going on, in addition to shark-jumping of the ‘Camp movement.

Also, on the “my camp is better than your camp” thing- well I hate to say it, but our camp was better than their ‘camp'[1]. I know, I was at both. Of course, this is only my experience and my opinion. Wait, no it’s not just me.

David Berlind busted his ass to put together something not vendor-controlled that unavoidably involved vendors because vendor APIs were what was being mashed up.

I see no reason why vendors have to be involved because their services are being mash-up’ed. Aren’t the people writing the mash-ups actually more important here?

He wanted to get the thing together in a cheap place with wi-fi on short notice and did the best he could, which wasn’t bad, considering. Yes, he got sponsors. Yes, he asked people to contribute to cover costs. But did he let sponsors run the show? No. They got to put on parties and give away t-shirts and stuff. BFD.

Ok, granted. He “did the best he could.” And I’m shouldn’t complain about drinking Yahootini’s (they’re just too damn good and I have a policy against refusing free alcohol) nor should I complain about getting more XXL white t-shirts with awesome company slogans on them.

Did he — and the rest of us — learn something from the experience? Sure.

Speak for yourself.

Should he (and others involved, like myself) have learned more, going in, from folks like Ryan? Sure.

But why flame the negatives and dismiss the positives?

Because I was personally offended. Maybe I shouldn’t have been, maybe I should have just sucked it up, like I’d done when other people jumped on the ‘Camp-wagon. But when someone takes something I worked on and makes a cheap (in the figurative sense) imitation of it, I get personally offended. I’m too proud of things I work on. I consider that a feature.

Ask the developers who came and got to mash stuff up and move stuff forward if Mashup Camp was a Bad Thing, or if it failed because it didn’t follow the Bar Camp formula.

Actually, I didn’t see anyone working on mash-ups at MashupCamp, and I was sitting at the hackers table (aka, the kids table). I think that’s because a lot of the people attending MashupCamp were non-programmers who are not capable of writing mash-ups. I’d be happy to be wrong here, but I don’t think I am.

I spent half of the first day at MashupCamp working on some of my own code (not a mash-up, unless you count mixing your code with more of your own code as a mash-up) and it seems everyone I knew came up to me to ask ‘what are you mashing up?’ I disappointed them all.

Look, if you want to have the conference equivalent of a kegger, fine. But if you have to book a venue, provide food, provide connectivity, power everybody’s laptop, and otherwise provide an environment where everybody gets to participate and achieve some kind of progress at the event, you’ve got some organizing to do and some expenses to cover. Especially since most places with connectivity, power, food, space, parking and other conveniences are also in the conference-venue business and used to getting the big bucks that customarily flow through the typical conference mill. Cheaper alternatives involve trade-offs. It takes work to find them and line them up.

Hmm, I don’t think you really have a point here. At BarCamp, we had:

  • a venue
  • food
  • connectivity
  • power for laptops
  • an environment where people got stuff done

I’m not sure what you think was missing?

People “achiev[ed] some kind of progress” at Barcamp. Besides the very important ‘meet and exchange ideas’ sort of progress, people were writing code and organizing new projects. I actually didn’t see much of the latter two at MashupCamp.

Plus, when was the last time you organized a kegger? Seriously, it’s not like they don’t take planning.

BarCamp has a forumula, and that’s cool; but will that formula work for every topic, every community, every location?

No, it won’t. But MashupCamp’s formula didn’t work either. It could have been a great opportunity for all sorts of hackers to come and make cool stuff. But it wasn’t. The universal reaction from my friends who spend their days writing code was “too many suits.”

MashupCamp was unenjoyable for me for the same reason that the Web 2.0 conference was unenjoyable- they weren’t about technology [2].

They could have been about technology– how its changing, how it works and how it doesn’t work. Instead, they’ve been about business, they’ve been relatively vacuous (from a technologist’s standpoint) and they’ve been thoroughly uninspiring.

Before I go, I want to point at Tara’s post on this issue. She covers different ground and does it well.

Doc, I know I’m much younger than you [3]– young enough that I’ve only watched Happy Days on Nick at Night. I still have this suspicion that the world might be a good place, but maybe I should adopt some of Tara’s cynicism:

All Ryan was saying was that Mashup Camp wasn’t true to the spirit of Barcamp and, because it was watered down, they got all of this attention. And that is how the crappy world works.

I dunno, you tell me.


  • I’d just like to point out that there was no actual camping at MashupCamp.
  • Don’t get me wrong, I’m interested in many subjects other than technology, its just that I have this strange preference for technology conferences that actually talk about technology.
  • Like 3 decades younger.

9 Responses to “Live by the Snark, die by the Snark”

  1. In The Crowd » Doc vs. Ryan Says:

    […] esson: the best way to get links is still talking shit. Update: Ryan has a pretty awesome reply to all this. Permalink […]

  2. Things That ... Make You Go Hmm Says:

    Doc takes King to outhouse in camping drama

    Beware of an unhappy campers tale upon us. It’s like Gilligan’s Island sans the Skipper and Mary Ann. All these camps popping up everywhere: Foocamp, Barcamp, Mindcamp, maybe we need a Hmmcamp too?
    The most recent camp: MashupCamp drew some…

  3. Mike Says:

    Seems kind of odd that one of the other blogs that you referred to as not liking MashupCamp didn’t even show up until 6 pm on the 1st day of the conference. I have nothing to so with MashupCamp but I just thought you could have found someone who actually ATTENDED the entire conference.

  4. reoriginalize » Blog Archive » That San Franciscan Itch Says:

    […] s

    That San Franciscan Itch

    Doing my part to further along Ryan King’s well-written post about the *Camp stuff and […]

  5. Chris Radcliff Says:

    I won’t rehash the same arguments again, but I just wanted to make three quick points:

    1. You make lots of good points, and this is generating a lot of great discussion. The idea that there wasn’t much camping going on, for instance, or the lack of specified hacking space (aside from the HiFi room at the Avante). Those are great ideas for improvement. I just wish the discussion came before the conclusion.

    2. It’s probably doesn’t help your case to mention the support of two people who didn’t actually go to much of Mashup Camp. Besides, Chris already signed up for Mashup Camp 2.

    3. Maybe it really isn’t your thing, and that’s fine. Just try not to pretend that you speak for all developers. I’m a developer (really!), I make mashups, I’m an API provider, and I had a stupendous time at Mashup Camp. (For me it was all about technology, so I don’t really get your point there.) With a bit of tweaking, I expect to have an even better time at Mashup Camp 2: Electric Boogaloo.

    And that’s it for me. Good luck with BarCamp LA and subsequent camps. Maybe someday we’ll have a CampCamp to really nail all this stuff down.

  6. Holly Ward Says:

    Mike and Chris, I did show up in plenty of time to attend any event which could rightfully be expected to call itself a Camp. Other issues aside, Camps do not end at 6pm. MashupCamp was “kinda lame” (to quote Ryan) when you compare Mashup”Camp” with these other events–have you attended any of them? Did you enjoy them? How would you compare and contrast Mashup”Camp” to whatever unconferences you have attended?

    I stand by my position that David Berlind was a total newbie when it comes to Camps. Why? because he said so himself:

    “So, not really knowing what an unconference was and only knowing that insiders were raving about them, the decision that Mashup Camp would be an unconference was a no brainer.”

    I understand that not everyone has had the opportunity of attending a real Camp. But I have learned an incredible amount in just a few short months just from attending these things, and I feel very strongly that Ryan and Chris Messina should be listened to on this subject. They are part of a small group that is making something amazing happen.

  7. Chris Radcliff Says:

    Sigh. I’m getting tired of summing myself up, but here goes again:

    Holly, I’m not comparing Mashup Camp to BarCamp or any other unconference. My original comments (to Chris Messina, now lost to the vagaries of hard disk maintenance) simply stated that I had a great time and got a lot out of the experience. I also extrapolated that to the people I met there, who largely seemed to feel the same way. Andy’s (then Chris’s, then Ryan’s) simple dismissals of MashupCamp as some twisted shadow of the BarCamp ideal seemed unproductive at best, and mean-spirited at worst.

    Reading TheRulesOfBarCamp over at, it’s hard to find anything that Mashup Camp didn’t follow. Yes, it was a bit odd to start a “Camp” early in the morning and end it each evening, but that’s a quibble about scheduling and hardly damning. There’s also nothing on there about hacking or the level of geekery required. In fact, I remember talking to Chris about UU ministries using the BarCamp format, and it’s really unlikely they’ll get together for long coding sessions. (Then again, never underestimate UU.)

    What I’m trying to say is that Mashup Camp was what it was, and that was quite amazing enough for me. Suggesting changes and improvements is one thing, but summarily dismissing Mashup Camp, its proponents, and its satisfied attendees because it didn’t match your ideas about *Camps comes across as whining. To add to an already overlong post, here’s a lovely statement that was written in giant letters and posted at Mashup Camp. (I’m sure it was stolen from nuns or schoolchildren or something.)

    “The Law Of Two Feet: If during the course of the gathering, any person finds themselves in a situation where they are neither learning nor contributing, they must use their two feet and go to some more productive place.”

    To that I’ll add, “and maybe I’ll see you there and we can share a {drink of choice} and a laugh.” And now I’ll really shut up.

  8. Mike Drips Says:

    Wally: “Dad, Beaver said that MashUp Camp sucked!”
    Dad: “Beaver, now why did you go and say something like that?”
    Beaver: “’cause it’s true, Dad. I was at Barcamp and Mashup camp and I thought Mashup camp sucked!”
    Dad:”Beaver, don’t you understand that when you say things like that, it hurts Wally’s feelings? Granted, he’s older than and you and mildly retarded because he thinks he is King of the Blogs, but he is still (in the Biblical sense) your brother. Now don’t you think you should apologize to Wally?”
    Beaver:”Dad, don’t you know that arguing on the Internet is like competing in the Special Olympics? Even if you win, you’re still retarded.”
    Dad:”Well I didn’t think about it that way, Beaver. Gee Wally I think the Beav is right. You are a retard!”

  9. Vinu Says:

    I strongly feel these camps need ‘API’s so that we can take the best of the both or many worlds :-) … just blogs and podcasts and beer sessions to resolve things is not the right approach ….