I spent the last week ill, and it’s getting late…
I do intend to spend the next couple of posts going deeper into some of the content, but Kinnernet (this one was my third) is essentially a “all things weird & wonderful” salad experience and I want to try and relate a bit of the unique atmoshphere of that event.
Ohalo is a “youth village”, which means it is quite modest in terms of luxury, but this just emphasises the beautiful “Sea of Galilee” = Lake Kinneret.
Basically, Israel has two seasons – a short wet & mildly chilly winter, and a hot, heavy & mostly humid summer, so It was a great pleasure to spend Kinnernet inside the 10 or so days of spring that Israelis get each year. The visitors from California could feel right at home, but I wonder if they could appreciate it like us – Usually, we’re not as lucky. (not counting the storm that hit us towards the end of the last day)
There were a lot more people this year, with a many more guests from abroad, and that made a real difference, while some of the intimacy of the first camps was lost, we had the chance to listen and talk to some brilliant people who gave us new perspectives.
There is a good mix of geeks: hardware, software, design, art, ideas, entrepreneurs etc. And the reaction where those people meet is where the more interesting bits of the camp happen. Personally I would like to see more “idea geeks” but that’s just my personal taste. I should note that I felt some Israeli figures who could have made a great contribution were missing, but I don’t envy those who need to create the list of attendees.
- Kevin Slavin’s fascinating “Big Games” presentation demonstrates how simple is the technology that is actually needed to create massive multiplayer real world games, you can see examples on his site, the power of combining simple powerful ideas with social interaction.
- I was familiar with Project Blinkenlights (interactive lighting of public building’s windows), but it was incredible to learn about the amount of work and thought that went behind the deceivingly minimalist results. One bit stuck in my mind – a member of the team standing outside and using his mobile phone to switch lights on and off In every window as a debugging tool. The sheer brilliancy is emphasised by him telling the camera “this is obviously the best way to do it”. Obviously.
- Fear & Loathing in silicone valley was a talk carried by the VC visitors, and raised some of the traditional tensions between entrepreneurs and investors (will be discussed in a separate post) another session the next day returned to the same themes.
- My friend and partner in crime, Jordan Levinsky, had a terrific talk about attention and information anxiety, he posted a summary in Hebrew to his blog.
- Maya lotan presented “Urban Seeder” her design project of a social romance site that emphasises flirting and “slow matching”, which was interesting as a contrast to the “speed dating” dynamic of most dating sites.
Some weird and wonderful stuff: (too much to mention, how can you describe a place where Yossi Vardi belly dancing is actually one of the tame moments?!)
- Yedidia Vardi, Yossi’s brother, built an amazing life size rube goldberg machine. Someone promised to post a video oif the machine in action, but I don’t have the link yet.
- Someone tied a rocket to a surfboard. Wicked.
- Vladimir Zviagintsev flew a kite to eternity and back using a special long-distance cord contraption, he also sailed on a raft made of tubes.
- David Frenkiel’s Live coding/storytelling presentation was awe inspiring – as he told us the true life story of how his wife went to labour and he took care of the coding obviously needed to aid the delivery. It’s a pity this presentation isn’t available online as it is pure boing-boing ,mateirl.
- Genesis book crossing: Genesis Partners (disclosure: previous client) was one of the sponsors, and found a fantastic way to do it – the released 200 books (of the sort that interests techies, geeks & bloggers) via book crossing. Bang-on audience culture.
- My discussion about the limits of blogging will be discussed in a separate post.
- I also had a fluke – someone didn’t show up and I was asked by the audience to step in, I used the opportunity to raise some issue about the viral nature of blogging as a cultural and media phenomena and how those issues work differently in Israel. Luckily, there were various European and American visitors in the room and we heard interesting different perspectives (will also get a separate post).
- Finally, on Friday night, I made a tongue in cheek 5 minute(ish) presentation demonstrating the move from communism to consumerism in three steps, using Estonian TV adverts from the 80s. Admittedly, some people were left puzzled, but at least the adverts were amusing.
On blogging Kinnernet:
Kinnernet is a private, by invitation only,closed event because otherwise, it’s format will not work. However, I think most of the attendees will agree that we do want the ideas and discussions to reach out to the more public domain. Personally, Kinnernet inspires me, and I wish it could inspire others – beyond those who were there. The way to do that is for attendees to share their experiences and thoughts, and that can’t happen enough. If you led a discussion or attended and you have a blog – use it.
(that said, I do think the privacy of the attendees is sacred, and hope I didn’t go out of line with this post)
What I learned from past camps:
- Balance brain/tickle: Don’t let the weirdness and activities overwhelm you, the important stuff happens in the classrooms and talking to people in between.
- Balance Give/Take: the real opportunity at Kinnernet is meeting the other attendees. When people share something they are passionate about, they sometimes tend to switch to evangelist/broadcast/presenting mode. The best advice I can give to attendees is to have discussions, and not waste the entire session on a presentation/lecture. This is what I attempted to do this year, admittedly, with modest success, because of bad timing of my discussion (while most of the camp was busy shooting each other), but I’m definitely going on in that direction next year.
While the brain/tickle balance was a bit too much into the tickle end of the spectrum for me this year (especially on the last day, where some of the action drowned out the more cerebral activities), this is still a great experience. Kinnernet is a delightfully eclectic, occasionally eccentric place where you can come across wonderful ideas. Coming to think of it, this is a quite a good description of the brains of the founders.
Links to others who blogged kinnernet: