Innovation Camp Rocks the Cross-Disciplinary Communication

Austin, my hometown, is an incredible place in many ways. Since I moved back recently, many of the people I see regularly are from the tech sector. I spend so much time with them, on Twitter and at Jelly! and elsewhere, that I had started to think everyone in Austin is a computer programmer, search engine marketing guru, web designer, or something like that.  Fortunately, this past weekend’s Innovation Camp proved me (somewhat) wrong, with its diverse group of people, from community activists who didn’t know about Basecamp, to Linux experts, to old school PR people.

I attended several sessions, modeled on the BarCamp “unconference” method. The most exciting one (which I hadn’t really planned on attending) was hosted by Michelle Greer and Cole Crawford, about creating a social network/ social commerce site for open source developers and users. I learned a little bit more about the open source developer community and development methodology (or lack thereof).  Essentially the site would be set up a bit like a mini-X prize, with many users contributing a small amount towards a bigger “bounty” for open source fixes and features.

The best thing about the idea (despite the fact that yes, maybe, it’s not completely original, as Michelle’s blog suggests) is the potential for the type of site we were discussing as a way of solving many types of problems, not just software ones.  I may not have realized this “potential for potential” if it hadn’t been for others in the session bringing up the issue of users who can’t afford to pay anything for a fix or feature, or can’t get enough other people to “invest” in the development… in other words, what about the minority problems? Cole and Michelle and others said that the community could and would likely still do the work, especially if you made a good enough argument for the need. Maybe we just had some great altruistic people in the session, but why not allow people to request things for free and then actually do the work for free? I suppose that you wouldn’t want all of your projects to end up being free, especially if you’re planning to make this a viable business… but if this model could be built as a business and then merely replicated out for more community-benefit projects, that would be great.

Next on the agenda for tech geek/other people interaction is GardenCamp out in Aggie land.  I can’t wait! I hope it’s something I can replant, so to speak, in Austin.


1 comment so far

  1. Michelle Greer on

    This actually is the attitude of open source developers. A lot of the time, they are cool with people using their software for free, since those users can often report and fix bugs. This only makes the software better. It’s like having someone pre-screen your movie to tell you what’s good about it and what sucks.

    Anyway, thanks for being part of the discussion. I can’t make it this weekend since I will be in Houston, but will see your for sure at GardenCamp.

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