Paul Resnick (presnick) wrote,
Paul Resnick

On to Calaveras for WineCamp

At the dinner after Online Community Camp, Greg Beuthin from ComputMentor told me about WineCamp, where geeks and non-profits were camping out for the weekend. Some of the people from CivicSpace were going to be there, and a major goal of my trip to NetSquared (starting Tuesday, today) was to connect with them. So off I went on Friday afternoon, after a day talking about my research at Yahoo!

Unlike the Online Community Camp, which had borrowed some un-conference ideas, this was the real deal. Saturday morning people introduced themselves, gave a few "tags" to describe themselves, and said what they hoped to get out of the conference. Tibba Phillips, founder of Output for Hope, which helps people find missing persons who are "off the grid", said she was looking to upgrade their website to include a more easily searchable database, so that the project could scale up. Zack Rosen said his goal for the weekend was to build Libba's database. On my turn I piped in that I wanted to watch/help him do it. It became a big barnraising activity, with about 10 people involved by Sunday.

It actually turned out to be an informative dry run for the course I'm planning for winter semester, where teams of students will develop custom sites, using the drupal CMS platform, for non-profit organization clients. Saturday, when we had no power or connectivity, we did requirements analysis. On Sunday, indoors at a winery, we implemented. We only had about 3.5 hours. Zack, Tim Bonneman, and I trasnferred much of the content of the existing site. Several hackers from CivicCRM put together the database part, by using their tools to add custom fields to their basic person-data entity. WineCamp organizer Chris Messina made a new theme so that suddenly, two hours into the work, our generic drupal-themed site transformed to have the look and feel of the existing Output for Hope site that we were copying. I worked on adding help material to the site so that their web volunteer would be able to maintain it. We didn't quite get to a site they can roll out, but we got pretty close and there's a good chance that their web volunteer will be able to take it the rest of the way. Here's the work in progress.

I also connected with Laney from The Princess Project, which is trying to scale up or franchise or do a chapter model of some kind. In a quick brainstorm with Laney and David Geilhufe, we hatched the idea of an online kit that would allow people to self-organize in a new city, and have their progress tracked in various ways so that the national organization could provide appropriate resources at different points, and there could be peer to peer support among chapters. It's basically a franchising/chapter model of scalable organizing, but with some new twists made possible by technology and the peer-to-peer sharing ethos.

I think this peer-to-peer chapter organizing, coordinated by a central toolkit, could actually be the big idea about how IT can help rebuild social capital that I was supposed to come up with for the Saguaro Seminar, but never did. On the ride home, Zack pointed out that this new chapter/franchising model was pretty much what they had tried to do in the Dean campaign. It's also related to what Meetup has been trying to do. And it's sort of what BarCamp is already putting into practice.

It was also a truly wonderful experience for the senses. Wine from Ferriere vineyards, swimming through a cavern, sleeping under the stars, amazing vistas, yoga in the woods.

See photos from the Flickr feed (WineCampCalaveras):
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