Category Archives: travel

Notes From WhereCamp 2011

Land's End

I’ve been in San Francisco (and nearby) for most of the last week, primarily to attend this year’s WhereCamp, which was held at Stanford. I had a ton of great conversations about data, privacy, transit systems, community organizing, and how Portland is or isn’t like other places.

I also led a session on geo-games (games with a locative element, digital or otherwise) and design strategies, mechanics, and reward systems. We started off with a list of these items that I had gathered from earlier reading, and added more items and other details on the whiteboard through our discussion. Amber Case made a spreadsheet from the whiteboard notes:

We couldn’t talk about games without playing a few, of course. Amber and Aaron ran a couple of demos of MapAttack, which is built on their GeoLoqi platform, and lets two teams compete for points by capturing dots while running around outside. At another session I was introduced to Dokobots, an iPhone game involving lost robots who crashlanded on Earth and have to be found and re-activated and sent off to explore things.

WhereCampPDX will be returning again this year as well. We’re tentatively scheduled for October 7-8-9 and ought to have more details on the site soon.

Creepius in Vegas

I made sure while we were in Las Vegas last weekend to give Creepius a night out on the town. He took full advantage of it.

Hanging out

Romance time

Hanging out with the showgirl

4 Queens

Glitter Gulch

Mr. Creepius is now on Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. He’d love it if you would add him as a friend.

Not As Planned

Monday is usually when I do my weekly recap, but after having the end of my weekend trip prolonged a day after our flight was canceled, I’m not really feeling up for it. The short version is: we went to Vegas for Lucas’s niece’s graduation (his family lives there), spent the weekend hanging around, and expected to be home last night, only to have our flight canceled after a couple hours of delays. I learned a bunch of useful stuff, like: when the situation at the gate is a disaster, call the 1-800 number and get them to rebook you instead. Also, sooner or later you’ll be glad you always pack an extra shirt and underwear.

At least Las Vegas is not a difficult town to find accommodations in, and we had a nice dinner, and my brother the fabulous cat sitter was able to handle the change of plans, and now we’re home again. But tired.

Thoughts on SXSWi 2010

Hallway crowds

I’m bad at remembering to write post-event reports. I get home, the exhaustion sets in, there’s work to catch up on, and by the time I get around to it all the interesting things have slipped my mind. So this time I’m forcing myself to get it done, tired or not.

The past breakout success of Twitter and other services at SXSW means that there’s often an anticipation that each year we’ll discover the next big new thing. I saw a bunch of commentary leading up the event trying to guess what that would be. But honestly? I think the current wave of social/mobile technology is in a middle stage of development now, where most of the groundbreaking has happened, the services are scaling out, and the surrounding environment hasn’t changed enough to cause substantially new things to emerge.

Twitter is still the clear winner for keeping in touch with people at this sort of event. I saw DMs used as a proxy for SMS, several friends CCing people to keep them in the loop, and frequent hashtagging for context (most entertaining hashtag activity: coming up with alternate, shorter hashtags for panels because the official ones were long and unwieldy).

Having to check into both Foursquare and Gowalla to find out where my friends are is not particularly efficient, but I’m not sure I want that kind of efficiency in a non-SXSW context.

I still like the gameplay in Foursquare best, of the location-tracking apps I’ve used in the last year. (But Gowalla won the party competition, with Diplo performing.)

There were a few new event-sharing sorts of things getting attention this year. I didn’t end up using Plancast at all in Austin, but I’d like to see how it could be used with Calagator for Portland events. had (by far) the best mobile schedule-browsing interface of the options I tried, but checking into a session room never led to a friend coming to find me and grab a seat in the same row. Again, I’m not sure there’s much new happening with these services, just different implementations trying out combinations of features, smoothing out the interface, finding out which parts are sticky enough to keep people coming back.

All this isn’t to say I didn’t see anything fun or interesting. The panel I was most looking forward to, on post-digital design, did not disappoint. I liked the session on recommendation engines (featuring wacky correlations from Hunch), and seeing crazy hackerspace projects, and Clay Shirky prodding people to think about why we share content, and what that means for those who create it.

I also had some fun music experiences, talked to people I haven’t seen in a while, met new people, and worked on ideas for a couple of new projects (keywords: party bus and “the fine line between creepy and fun”).

Oh yeah, and I took a few pictures. I’ll probably have more to say about that too.

Heading to SXSW

Tomorrow morning I’ll be getting up stupidly early to catch a flight to Austin for SXSW Interactive. This is my second year attending. I have a few things bookmarked to attend, but as danah boyd commented, the best plan for an event like this is no plan. Show up and see what happens.

Because I like to Be Prepared, I will be showing up with two Polaroid cameras, chic sunglasses, and the all-essential pocket computer iPhone loaded with both Foursquare and Gowalla (to stalk my friends as efficiently as possible).

Ready to go

I hope I have enough film.

UFO House in Yucca, AZ

UFO House

We drove past this a couple of times before finally giving in to curiosity and stopping to check it out. A few sites I’ve found label it as Golf Ball House, but given the alien figures in the windows, it’s clearly a UFO.

Desert Landing

Right on Highway 40 in the otherwise abandoned-looking town of Yucca, the house is surrounded by a number of metal saucers and other sculptures. And a mini-mart in a trailer, if you need to get something to drink or a package of beef jerky.

Alien Road Trip

Plus a couple of aliens on a road trip. Though I think they’d be creamed by the trucks out there.

Finding Local Food on the California Roadside

California Road Trip Produce

Here in Oregon in the middle of winter, eating local/seasonal is heavy on root vegetables and other things that store well, like potatoes and onions and cabbages. But in California, they’re right in the middle of citrus season, so as soon as I saw the trees I started plotting to acquire some oranges of my own.

California Fruit Depot

We made two fresh produce stops, and a third one for olives.

First was California Fruit Depot, in Edison. It’s right next door to an orange grove-turned-RV park (free oranges if you stay there?). Lots of samples, but they primarily sell oranges, and dates which the employee said are grown to the south of there, in Indio. We bought a bag of Minneola tangelos and two kinds of dates.

Our second stop, on the way back through from Vegas toward Bakersfield, was at Murray Family Farms. They grow a bunch of different things, and the farm store and grounds are nicely set up for visitors, with a small petting zoo and picnic area. We bought Meyer lemons, pistachios, avocados (we hit the tail end of their Zutano crop), and a couple of satsuma oranges. I’ve been snacking on the bag of pistachios all week—it seemed like a splurge at the time, but now I’m wishing we’d bought more, because when this runs out I will be sad.

Our last stop, heading back up I-5 in the rain, was at the Olive Pit in Corning. This is another place with great samples; there’s a couple dozen types of olives and olive oils to try. Corning is apparently “Olive City”, complete with an annual Olive Festival. So if you like olives, this is a good place to stop.

Our route took us through a number of different growing areas, from rice to olives to citrus to rangeland. I really enjoyed being able to stop at even just a few places to taste things, and close the gap between “food that comes from somewhere” and “food that comes from a plant I can see right there”. If you have a little extra time on your own drive, I hope you’ll do the same, whether in California or some other part of the world.