As I have mentioned in half a dozen posts already, I spent the last weekend at PyCamp 2012. But what I have not written about is what exactly it was, and why anyone would want to attend one, or maybe organize one. So that's what this post is about.
PyCamp was organized by PyAr, the Python Argentina community. PyAr is a very special bunch of people, who are completely amateur, and do everything for love and fun. Since PyAr is a very special group of people, the things PyAr causes, inspires or creates are special as well.
So, since a few years ago, what happens is someone finds a place with bunk beds, a large room, perhaps somewhat isolated, that provides meals, and is cheap (it's as hard as it sounds) and rents it for a long weekend. Then everyone is invited to chip in for the rent money.
This year, 4-days, all inclusive, costed roughly U$S 100. Sure, it's not exactly luxury accomodations, but it does what it has to do, which is give us shelter and protect us from wild animals.
Thus, you end up with a few dozen nerds with computers, one of them is great at setting up wireless (Joac!), one is the MC (Alecu!), one helps around (Facundo!) one is the liaison with the location (Pindonga!) and so on, the work is spread around, and we have time and company to hack.
So, on the first morning, everyone proposes what he would like to work on. Those proposals are voted by the public, and those with more votes are assigned slots (5 a day), where they will be the main focus of attention.
So, what happens if your proposal is not voted? Well, you either find a proposal you like, and join it, or you just do your thing. Because this is not a democracy, this is anarchy, the votes are just a way for everyone to know what people will be doing, and to find places to fit in if you want (BTW, there is a situation in LeGuin's The Disposessed which is so much like this, it's scary).
After that, you just do what you want. You can put your headset on, and code, or mingle and chat, or join a group, or do a bit of everything. Since meals are catered, you don't have to worry about breaks. When the meal is ready, everyone breaks at the same time and socializes in communitary tables.
Does all this sound as strange to you as it does to me? A bunch of grown professionals acting like hippies. Well, it feels strange too, but that doesn't mean it doesn't feel great. It even works great. Once you see what the others are doing, things you wouldn't expect start looking like fun (Celery!?! Juggernaut! Android!) and the sheer excitement of people telling you "look, I did this!" is infectious, and exhilarating.
Also, RC cars, kinect hacking, android hacking, electric guitar hacking, juggling, monocycle lessons, a firepit, alcohol, coffee, mate, boardgames, cardgames, music, jokes, adrenaline, huge spiders, asado, cold, vim, ninja, ping pong, robot spaceships, people you see only twice a year if that, questions, not knowing the answers, figuring things out on the run, getting help in that thing you have been stuck for weeks, having the piece someone else has been stuck on for weeks, feeling like some sort of bearded buddha and a total ignoramus in 5 minutes...
And at least I, at least this year, had a very productive weekend. I got help from a bunch of people in things I was daunted by, I felt like an active programmer instead of a suit, which is always nice, since I don't own a suit, and had a great time. Laughed a lot. Made a couple new friends. Saw a bunch of old ones. Helped a few people.
So, I would like other people to have as great a time as I had. Of course coming to Argentina is probably not a great idea. It's an expensive trip, if you don't speak spanish you will miss a lot, and if PyCamp gets too big it may stop being fun at all.
But why not do something similar? Doesn't have to be about Python, you can do it about making stuff, about programming in general, whatever. Just get a somewhat comfortable, somewhat isolated place with a reasonable catering and get your 50 nearest geeks there, and have a ton of fun.
You may get something useful done, too.