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April 02, 2006

What I Did at Geek Camp

Tom Evslin


Sea of Galilee, Israel

Dear Mom:

I know I promised to post every day I was at geek camp but I was very busy.  And the Internet access kept going down; something about too many packets per geek.

I wouldn’t have gotten so wet if my gun could shoot straight.

My roommate is Jeff Pulver.  He blogs too.  He has a cool camera and a Karaoke microphone that makes you be on key.  But how will I know if it works since I’m tone deaf?

Jeff is also the camp Texas hold ‘em instructor.  After class I beat him in a “just for fun” game and took all the chips.  Then we played for money.  He won.  He says it was just luck; I’ll probably do better next time.

Our camp director is Yossi Vardi.  He’s the man I told you about sold ICQ to AOL for $300 million plus early in the last bubble.  ICQ had no revenue because Yossi didn’t want to be distracted by that. He does lots of neat stuff like this camp now.  We all want to be like Yossi when we grow up. 

There are lots of cool robots here.  One of them can do somersaults and cartwheels.  A drone plan flew over with a television camera and we could watch the pictures of us it was taking.  I think I need some better toys.

This computer was at show and tell.  It got left in a public place and it was shot by a security robot (really).  Fortunately, the bullet missed the hard drive.

We had a discussion about VCs.  A camper named Mark Pincus who is an entrepreneur said some mean things about them.  Some campers who are VCs said that some entrepreneurs are arrogant.  They meant Mark but they didn’t name any names.  I said that we entrepreneurs sometimes cross our fingers when we tell VCs how much we value their advice.  But Mark and I agreed that Fred Wilson is a good VC and we liked his advice;  he wasn’t at camp, though.  He probably would have advised us not to shoot the VCs with our water guns but he wasn’t there so we did.

Somebody told me that advertisers are now buying ads in virtual worlds and online games.  Real ads appear on virtual billboards.  Real products get placed in virtual worlds.  The advertisers have to be creative because too many people are using their DVRs to fast-forward through the ads on television.

I saw some rally neat avatar software that I’m hoping to integrate with my podcasts.  I, too, can be a talking head.  More about that when it’s working.

Nobody slept much.  Some people sang and played musical instruments all night.  But I don’t sing – even with Jeff’s mike – and the Internet access was broken at night so I talked to other campers.  Finally a camper from British Telecom fixed the Internet access by looking at it with his wireless network diagnostic box.  I want one of those, too.

They took us to Tel Aviv on a bus.  Many of us spoke at a conference put on by theMarker, a financial newspaper.  We had to act like grownups.  I even wore my jacket.  On my panel, I read aloud the part of hackoff.com where Larry Lazard first meets the Israeli Chaim Roslov (podcast here) at the World Economic Forum.  It illustrates why so much technical development involves sharing of financial and intellectual capital between Israel and the US.

Tonight I fly all night so I can get to Washington, DC tomorrow for the F2C: Freedom to Communicate conference.  You can listen at http://freedom-to-connect.net/stream.html starting at 9AM EDT on April 3.  I will try not shoot anyone from the FCC with my water gun.

I promise to post more often if you ever let me go to camp again.



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