Iterating on Offline Camp

Photo courtesy of Eric Scouten.

Monday marked the end of Offline Camp California, our second event aimed at gathering the growing Offline First community for a weekend of discussion and collaboration. After our first camp in the Catskills in June, I wrote about the amazing effects of the camp format on community building, and at our closing circle Sunday evening at the ranch, we were pleased to hear from our campers many of the same sentiments expressed in New York. Many campers found Offline Camp more impactful than traditional events because of the intimacy born of small group interaction in a remote setting, with a topic and community that are still young. As organizers, we certainly experienced those same warm fuzzies we first felt around the campfire more than four months ago in New York. For me personally, that sense of community remains by far my favorite aspect of Offline Camp, but I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some ways in which the event has grown and changed in its latest iteration.

One of the most striking changes for this latest edition of Offline Camp was the location. We moved to the West Coast to enable a new group of campers to attend, and the Lodge at Oak Creek Ranch in Santa Margarita provided a gorgeous and comfy home for the event. There were many sightings of deer and smaller critters around the ranch, and photography enthusiasts were able to snap great shots of clear night skies throughout the weekend. We also took advantage of the fabulous scenery with a sunset hayride on Saturday evening.

Photos courtesy of Eric Scouten (and his drone!).

The venue also came with a fabulous yoga studio, so we invited Marylou Lenhart to join us and teach a Yoga for Engineers class each morning. As a developer herself, Marylou focuses on exercises and postures for people who sit at a desk all day, including programmers and designers. Marylou’s class got rave reviews from campers who have never tried yoga before. (You might want to check out her Posture for Engineers talk from YAPC Asia 2015.)

For our Catskills camp, Jim Young of the New Builders podcast was kind enough to loan us a microphone and then pull together a montage of camper interviews to share on the podcast, as well as host camp co-organizer Gregor Martynus for a full episode on Offline First. In California, we were thrilled to have Jim himself with us on the ranch to interview campers for upcoming podcasts. Update 12/13/16: Here are the episodes produced to date!

(The New Builders Ep. 24: A Hodgepodge at the Lodge — Live from Offline Camp California
New Builders Ep. 25: All Dat and More

Videographer Aaron Ross also joined us to capture passion talks, session recaps, and lots of B-roll that he’ll use to create videos about Offline First and what it is that makes Offline Camp special. We’re extremely grateful to Jim and Aaron for loaning us their talents for the weekend (and weeks of editing to come!).

Photos courtesy of Eric Scouten (left) and Teri Chadbourne (right).

One change that came naturally with a new set of attendees was a shift in the focus of the sessions. As before, we hosted hour-long discussion sessions on topics selected by the campers, and many of these focused on identifying problems an Offline First approach can help solve and honing in on the challenges in implementing those solutions. However, this group also chose to get a bit more hands on and solution-focused in a couple of cases, from drawing up specific suggestions for UI patterns to hacking together on background sync and PouchDB to trying out offline mapping solutions during a hike. It was also great to see some of the first contributors to the PouchDB project offering other campers a primer on replication and sync. Here’s the complete list of unconference sessions that took place at the ranch (stay tuned to our Medium publication for recaps of our discussions):

Photos courtesy of Teri Chadbourne

We also got to enjoy a wide variety of passion talks, many of which will be posted on our YouTube channel in coming weeks, on topics including:

Since our goal for Offline Camp is to grow and develop the Offline First community, it was particularly exciting for me as an organizer to see conversations from both events intermingling. The day before we arrived in California, one of our Catskills campers shared a poster he’d created expressing a set of design principles for Offline First, which we subsequently discussed and expanded on in one of our unconference sessions. And just after our session on Offline First to Save the World, camper Patricia Garcia from our first event published an article on an Offline First response to the Ebola epidemic.

It’s incredibly rewarding to see our Offline First discussions building on each other across camps, continuing on Slack, and being expounded upon by our campers at conferences across the world and articles across the web. But equally rewarding is to go to a new event with brand new campers and feel like we’re coming home. New venues, perks, and scenery aside, we’ve been thrilled to find ourselves once again amongst kind, considerate, talented, and passionate people who are as excited as we are to push the Offline First movement forward… and to gather around a campfire as a community.

The Offline Camp California experience, as captured by Gregor Martynus
Photo courtesy of Eric Scouten
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