There were publishers, authors, agents, book designers, booksellers, readers, illustrators, librarians, printers and all sorts of interested outsiders and geeks gathered in one room for the day.
They were all trying to work out what the future of the book might be like. It was a fascinating day, made all the more hypnotic by the open spirit that pervaded the whole thing. Rival publishers co-operated and exchanged ideas. Different industry silos tried to understand each other's problems. The ever-present publishing crisis was acknowledged but didn't seem to be crippling progress: everyone was more interested in problem solving than doom mongering. And it made me wonder what an AdvertisingCamp might be like.
The SomethingCamp idea and format sprung out of the last recession, among web people, hackers and innovators on the West Coast. It was a way of doing a cheap, accessible, democratic "unconference". Sessions are organised on the fly, by the participants; everyone is encouraged to contribute, not just listen. They're often over a weekend, with participants staying over in sleeping bags. And serious attempts are made to actually build some sort of prototype at the camp, to do more than just talk. As befits its origin in a more genteel industry, BookCamp was slightly less hardcore, and slightly more decorous than that. But the open, accessible atmosphere was still there and I suspect interesting cross-industry projects and ideas will bubble out of it.
It made me wonder what an AdvertisingCamp or MediaCamp would be like. Or whether there had already been one. I've never heard of one, but I'd be surprised if no-one had ever tried. There have certainly been various SocialMediaCamps around the world and a splendidly specific series of MeasurementCamps devoted to trying to develop effective currencies and tools for all this social media gubbins.
Would the bright sparks of advertising and media be up for something like that? Would they turn up on a Saturday at a King's Cross venue with no lunch and only reasonable coffee and collaborate with rivals and peers? Would they subsume egos and let anyone speak who wanted to? Would they beg apparent lunatics from the fringe of the business to participate, in order to stimulate really radical thinking?
I don't know. I hope so. But I'm going to an event tomorrow night at the IPA, where a worthy panel will pontificate about a paper that took months to prepare. I'm on the panel so I'm in no position to carp, but I know I'll be up there wishing we were as willing to experiment and try new approaches as a centuries-old business like publishing.