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Saturday, July 16, 2011

What's a Health Foo

This morning I saw a tweet / four square checkin from Brian Ahier (@ahier: "Health Foo" at Logan Airport (BOS) with 69 others. I responded: What is health foo and how long are you in Boston. We spent a bit of time together at HIMSS last year and the year before and since I live nearby, I thought it would be a good idea to get in touch. He responds back, "Healthcare Unconference .. leaving Sunday". I wonder to myself how a healthcare unconference happens in Boston and I don't hear about it.

Later that same day, Nate DeNiro (@unclenate asks me to follow him (I thought I already had been, so I did) so he could DM me. He also sent me a link on more information about Health Foo. I get a later invite from him to the event (it is invitation only).

So, I shifted my one call for the day up an hour, and headed into Cambridge, back to an office I used to work in more than a decade ago.

What is an Unconference? Well, to answer that question, you have to think about what a conference is. A bunch of people pay to go hear other people that might be interesting speak about topics they might be interested in, and the topics are chosen by the conference organizer. An unconference twists that around. First of all, O'Reilly Media is sponsoring this event, and Microsoft is making the space available, so attendees don't need to pay to get in (but they do need to be interesting). Secondly, other than time blocks, nothing is preset.

So, we spend several hours talking, grabbed a beer from the foo bar (Yes, it is called that), and introduce ourselves to each other. Then we have a short formal session where we learn what foo is about, how it got started, and how to do it. Foo it turns out, stands for "Friends of O'Reilly (Media)", and the whole thing started during the .COM bust when O'Reilly had a bunch of unused space that they wanted to do something interesting with.

After the formal session, we went out to develop the agenda. THere were sticky notes and several large boards where you could describe a session you wanted to run, and put it in a time slot and a room. I decided to do a session called "Is there a standard 4 that?", basically to help various folks share their knowledge about IT standards and their possible uses. If you are on twitter or buzz or G+ or FB tomorrow, I might call on you to help, because we are looking to crowd source answers to questions I may know nothing about on standards. So I put my sticky up. Then @Lygea posted one at the same time opposite mine that I wanted to attend, so I moved it to a different slot. Then @ePatientDave did the same thing, so I moved it again, but this time after Fred Trotter's session (that I'll be helping him with) on What is the Health Internet.

The foo goes on from 10:00 to 8:00 pm, at which point their with be several 5 minute Ingnite sessions. I have no clue what they are, but I'm cooking something up for one anyway. I'll report on that tomorrow.

While I'd love to hang out with this crew all weekend, unfortunately, I have family committments, and so won't be able to spend Sunday morning with them. But even so, it will be very interesting. While there were probably a dozen people at Health Foo that I already know (some quite well), there are many others completely outside my usual comfort space. That's the whole point. Get interesting people and ideas together and see what flows.

On a side note: I had an interesting conversation with @Farzad_ONC at the meeting about a blog post that I basically wrote with about a three person audience. He remembered it better than I did. That rocked, since he was at the top of that list.

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