Camp Mefi Update February 11, 2014 7:02 PM   Subscribe

For those of you wondering what the status of the Camp MeFi project is, please pull a log up to the crackling fire. Full update inside.

In the early half of last year, we started talking about the possibility of arranging a large-scale MeFi meetup that would take the form of a weekend at summer camp. A small group of us agreed to investigate feasibility and work on the project to see if we could pull it off for 2014.

A valorous vanguard stepped forward to discuss in detail some ideas for an East Coast camp weekend. They deserve accolades and honors: thanks go to Biblio, Asperity, OnlyConnect, Gingersnap, Jessamyn, Polyhymnia, YoungerGirl44, and Usonian. We identified a great potential location in NJ and started talking about the tasks and coordination needed in some detail.

The upshot we had to face was that none of us are able to take on a central coordinating role this year. And though there are a lot of willing hands to help if delegated to, one or two really dedicated people need to sit in the driver's seat to make sure all the little pieces are being done. We all have various life things going on that make it hard to take on, as Jessamyn put it, "a part-time job's worth" of tracking, organizing, and communicating, which it would be.

We did manage to make a lot of progress on basic needs: like, what would the equipment, food, and accommodation needs be, what would some general policies be, what level of activities would make sense, what kind of facility is needed, how does the budget work, pricing level, who is willing to lend a hand with what specific task areas. etc. We are happy to share all our data and progress so far with anyone who is interested in reviewing it and/or shouldering the project to carry forward; just MeMail me. Usonian was also kind enough to create a website which can function as a central planning repository (empty now, but usable in future). The existing plan is still a good basic structure to revisit if we elect to pursue the idea in 2015 or beyond. It just looks like the 2014 planning season is going to get away from us and we just don't have that "traffic manager(s) and overall visionar(ies)" role filled.

One alternative idea has come up, which is simply to do a similar thing informally by picking a public campground, declaring a weekend "MeFi Camping Meetup time," and posting the details. That way no one would have to coordinate centrally, everyone could manage their own food and campsite, but there could be get-togethers around the campgrounds and daytime activities for people to join in on. Seems like a great idea that's somewhat simpler than taking over a camp facility for a weekend to run a centrally managed event. And multiple ones could run over the course the camping season, in different regions. Something to consider.

So thanks to everyone who tackled the project and gave it some really good thought. It was a pleasure to get to know a few others a bit better and enjoy their good sense and creative thinking on this big project.
posted by Miko to MetaFilter-Related at 7:02 PM (49 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

Thanks for the update; I had idly wondered about this and never thought to ask.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:09 PM on February 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'd wondered about this during idle moments as well, would love to take part but don't have the bandwidth to take a major organising role unfortunately.
posted by arcticseal at 7:35 PM on February 11, 2014


Miko did so much work on this it was insane. Seriously, thank you Miko for sharing your expertise and great ideas with the group, and sorry we couldn't quite get liftoff. Next time we will rule the world!

Seriously, though, I hope people do the little individual camping trips. They could sort of be a testing (camp) ground for future MeFi camps!
posted by onlyconnect at 7:57 PM on February 11, 2014 [2 favorites]


Alas, my life is unbelievably insane right now, or I'd pitch in. Thank you guys for the work you've done so far - I'm sure we'll get it done sooner or later.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:07 PM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Was there any thought about contracting with a LARP-ing organization to handle the logistics? I know that there are a bunch of LARP organizations that frequently do rent out camp grounds for their own purposes; maybe you could pay one to do all the work. We could call it Metafilter IRL LARP.
posted by bleep at 8:31 PM on February 11, 2014 [7 favorites]


It wasn't so much that we couldn't do the work (a few of us have experience with similar events and the logistics of site use are really the easy part) it was that convening the group to make that decision and managing that contract still requires a degree of leadership, time, and committment that our organizing team can't offer just now.

Of course if anyone wants to reach out to a LARPing-type group and put together an event with their help that is totally an open possibility. There's no reason another gang couldn't start organizing another event if there's momentum.
posted by Miko at 8:35 PM on February 11, 2014


which is simply to do a similar thing informally by picking a public campground, declaring a weekend "MeFi Camping Meetup time," and posting the details.

If it's on the east coast I dunno if I'd actually be able to go to such an event, but it sounds like an incredible amount of fun. And still that's enough work to make happen that I'm kind of shocked that people were talking about doing more than that.
posted by aubilenon at 8:53 PM on February 11, 2014


There is a PNW MeFi campout that is going to happen over Memorial Day weekend, for those who might be in this region...

Perhaps regional campouts might be organized for a couple of years in a run-up to an actual nationwide gathering? As practice, or something?
posted by hippybear at 9:00 PM on February 11, 2014 [6 favorites]


I would go to the PNW thing like that (*clumsily tries to snap fingers a couple times, eventually succeeding*) except I have a family thing that weekend I don't want to miss.

I had no idea that it was happening. And I'm not sure how I would have found out about it if it weren't for this thread! I certainly don't read all the IRL listings for the surrounding states (I'm in California)
posted by aubilenon at 9:28 PM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ya, this seems like an unanticipated failure of the IRL announcement systems which is geared to short duration meet ups. I can just barely see me heading all the SE Oregon for a weekend of camping but I'd never travel that far for a regular meet up.
posted by Mitheral at 9:40 PM on February 11, 2014


You all are welcome to camp out in my living room. I have two couches and a floor. It's not much, but it's better than nothing.

But for seriouslies, I'd be into this if my life wasn't so damn complicated right now. What was on the itinerary?
posted by oceanjesse at 10:51 PM on February 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thanks all! I'm sure we can get it pulled together one of these years.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:14 AM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Kickstart it? Could fund both the logistics contract and the MeFite contract manager for their "part time job's worth of work."
posted by solotoro at 8:37 AM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


You all are welcome to camp out in my living room.

You say that now, but wait until we build a camp fire on your rug.
posted by arcticseal at 10:00 AM on February 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Just to be clear: there are definitely other ways to pull the event off, so if anyone wants to take leadership and do it, go for it, and we're happy to share our information if you want it. Chances are you could still get the same property we looked at. The group that volunteered just investigated it enough to know that we can't manage it this coming year, but if you have an idea for managing it and want to take it on, Godspeed.

Like TPS, I am sure it will happen, this is just not a year that I personally nor the others could hold the bag for it - even if that just meant supervising a hiree. I would love to try again when I'm done with current projects.
posted by Miko at 10:02 AM on February 12, 2014


Huge props to Miko for all the legwork and brainwork she's done on this already; it is a non-trivial effort for sure. solotoro's Kickstarter idea is interesting, whether it's used to raise funds to compensate a MeFite organizer, or maybe outsource most of the planning to a third party. It would certainly be useful in terms of getting hard commitments from people.
posted by usonian at 10:34 AM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I know some of the folks involved in the Knight Realms LARP, who have bought the old girl scout Camp Sacajawea in Sparta, NJ. On non game weekends they rent the camp out to other groups.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:33 AM on February 12, 2014


Oh man, now I'm imagining a MeFi LARP. I guess maybe you'd wear the color of the site you predominantly interact with? All I can really picture is running up to people and pasting little [+] stickers on them and then running away.
posted by maryr at 11:42 AM on February 12, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'll just leave this here.
posted by vrakatar at 12:39 PM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


I know some of the folks involved in the Knight Realms LARP, who have bought the old girl scout Camp Sacajawea in Sparta, NJ

Holy cow, you're kidding. I went camping there every fall and spring of my childhood. That's totally wild!

I bet it's a great place for LARPing. And would be a fun place to do the meetup. It's not actually that far from the camp we were looking at.

I'll just leave this here.

I'd be so down with that, vrakatar. Any excuse to go to MV is fine by me. Bonus, there are a lot of other housing options - there's a hostel, some reasonable hotels/inns, and plenty of high-end. We could meet up together on the beach, at a hiking location, or at various pubs and restaurants.
posted by Miko at 1:00 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


What was on the itinerary?

This can totally vary with location, but at the place we looked at there's canoeing, swimming, ropes/adventure course challenges, volleyball, campfires, nature stuff, a playing field for softball/ultimate frisbee/etc. and various games both outdoor, like horseshoes and tetherball, and indoor/board. We talked about doing some camp-style A&C type stuff like tie-dying and the like, and developing a menu with cooking teams for the weekend because there's a central kitchen (as opposed to self-cook setups like you'd have at a public campground, or "unit" style organization with grills like Sacajawea has). Hiring a cook for the weekend was also feasible but more expensive.
posted by Miko at 1:05 PM on February 12, 2014


Hiring a cook for the weekend was also feasible but more expensive.

This could perhaps be done for cheaper if you can save the cook bringing staff by offering volunteer veg-peeling / washing up labour. YMMV but I have seen this done at tiny festivals where the low numbers made it hard to bring in catering for reasonable prices.
posted by emilyw at 1:28 PM on February 12, 2014


The only problem with MV is the ferry adds expense. But yeah, rental houses in Sept. and Oct. are reasonable, so people could form small groups, or do the campground, or whatever works for them. There is reasonable transit here now, so most people could leave the car behind.
posted by vrakatar at 1:32 PM on February 12, 2014


I would be so so down for this. I'm totally on the cooking team, but we're in the midst of moving my FIL with Alzheimer's and MIL with multiple physical ailments into assisted living and this is just not going to be my year either. That said - next year I'm in!
posted by Sophie1 at 4:29 PM on February 12, 2014


This could perhaps be done for cheaper if you can save the cook bringing staff by offering volunteer veg-peeling / washing up labour.

Depends on the place but with ours it was all in or all out. If the cook works that weekend, they don't want other people underfoot and want everything done the health-code way. If you're renting the kitchen yourself, you just leave it as found and whatever happens in between stays at camp.

The only problem with MV is the ferry adds expense....There is reasonable transit here now, so most people could leave the car behind.

I never ever ever bring my car - never have in 25 years, never felt the need. You can get just about everywhere on the bus, or renting a cab, or hitching in small groups. The ferry is under $10 each way - I've found it's not the ferry ride that costs, it's the mainland parking on this side that adds up day after day. I think it's up to $10 a calendar day, at least when it's not winter.

With camping, it's obviously more to carry if you go on the ferry on foot , so there's that - but I'm pretty sure the MV campground has "kamping kabin" type accommodations and grills so you wouldn't need the tent and camping stove and all that, you could just bring a normal range of stuff that you'd use in a hotel anyway.

One idea might be to arrange for a big van or truck that people could collaborate to load all their camping stuff on. That would require somebody to spearhead the process to find or rent a vehicle and make a ferry reservation though.
posted by Miko at 5:14 PM on February 12, 2014


Kickstart it? Could fund both the logistics contract and the MeFite contract manager for their "part time job's worth of work."

But then you couldn't post anything about it here until after the camping was finished.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 6:40 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I really have to say I find something hilarious about a site that is obsessed with Privilege discussing the hiring of a professional chef for a camping trip. All day erry day I'm doing Privileged shit, good times, but that one, my mind is still boggling at the very idea, it's like strawman Mitt Romney level. I know hedge fund hotshots, legit badguys, I am pretty sure would never even dream of it.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:03 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't think people were talking about a gourmet chef, but about a person who cooks for large groups. Plenty of "camp" facilities would provide (plain, non-gourmet) meals in the dining hall as part of what you'd pay for in renting the space. That's not extravagance, it's just a normal part of planning a get-together at a camp like the ones that were being talked about. Renting a facility like that is not the same as a "camping trip."
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:33 PM on February 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


Uh, yeah. Setting aside whether MeFi is "obsessed with privilege," the idea of hiring a camp cook who cooks for kids all summer and sous-chefs here and there in the winter to deal with cooking for a group of 80-100 is not ridiculous. In fact, if you could see the place I'm talking about, you'd find it's the most stripped-down, lo-fi place imaginable, and the cook we'd be hiring would be psyched to host our group and make a weekend's income. They're nice people who like cooking for a big crowd and having pickup work -- Not "chefs."

The reality is that running an organized get-together for 100 people at a rented facility where you make a contract is just a different proposition than "let's all go camping," as LobsterMitten says, which is the crux of the whole gig here in this discussion. None of us want to advertise, run, take money for, and host an event that people find poorly organized and unsatisfying, so whether we were better off hiring food service or DIYing it was a legitimate discussion. In fact, we weren't planning on hiring the cook as we thought it would be fun to develop cooking teams who get to show off their food talents to the rest of us, but it's not like it's some insane, rich-guy thing to do to let a competent person handle that for a respectable fee, and do other things with our group's volunteer energy. In fact, once we put the (retail not wholesale which the cook could get) food cost for us back into the budget, the savings would probably not have been super huge), but each choice offers us different things: freedom from the logistics of cooking including planning, getting cash, shopping, delivery, prep, etc vs. opportunity to team up, be creative, etc. In the end, offering the choice is normal for a facility of this kind - actually, it's kind of rare to have the option not to use the in-house food service but still be able to use the kitchen (that flexibility) was one of the nice things here). The kinds of groups that rent this place, including the cook's services, are broke-ass church groups, youth groups like 4H, school bands and choirs, school nature study field trips, Red Cross lifeguard training weekends, etc. Even with the cook, the total cost for the weekend comes in well under what one night in a Holiday Inn costs in the state.

So, have fun sneering, but this is a long way from glamping - it's just basic event management stuff.
posted by Miko at 7:56 PM on February 12, 2014 [13 favorites]


I guess the tl;dr on that is: either option costs about the same, just do you want to pay for it in organizing donated time and effort for planning, sourcing and execution or in cash to someone who does this for a living.
posted by Miko at 8:06 PM on February 12, 2014


OK, I kinda thought it was camping like going out into the woods, not like summer camp. I find camping is much more fun in the woods where there is no law or civilization and you're just burning joints everywhere, urinating on the ground with no shame, horror show serial killing etc.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:34 PM on February 12, 2014


That is a very different sort of event which you are welcome to organize.
posted by Miko at 8:36 PM on February 12, 2014 [6 favorites]


OK, I kinda thought it was camping like going out into the woods, not like summer camp.

Sure, if we were talking about a small group. But 80-100 people requires something a little more organized. Hence the campgrounds, possibility of a cook, etc.
posted by scody at 8:37 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


And you might have missed the long-time-ago beginning of this discussion a few threads ago where a lot of people were like "I'd like to do camping like in cabins with showers but not camping like roughing it," which is how we ended up looking at camp facilities and campgrounds rather than backcountry/wilderness sites. The idea was to do something with an outdoorsy camp feeling but still make it accessible to a wide range of people of different ages, abilities, interests, gear inventories and group compositions.
posted by Miko at 8:41 PM on February 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sure, if we were talking about a small group. But 80-100 people requires something a little more organized. Hence the campgrounds, possibility of a cook, etc.

I ain't done 80 but I've done like 50-60... though, I admit I don't think I could manage with Metafilter users.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:45 PM on February 12, 2014


Also I think if I tried to hold a non CO/WA burning joints meetup that wouldn't fly.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 8:51 PM on February 12, 2014


I think this is great. My old LRY gang does this every five to ten years. It does take at least two leader-organizers. This year isn't great but I could be a number two person in 2015.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:13 PM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


I admit I don't think I could manage with Metafilter users.

My style of camping is backpacking, cooking my own meals, cleaning up after and enjoying the experience of nature (including pissing under a tree and enjoying a herbal repast).

However … folks are working awfully hard to put this together and you aren't really contributing anything to the discussion with the exception you would rather this be a sort of Mefi Rainbow Gathering. It ain't happenin so give it a rest.

I hope this could be expanded to regional camping meetups. A Summer of outdoor Mefi magic?
posted by jabo at 9:17 PM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


a site that is obsessed with Privilege

What site are you talking about? Also, fuck off.
posted by vrakatar at 9:19 PM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also, fuck off.

Don't do this.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:23 PM on February 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


I ain't done 80 but I've done like 50-60... though, I admit I don't think I could manage with Metafilter users.


Wait, I'm assuming that this would be opt-in, right?
posted by ActingTheGoat at 10:49 PM on February 12, 2014


The burning joints parts, you might not get a choice re: the serial killing.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 4:39 AM on February 13, 2014


save alive nothing that breatheth, I have no idea what you're on about, are you joking or something? If so, what's the funny part?
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:41 AM on February 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


The burning joints parts, you might not get a choice re: the serial killing.

That's what we mean by farm to table.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:21 AM on February 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


The only burning joints I'm interested in involve my knees after climbing a mountain.
posted by maryr at 8:22 AM on February 13, 2014


There's no reason someone couldn't make an IRL for a camping trip (of whatever variety they prefer). I believe Portland did one.
posted by maryr at 9:14 AM on February 13, 2014


I propose a music contest to find a Metafilter equivalent (I don't mean cover ) of Ashokan Farewell (originally written in 1982 to celebrate the end of camp, not to commemorate the US Civil War)
posted by Bwithh at 4:31 PM on February 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Whoever wants to take this on - it could be worth your time talking to the people at Autostraddle, another website that started up a camp for their readers.
posted by divabat at 12:13 AM on February 16, 2014


a sort of Mefi Rainbow Gathering

I would do this. I would also do the other thing. I'm looking forward to the PNW thing later this year. Basicallly, MeFites + Nature, count me in.
posted by hippybear at 7:32 PM on February 21, 2014


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