Free Trade Fail

I pride myself for participating in dialogue, for remaining receptive to constructive criticism, and finally, for feeling failure every once in an “all too often.” For all those reasons, I decided to give voice to Amy, the co-creator of failcamp, and her response to my post FAILcon fails, but it doesn’t have to. Without further ado, here it is:
If you assume that the purpose of Failcamp is to prevent people from making identical technical mistakes, well then, you're mistaken.

It's also not a "feel-good about ourselves pow-wow."

Failure is omnipresent. It's the default state of everything. There are no techniques you can use to avoid failure in general and technical failure stories are not going to necessarily be applicable even in the same situation.

What can be learned is how to deal with the aftermath, and learning to take value directly out of the failure. And that's universally applicable.

And there's absolutely no difference between specific technical failure and general life failure in this view.

If you want to create a peer-reviewed journal, by all means do so. But I think if you'll look at the history of peer-reviewed journals you'll see the flaw in your idea. The idea that you'll get industry people to bother to write long essays about problems only to wait for them to be *reviewed* by their "peers"... well, I have to say, I think it will fail.

To get people to own up to their own problems you need a convivial atmosphere. A non-permanent, non-serious one.
First, I would like to thank Amy for commenting. I’m currently working on an entry that emphasizes the importance of response and criticism within the blogosphere**.

Okay, now on to the good stuff. While I don’t quite agree with everything Amy has to say, our difference in opinion stems more from a divergence in vision than a divergence in philosophy. So let’s throw the failcamp philosophy out there:
failure is the default
failure can be intrinsically valuable
we can bond through our failures
and bonding over failure is a good thing
also, beer is a good thing.
My response? Yes.
And good.
And yes again.

But we may be talking apples and oranges (or ipods and zunes for you tech people out there). My response to FAILcon was exactly that, a response to FAILcon. Here is an excerpt from Conference FAIL:
All of the great software developers I know have at least one great story of how a project they were working on was a complete disaster. Often these projects are shielded from the public eye, since nobody wants to talk about failure. So, how do we make a public discussion of these ideas socially acceptable?

Thus, an idea was born: FAILcon. The idea is simple: submitted talks and papers must be related to projects which failed in an interesting way. The larger the better, of course — the bigger they are, the harder they fail — but anything that failed in an interesting way would be a valid subject for discussion.
After reading the article, I made the following assumptions about FAILcon’s vision:
  1. FAILcon is not intended to merely address failure in its general scope, but failure that is more specific to software developing.
  2. FAILcon is centered on submitted talks and papers, and the discussions that come as a result of those papers and projects. I would guess that the resulting discussions would conjure up questions such as Why did we fail? and How can we prevent future failure?
Based on those assumptions (and they could very well be wrong), you may begin to see where my article came from. Although, to be fair, after 24 hours of Calvin & Hobbes-esque pondering, I don’t even completely buy into my own vision for FAILcon.com, but I’ll leave that for separate entry.

In direct response to your response (sentence structure that would make at least two of my former English profs die on the inside), I never intended to say that failcamp is a “’feel good about ourselves’ pow-wow.” My full sentence, “Failure conferences already exist, and I assume that you envision more than a 'lets feel better about ourselves' pow-wow” meant to convey two different points. One is that failure conferences exist (example: failcamp). The other is that I don’t think FAILcon’s vision is a fluffy one. Let’s chalk that misunderstanding up to me. Maybe you can even mention my “clarity fail” in your upcoming conference.

Does that entitle me to beer?

That being said, I encourage people to go to failcamp. If I was in the neighborhood, I’d probably stop by myself. Get familiar with failure. Why? Because everyone does it, and even the best do it more than the rest (let that sink in for a moment).

Once again, thanks for the response Amy. Failcamp.org. Check it out.

** Did you know that Microsoft Word 2007 recognizes blogosphere as a legitimate word? I can’t decide whether I am impressed or depressed.

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