Jailbreaking the City: Announcing Refactor Camp 2013

On the weekend of March 2 and 3, we will be organizing the second annual Refactor Camp. The theme for Refactor Camp 2013: Jailbreaking the Bay Area. The event will be held at the San Francisco zoo, same as last year.


Regular tickets are $75 and sponsoring attendee tickets are $150.  The ticket includes lunch on both days, and is organized on a no-profit-no-loss basis. As with last year, the goal is to do a small and intimate event, where the intent of the talks is to catalyze small group conversations. We’ve kept the event size the same (40 odd attendees), but extended the event to two days instead of one, based on feedback from last year’s attendees, many of whom will be attending again this year.

Approximately 28 of the 40 odd available spots are already taken by early invitees, so if you are in the area (or are able to drive/fly in) and would like one of the remaining dozen spots, grab ’em while they’re still available. You can register via the link above.  The link also has details on the theme and a detailed agenda.

This year, the event will have a slightly broader footprint, since a handful of people are flying in from other parts of the country (including me of course, from Seattle).

As with last year, we’ll have a field session at the zoo itself, and another on the beach across the street.

Last year, after the inaugural Refactor Camp, we started a Facebook group for the attendees that has since grown into an active online/offline community with monthly meetups.  If you’re interested in the group, this is the easiest opportunity for you to join, since the membership rule is that you must meet at least two current members in the real world.

The Theme

If you’ve been following my writing over the last year, you probably know that I’ve developed a growing personal interest in urbanism, particularly the problem of revitalizing aging cities through retrofitting of clever technology. From Uber to Airbnb, this sort of thing is already happening, and what interests me is whether such technological developments can be connected up to ideas like superlinear corporations, civic entrepreneurship and so forth.

I think of these possibilities as “jailbreaking” old cities with a lot of locked-up potential. San Francisco is a particularly good example to think about in detail, but I am hoping the insights that emerge from our discussions will be applicable more broadly.

We’ve got a really stimulating mix of talks that will touch on everything from real estate markets and ride-share models to school reform and the charter city project in Honduras. One of the highlights is a simulation exercise on Saturday afternoon,  devoted to figuring out how to build a post-apocalyptic survivalist community, complete with zombie defenses.

New York Area Readers Meetup on January 30

Finally, if you’re in the New York area, and are interested in meeting other readers in the area, message me. A few volunteers have started an online/offline meetup group in the area, and are hoping to get enough critical mass going to do something like Refactor Camp on the East Coast. The first meeting will be on January 30.  I won’t be able to attend, but hopefully I’ll be able to make it to one of the future meetups.

I definitely hope we can pull off an East Coast Refactor Camp sometime, perhaps as early as this fall. Though I’ve now moved to the West Coast, I think I am fundamentally not a one-coast guy, so it would be nice to develop roots for ribbonfarm in the New York area.

I was a reluctant convert to the idea of doing events related to ribbonfarm, but after over two years of experimentation with formats ranging from 1:1 coffees with people, to small meetups to a larger event like Refactor Camp, I’ve really started to enjoy this aspect of writing a blog. Let’s see how long we can keep this going. I even bought the refactorcamp.org domain, so I’ve made at least a $10 commitment to keep this going.

LIFT, Geneva Next Week

Finally, I’ll be in Geneva to speak at the LIFT conference next week. If you’re planning to attend, do find me and say hello. I’ll  have some time for coffee etc. too, on Feb 6-8, in case you are interested in meeting up outside the conference.

This will be my third speaking gig outside the United States, so I think I can now call myself an “internationally known speaker” now. Woohoo, the climb up the talking-head greasy pole continues.


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About Venkatesh Rao

Venkat is the founder and editor-in-chief of ribbonfarm. Follow him on Twitter


  1. Ellen Sullivan says

    Do you have any folks in the Austin, TX area? I can’t make either of these locations, but am very interested in participating.

  2. I think there’s a few in Austin, but I don’t think there’s critical mass yet to do a meetup group there.