Google, O’Reilly, and Foo

My tent is now visible on Google Earth.

If you wanted to find the world headquarters for O’Reilly Media, you would need to go to 1005 North Gravenstein Highway North in Sebastopol, California. If you just want to take a virtual trip there, Google Maps will do just fine. If you zoom into the complex in the middle of the map, you’ll notice something odd about the back yard. It’s very green and strangely detailed. What’s going on? The rectangular region that constitutes O’Reilly’s “back yard” is filled with tents because the out-of-context snapshot was taken by a low-flying plane during Foo Camp in August 2006.

Foo Camp is a tech conference hosted by O’Reilly (Foo = Friends Of O’Reilly), and the Google Maps folks who attended arranged to have a special Easter Egg inserted into Google Maps: high resolution low-altitude pictures taken while Foo Camp was in progress.

I was lucky enough to be invited to Foo Camp, and we were told that the plane would be flying over during lunch. Some people, in anticipation of the flyover, went to some real effort, making Cylon Raiders and Space Invaders that would be visible from the air. Sadly, at least as of this writing, these constructions lie outside the small box of high resolution imagery.

I can tell you that the Google plane kept flying back and forth, back and forth, and we eventually tired of looking up at it and waving. After a while we got hungry and queued up for lunch. So what you see in the picture is a bunch of tents (the veritable Foo Camp campsite), a few brave souls stretched out in the damp grass looking up at the plane, a robot soccer field, and a bunch of people waiting in line for a free buffet. What’s really nice here is that anything you can see in Google Maps, you can see in much greater detail in Google Earth. And so it is that, if you open Google Earth and zoom in to 38.411360° north latitude, 122.840350° west longitude, you can’t quite make me out in the lunch line, but you can clearly and distinctly see my tent. Here’s what my tent looks like from a human perspective. And here’s what it looks like to God:


UPDATE: By coincidence I just noticed that Tom Coates blogged about this on Monday. He apparently has inside information from Google that the rest of the O’Reilly campus, Cylon raiders and all, will be appearing on Google Earth some time next month. You don’t even have to wait that long: Frank Taylor of the Google Earth Blog posted a KMZ overlay file of the whole thing.

2 thoughts on “Google, O’Reilly, and Foo”

  1. That’s classic. The Space Invaders shot is great. One question, who are the poor slobs who had to camp in the arid, dusty area to the right?

  2. The arid dusty area to the right was the apple orchard. They don’t water it very much. It looked dusty and uncomfortable to me, but I guess some people preferred privacy (aside from visiting yellowjackets) to the crowded besprinklered lawn.

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