This page refers to the Zap Your PRAM Conference from 2003. You probably want the 2008 conference.
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Zap Your PRAM Conference 2003

About The Zap Your PRAM Conference

A Rambling Introduction by Peter Rukavina

PRAM is a piece of memory in a Macintosh's clock chip that stores default settings for some Apple control panels, the video display, network preferences, background color, and highlight color. It also stores information about the status of the serial ports and the SCSI bus. After you reset the PRAM, settings in some Apple control panels will be set to the factory default and AppleTalk will be disabled.

To solve system problems that occur due to corrupted PRAM data, you must reset (zap) the PRAM, which restores settings stored in PRAM to their default values.

-- from Resetting the Parameter RAM (PRAM) by Adobe

The Sarcastic Comment that Started It All

The Zap your PRAM Conference is an example of what happens when a sarcastic comment gets out of hand.

In this case, the sarcastic comment came from Dan James and was made to a collection of his fellow silverorange cohorts and to me, one afternoon this summer in a coffee shop in downtown Charlottetown.

After the middling success of a public weblog seminar that we put together in the late spring, we decided we should graduate to loftier projects, and chatted, in a pie-in-the-sky, never-gonna-really-happen way about holding a Conference. Dan said, at some point, that we should call the conference "Zap your PRAM." To be accurate, Dan actually said "Flash your PRAM." But I insisted we use the cooler-sounding and more common "Zap" instead of "Flash" and Dan, not being a Mac guy, relented.

Normally a comment like this would be passed by quickly, but the idea of holding a conference called "Zap your PRAM" grabbed our attention, and all of a sudden we were talking about the "Zap your PRAM Conference" like it actually existed. At some point we all realized that we had no choice: the conference had taken on a life of its own, and we were at its mercy.

Zap your PRAM? Huh?

Unless you are the owner of an Apple Macintosh computer who has run into problems with your computer, you probably have little idea of what "zapping your PRAM" is all about. Perhaps even after reading the rather technical definition above you're still in the dark.

Suffice to say that "zapping the PRAM" is one of those universal answers to the problem of a busted Mac. Talk to any Mac guru about your Mac problems, and they'll inevitably say "have you zapped your PRAM?" Think of it as a virtual spring tonic, a purgative that cleans out the digital guts of the Mac and, with luck, returns it to full health.

In other words, not a bad guiding metaphor for a conference.

In which Ben Hammersley gets involved...

By coincidence, several of we group of conference plotters happened upon this set of videos of the Danish reboot conference. We were all particularly taken with the presentation by Ben Hammersley. And so I sent off an email to Ben, inviting him to come and speak at our conference.

To my surprise and delight, he quickly wrote back and agreed.

So now we actually had to have a conference.

To Cavendish, To Cavendish

One of the things you quickly learn after living on Prince Edward Island for a while is that almost any reasonable worldly need is obtainable, if not from immediate friends and family, then at the very most within a couple of degrees of separation therefrom.

And so it turns out that Dan, original sarcastic comment maker, happens to have parents who own a luxury cottage resort, complete with conference centre, in Cavendish. How great is that!?

What's the Conference About?

So now we had one speaker, a location, and a guiding philosophy. Now all we needed is something to talk about.

And so another lunch was called, with the original cabal in attendance. And over omelettes and clubhouse sandwiches, we talked about possible other speakers, and possible things they might talk about. We talked about who we wanted to attend the conference.

What did we arrive at?

I'm not sure.

We know that:

  • We don't want jerks or idiots to attend.
  • We do want to have interested, interesting, people, who are smarter than us, attend.
  • We're all interested in design.
  • We're all interested in weblogs. Most of us have one.
  • We're all interested in the ubiquitous Internet (i.e. WiFi, etc.)
  • We all work online.
  • We're uncertain about some people being "audience" and others being "speakers"
  • At the same time, we realize that some "informal formal" structure for the conference is important and useful.
  • We want the conference to be fun.

As the conference grows closer, and we flesh out the "speakers" and "audience" we'll know more about what's actually going to happen.

In which Ben Hammersley gets uninvolved...

At this point in the proceedings, with conference planning well underway, the aforementioned patron saint of the conference, Ben Hammersley, went to Kabul for a week. When he returned, he discovered much to his chagrin, that he was booked for a wedding the same weekend as the conference. A wedding in England. Which is very far from Cavendish. Sadly, he felt unable to broach the idea of switching the wedding date with bride and groom, so had to bow out of the conference.

In a normal world, this would be a disaster, but in our by-the-seat-of-our-pants conference, it seemed to form a sort of elegant bracketing -- Hammersley's initial enthusiasm had transported us from "regular everyday people" into "people who organize conferences." After that point, Hammersley's important work was done. We'll miss him, of course, and he'll have to come to Zap II in 2004.

How do I know if I should come?!

Right now it's all about faith. You can read our weblogs...

...which will give you some idea of where our interests lie. And you can have some degree of confidence that the conference will reflect, in one way or another, those interests.

But what do I tell me [boss | parents | funding agency]?

Here's a useful, pretentious, potentially inaccurate explanation that might suffice: "The Zap Your PRAM Conference is a yearly high-level gathering of creative professionals and academics from around the world interested in design, the web, and emerging technologies."

And so...

If you read this and think "these guys are crazy," then you probably don't want to come to Zap. If you read this and think "these guys are crazy, but it sounds like this might be a lot of fun," then you should register and make your plane reservations now, because we'd really like to have you here.