A few of us went to the Startup Camp unconference yesterday in San Francisco representing YDN’s development tools and services.

What a hoot.

Some of the startup ideas were really interesting, a few were promising but clearly still cooking, and some were just plain silly. For example, the second-place winner for the best startup (“people’s choice” of course) was, a bathroom locator for mobile phones. It basically fell into all 3 categories — clever, unfinished and a bit mad.

I was glad to see the entrepreneurial spirit so alive and well. Like any dotcom event these days, you certainly get a fair share of chest-thumping and occasionally insane marketers trying to make some noise around vaporware. But I also saw people putting themselves out there, taking the big risk in hopes of at least being able to control their own destiny if not becoming wildly successful. It was a great place for people worried about the same issues to meet each other and share war stories.

The event organizers, Mass Events Labs, were clearly having a good time, too. I spoke briefly with Dan Farber who is ZDNet’s EIC about David Berlind’s role at both companies and how he has done such a good job balancing interests. They have posted a disclosure at ZDNet explaining how things work:

“As a matter of CNET Networks and Mass Events Labs policies, when David covers an organization that is also a sponsor of a Mass Events Labs-produced event, a disclosure will be included with the coverage.”

This is tricky stuff, but David is able to manage it because he maintains such high integrity standards.

For example, we were talking about ZDNet’s site traffic sources, and he mentioned that he holds a hard line against staff Digging their own articles. I thought this was a curious point, as I have Dugg my own blog posts that I thought Diggers would like. Why can’t you Digg yourself? David is clear about the journalist’s role in marketing himself or herself, and he’s right. It’s a similar argument around the ethics of paying journalists a share of the traffic their stories generate…it’s the wrong incentive. They need to get the story right, and everything else is a distraction and perhaps even a conflict of interest.

I was also interested to see what types of VCs were present and how they fit into the scene. Jeff Clavier gave a talk about the basics of getting funding. And First Round Capital meandered around sniffing out opportunities. In both cases, they became very much part of the scene, a presence in the network that makes today’s startups successful rather than an obnoxious members-only club.

As for sponsors or “co-hosts“, Kent Brewster posted a really funny flickr photo set that said a lot about what’s going on here. We were positioned next to the Salesforce guys who seemed to be doing a great job of signing up developers. Sun’s presence as the event sponsor was completely appropriate. Unfortunately, I missed Jonathan Schwartz’s keynote, but I heard it was well done.

I’m really curious to see how this event evolves. It’s a great formula. And the attendees obviously enjoyed it. There’s a lot of potential here no doubt.