Brooklyn Buzz, or How We Ruin Great Things By Liking Them
Time for a little honesty: I can’t decide if I actually care about attending Brooklyn Beta or if I just want to be thought of as someone cool enough to be found at a conference that gathers in a place called The Invisible Dog. It’s probably a little of both.
If you haven’t heard about Brooklyn Beta, the Analog and Fictive Kin organizing duo describe it as “a friendly, intimate web conference in the heart of Brooklyn with some of our favorite web designers, developers, and business people.” Being small and focused on encouraging attendees to use their magical abilities to bring ideas to life, it generated a lot of, let’s say “eventbuzz”.
What’s “eventbuzz”? As I’m writing this, the following Twitter exchange appeared in my Timeline in the span of about 30 to 40 seconds.
No speakers have been mentioned, no schedule posted, almost no information is available at all except the date and the venue, and the (update: first day’s quota) tickets sold out in 45 seconds, max. That’s some fine looking eventbuzz right there.
Of course, I can’t say for sure why anyone bought a ticket to “the Beta”, as they call it*. I know there are plenty of reasons to want to spend a weekend with brilliant, creative web people, talking about creating excellent things. (Take a look at Chris Shiflett’s blog or Cameron Koczon’s Gimmebar preview if you need proof of brilliance.)
*Nobody calls it that.
But no matter how brilliant an event is, eventbuzz is a potential poison that can turn the greatest of gatherings into a sad, self-congrulationfest where brilliant speakers run from professional networkers and good-hearted nobodies watch silently from the corners.
Hopefully that doesn’t happen to Brooklyn Beta. The Analog|FK duo is almost certainly taking precautions against that kind of disaster. But there’s only so much they can do.
The rest is kind of up to us. We ruin things by liking them for the wrong reasons. Here’s what I think we can do.
Let’s start separating networking and business-building from sharing ideas and making great things. Let’s get together and talk about what we’re doing without inviting celebrity guest speakers. Let’s find ways to involve more people, and not just by offering free pizza. Let’s make our gatherings an exciting place to be because we’re talking about exciting things right in our own neighborhoods. No, you probably won’t find a job or a pitch or a connection at this kind of get together — but you might find inspiration to make something of your own.
Matthew Smith is talking about this kind of thing already with his Grok idea (check it out if you haven’t already). Groks are an interesting idea, but Matthew is at a disadvantage — he’s one of the celebrities that can easily draw people in for the wrong reasons. In this case, we “good-hearted nobodies” are in a great position to create something interesting that attracts just the right crowd, if we figure out how to do it.
The trick will be getting people’s attention, and finding ways to gather and share great ideas about making great things in our own communities without turning those gatherings into sub-standard networking sales-pitch parades. If we can do that, maybe we won’t need to be glued to a screen punching “refresh” 1000 times a minute, desperately hoping we’ll be lucky enough to score a ticket to the next eventbuzzed un-conference. We’ll be too busy planning our own.