Why Social Networking is Good, Reason 61

For a few months now, I’ve been planning to write a post on how to get involved in your local tech scene.

I caught a tweet from Matt earlier today. He was on his way to Startup Rockstars DC#3.

Sounds like fun. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen me tweet about any number of Portland tech events, like Lunch 2.0, Beer and Blog, Ignite Portland, BarCamp Portland, the list goes on for a while. I’ll spare you.

Portland has a lot of geeky events and a strong tech community, but many of these events can be recreated just about anywhere, e.g. Lunch 2.0, Ignite, and BarCamp were all imported from other cities.

Others, like Beer and Blog, are easy to start. Beer and Blog was started by a group of local bloggers who got together to work on their blogs during Friday Happy Hour at a local pub. It’s now a work/social event each Friday, sometimes sponsored by a local company.

I’ve chatted with Chet the ORACLENERD about starting a Tampa Beer and Blog chapter, hoping he hasn’t lost interest. It really is good fun.

Portland’s culture fits these gatherings well; there are a lot of nomadic, freelance geeks and home-based telecommuters who don’t get the usual cubicle, watercooler office experience. So, we like to congregate in wi-fi hotspots to socialize while we work. The good news is you can pick your coworkers. The bad news is work and concentration are tougher to achieve.

Being out and about already, it’s easy to drop by a geeky gathering and visit with your coworkers. Even if you have a traditional office, stopping by an evening event isn’t too difficult. It’s well worth the time spent to meet like-minded people who live in your town.

This is all thanks to the Intertubes. Think about it: you can announce and promote an event (blog, Twitter), manage a group of volunteers (Basecamp), get an idea of who’s attending (Upcoming), publish the content (blog, SlideShare, wiki), get feedback (blog, Twitter) and stay in touch with all the new people you meet (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn).

You can do this in your town too. Chances are good there are already some events you can attend. If you live in the Bay Area, you already know, and you’ve got your pick of dozens of these types of geeky meetups. A quick search on Upcoming for your town will tell you what’s out there and who’s going.

Of course, all these techniques work for any kind of get-together, geeky or otherwise. They just tend to work better for geeks, since we’re online all day, every day.

So why would you want to do this? Who cares about meeting other geeks? Based on what I hear coming out of events like OpenWorld, people really get a kick out of meeting people they know virtually. I know I do. It’s a great chance to exchange ideas with people you know have similar interests to your own.

Getting involved with you local tech scene allows you to do the same thing, i.e. connect with like-minded people IRL. No need to wait for a conference; these events are happening all the time. You never know when you’ll meet someone whose blog you read, someone who has the skills to help you with a side-project, someone who has a great idea and needs help, etc.

Did I mention that most of these events are free?

What do you think? A lot of people have time constraints, which is why daytime events like Lunch 2.0 may be appealing. Find the comments and share your thoughts, experiences, questions, all of that.

Maybe Matt will grace us with a review of Startup Rockstars DC.




  1. I agree–I really value the IRL meetings, especially meeting those that I already “met” virtually. My biggest problem is not a lack of events in my “area”, but since I live 30 miles (that is, 2 hours by car) outside of Chicago, the downtown events aren't feasible for me most of the time. To hold my own local event out here in the 'burbs is a little scary since I've never even been able to attend one and feels a little like jumping in at the deep end without learning to swim first.

    For me, conference events like OOW, Collaborate and ODTUG Kaleidoscope are where most of my IRL meetings happen. Many of the people I'm hoping to meet (plus a whole lot more that I enjoy meeting, but didn't plan to meet) are at one or more of those events too. I guess I'm not that tied to my geography and I spend enough time outside my geographic home base that attending local events isn't quite as important to me as meeting people anywhere. I reached out and met Bex and Billy for the first time on sort of a “blind date” when I was on a project in MSP this past January. We enjoyed visiting and meeting, but didn't really even know one another prior to that meeting. I suppose it was just nice to meet someone in MSP that wasn't a snowman in January, too!

    Overall, for me, local events aren't a critical part of my IRL strategy. My metro area is so spread out that attending “local” events would require major time commitment and I'm not willing to invest that kind of time on them yet. I also love trying to make meetings with random people I know from the online world when I'm traveling on projects to their home bases. So far, that's worked better than anything else and has been a good way to get to know a lot of people.

  2. With an outro like that how can I keep my mouth shut. Personally I find all my upcoming dc events at http://www.dctechevents.com/. Ross owns the DC event market and does a great job keeping the calendar up to date. The nice thing is that because he implemented it in Google Calendar I can easily subscribe and it appears on top of my own calendar. Pretty much any night of the week I'm able to attend something interesting.

    The local startup scene has been a great way for me to get plugged into the DC tech scene. I migrated to the DC area from Detroit and being a consultant on the road for 2 years I never got a chance to meet the locals. These events got me plugged in quick and people who actually understand and listen to my babbling.

    Anyways, Startup Rockstars was great. Five of the local startups presented, all at different stages of the process. Three of the five really interested me.

    GamerVixens.com is a social network focused on women gamers. Did you know 40% of gamers (online and console) are women? And only 17% of all gamers are under 18? It surprised me too. Great ideas, untapped market, its going to come down to their execution and their community leaders.

    BrandClick.com provides an interesting way to monetize ad clicks. The idea is solid, but to be honest I don't see anything that Google couldn't add into AdSense within a few weeks.

    Lastly is the great group at CreateDebate.com, being in DC they've used the upcoming elections as their initial platform for the launch. The group started as part of a entrepreneur class at a local college and they've really taken off. A very cool social network centered around ideas, discussion and democracy. They've opened up their APIs and also have a SaaS model for businesses to vote on things within an org. I'm really impressed by these guys and look forward to seeing them grow.

    One of the things that struck me odd was that 3 of the 5 startups were building their platforms on the latest .NET architecture. It almost makes me want to spend some time looking into it, almost.

    You'd never think it, but DC has over 200 startups listed with Crunchbase within 100 miles of my house.

  3. One of the things I always find interesting about going to these tech events is when I tell someone I work for Oracle. I usually get two reactions. Either they look at me like I have 8 heads and wonder why anyone would want to work for the behemoth or they say they want to grow up some day and work on the big (technical) problems a company like Oracle solves.

    I can normally break down the first group to understand that you really are solving the biggest software problems in the world and the acquisition strategy isn't all evil. The second group provides a great chance at recruiting opportunities. If they're attending tech events they're likely to be the type of person I like on my team. 😉

  4. I was thinking more of a blogged review, but this was nice. Do you think .NET has to do with the geography? This is a topic I find fascinating, e.g. Portland is all Open Source, all the time, which I think is driven by culture. If I had to pick a stack for the DC area, I would go .NET, again b/c of the culture.

  5. I get those too. The former is more like I just ripped a fart and the person can't wait to get clear of me. The latter never happens in Portland, again an interesting cultural study.

    A third I get a lot is, surprise that Oracle has a presence in Portland. Not common in DC I suspect b/c of that big building right on the highway.

  6. Not for everyone, especially those who a) live far from meetups and b) have family obligations. As an example, I rarely see Eddie, even at daytime events b/c he's a burbs guy who commutes.

    That said, I like meetups b/c it exposes me to new people and new ideas, and it's nice to break away from the Oracle crowd I spend a lot of time chatting with online.

    On a traffic note, 30 miles takes you 2 hours? I used to do that 2 hour thing over a 60 mile route. Chicagoland traffic sounds pretty terrible.

  7. Luckily, I don't have to go downtown too often. When I do, I take the train: 40 minutes each way, virtually guaranteed. Plus, I can be mostly productive on the train. Today, I'm working Jake-style, in my home office. w00t!

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