My summer in San Francisco is now over and it was a blast. Today I want to briefly comment on the events, meetups and other social events that social media and tech geeks organize over there.
Essentially we have a number of different style of events (from largest to smallest): conferences with expo floors, conferences, massive parties/launch events, networking/pitching events, unconference style events or hack days, evening hack meetups, talks and finally lunches and dinners that were loosely organized over Twitter.
There is nothing inherently special about these events, besides the fact that there are so many of them, happening all the time and that you can easilly bump into people that are very passionate about their subjects and that they’ve often also invented the field or at least made buzzwords in it stick.
The good: conversations, brain-stormings and presentations are more often than not incredibly inspiring, thought provoking and a pure joy to experience. Throw a bit of drinks into it, a pizza or Thai restaurant and it’s a great geek night that fully challenges you beliefs and makes you back to the drawing board and build even greater things.
The bad: there are just too many events and people to meet. Once you extend this to the whole Valley and also throw in all of the less official events, it just gets crazy. On top of that, there’s always a large local community that you don’t know and don’t have shared history with. It gets easier after the third monthly meetup but you need to give a few months and relationships usually can’t be rushed.
The ugly: you’re nobody and there are plenty of people around that talk buzzwords or just leech on the difference communities, without contributing anything back. Unless you have something to contribute on the topic, the community don’t really take you too seriously.
To be honest, the only real way to get noticed is to be involved with one of the hot startups, either as a founder, founding engineer or their advisor. The only alternative is to be a one of those people, that always seems to speak or organize events, knows everyone and is connecting people together.
You have to specialize. This way you can present on the subject, help drafting standards and not just lurk everywhere.
It helps to have a startup/company behind you. At that point you’re not really presenting yourself but the whole team and people judge you (in the beginning), mostly on the public perception of your company/product.
Know what you want and what you’re doing. While social events are great learning opportunity, it’s only really rewarding when you have a goal that everyone helps you achieve.
It also means that you have to stop wandering around different events and invest your evenings into building cool things to show off at those few events that actually matter.
In short: community really rewards and helps bold people that go out and ask the world for impossible, but you have to know what you want and you have to be able to demonstrate that you deserve it.