Tonight I was once again the "Google Host" (=food+venue) for a meetup of the Web2.0 Mapping & Social Networks group. Catherine Burton organizes and runs the meetups, and adheres to a very strict but successful schedule:
- Everyone in the room introduces themselves, what they do, and answers a question of the night (tonight's was "if you had a buncha extra money, what would you do with it?"- i answered that i'd avoid filling out expense reports - others answered that they'd vote for obama :). There are actually a lot of people at these events (~80?) but as long as people are quick and snappy with their bios, it goes by quick and is a good way of knowing who'd be interesting to talk to later. The problem I see with a lot of developer events is that developers don't have an excuse to talk with eachother, and thus they don't. This way, I can say "So, you work on so&so?" and strike up a conversation. I know ice breakers are cliche and reminds folks of camp and school..but they work!
- Each of 3 presenters are given (something like) 10 minutes to present on their topic, and 5 minutes for questions. Catherine literally puts up colored placards to let them know that they're coming close to the end of their time, and she sticks to it. I admire that, as I've been put in that situation in the past and always found it awkward to try to slow presenters down and grab their attention while they're speaking. But she handles it in a non-obtrusive way. The small amount of time that they're given to present mean that they have to boil it down to the main points or demos that will be relevant for the mixed (tech/business/etc) audience. It also means they can hint at a lot of things that attendees will want to talk with them about later, individually or in small groups, so that also encourages future interaction.
- At the end of the meetup, freeform conversation is encouraged for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how long the room is available (and how soon I have to kick people out). At the first meetup that I hosted, there was actually a group of people passionately involved in a conversation until midnight. This is the part of the night for attendees to meet eachother, ask additional questions of the presenters, discuss collaborations, etc. It's the part of the night where I've made a lot of good contacts: the guys from YourStreet, the guys from Eye-Fi, some startup folk, etc. Tonight I spent a few minutes pinging Tyler Bell's brain about FireEagle integration, and most of the time having everyone tell me that my 5months trip to Australia will be awesome. :)
My quick take-aways from each of them were:
- Abaqus: Cool way to upload GPS tracks, organizing those via tags, and sharing them on permalink pages or blog embeds. My favorite features were a nice marker-bounce-effect, and the ability to upload non-geotagged photos and have them geotagged to a track based on timestamp information in the photos + track. Oh yeah and they were using the Google Maps API, yay. :)
- Planet9: I was really confused at first cuz I swapped Poly9 with Planet9 in my head (they both have spinny globes!), but once I figured out Planet9 was its own company, it was pretty cool. They're doing immersive worlds for navigation, entertainment, mobile, friend-finding, etc. They can even bring in dynamic ads to an environment based on location.
- FireEagle: Well, everyone probably knows this, but FireEagle is Yahoo's service for tying together the various mechanisms (gps/cell tower/etc) for transmitting where-am-i data, storing them on a central account, and then providing a way for users to let other apps use that location data. It's a pretty cool idea, but for me, suffers from one main downfall: non-gmail login. I hate having so many damn logins and user profiles all over the web, and one of the reasons that I love Google is that I can log in once and have access to a gazillion apps. Anyway so the main solution to this problem would be either for Google to own everything, or for the internet to have a central user account system. But the short-term solution is for me to try to make an AppEngine app that lets me auth to FireEagle once and never again, and let me update my location data through that.
Anyway, it was good times once again. I encourage Bay Area folks to attend these meetups. And I need to stop saying "folks"..