This time last week I was in Brooklyn enjoying the fantastic Brooklyn Beta conference. To say it was a conference though would frankly be insulting; this was a gathering, a coming together of minds and of like-minded folk who all care passionately about the work they create on the world wide web.
I have been to a number of web events in the past and I have to say Brooklyn Beta was quite unlike any of them. So I thought it would be useful to look at why this event was so different to any others and what I got from being one of the privileged few who were able to attend.
The whole is greater than the parts (but the parts still matter)
I would find it hard to put my finger on a stand-out moment at Brooklyn Beta or pinpoint various experiences because the totality of the event was what made it: the talks; the live musical interludes the food (included in the event fee) and an inexhaustible coffee supply; the water bottles, buttons and tattlys the bunting and hand-made signs. This was a labour of love from the organisers that was compiled along a singular theme: make something you love.
Good things take time
Most web events I have attended in the past, with a couple of exceptions, are one or two days. The result can be a disjointed affair and very rarely are conferences aligned along a single, coherent theme. The Build and New Adventures conferences in recent years have challenged this with expertly curated talks and a fringe of supporting events that reinforce the central themes of each. However spreading talks across three days – and without a schedule – really changed the dynamic of the event; it led to a conversational rhythm over the course of the three days involving both speakers and attendees.
What suprised me at Brooklyn Beta was how open and reflective the talks throughout the three days were. In the UK talks tend to be quite theoretical or abstract, sometimes verging on the polemic. I think in the UK we find it quite hard being honest about our failures (and also our successes) and standing up in front of others to speak personally about our experiences.
However the one strand that unitied almost all of the talks at Brooklyn Beta was how introspective they each were. I think the informal and intimate setting really helped here but there is no taking away from how honest, entertaining and transparent each of the speakers were.
Practice what you preach
“Everyone should write a blog because it makes it harder to be a hypocrite. You have to decide what you believe.” Seth Godin #BrooklynBeta— Maria Popova (@brainpicker) October 10, 2012
The theme of Brooklyn Beta was ‘make something you love’ – a call to arms that pleaded for us all to go out there and make things we are passionate about, something that mattered, something we could be proud of. There was perhaps no greater testimony to this call to action than the event itself – it was a labour of love for all those involved in its delivery
There are four, simple things I want to take from my experiences in Brooklyn and carry forth into my work. Four things that I have probably taken for granted in recent years:
- Be honest
- Embrace failure
- Do what you love
- Be an agent for change
Well put, sir. I think the honesty and pure transparency of this year’s speakers stood out to me as well. There’s something to be said about someone standing on sage in front of a group of talented folk and admitting to failures and completely owning up to it. That’s something we all can relate to. And the crowd is so damned wonderful and kind that if the fellas wanted to organize a group hug at the end of the event, there’d be little hesitation. One big ball of love in that place. Good times.
Great meeting you, as well. Hope that we can all hold each other accountable on those goals so we don’t waste all that positive energy and motivation Cameron and Chris put together for us.