I just returned from the two day Gnomedex, a geek conference / gathering / networking session put on by Chris Pirillo, aka LockerGnome. Chris is a friend I came to know through an internet entrepreneurs group we both belong to. (I could name the group, but then I’d have to hurt you into silence.)
This was my first Gnomedex. I was amazed at the number and caliber of attendees. Naturally I ran into other folks I already knew like Chris, Dave Taylor, and Jake Ludington. But I also found myself putting faces to many names I’d only seen online.
If I had to rank ’em, I’d put Wil Wheaton’s talk the most entertaining, by far. Much his time was spent in readings from his books, but that doesn’t really capture it. Not really a “reading” and not really a “performance” of the material, he brought it to life in a way that, quite honestly, had me confused sometimes where the reading began and his off-the-cuff comments started. It was all good. Yep, he’s a geek. I was fortunate enough to have him sign a couple of books for me … more on that little story below.
Woz, aka Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple Computer, (also a geek, by the way) was the keynote speaker. I’d never heard him before, and he wasn’t quite as polished a speaker as I was expecting. His stories of how he started, how he got into computers, and how Apple came to be were interesting and entertaining, and I found myself really identifying with his very early electronics experiences. I was, however, disappointed that he didn’t have much to say on the current state of technology, and what he saw, or planned for the future. In fact, he seemed to have a hard time answering a “so what are you doing these days?” question from the audience.
The Gnomedex technical content was in the form of four panel discussions followed by, or interspersed with, audience comments and questions. To be honest, I was somewhat disappointed. I think I would have preferred at least a couple of sessions with a strong, single presenter on a topic, followed by Q&A. The problem with all four of the panel discussions is that they quickly got derailed on to side issues, and in a couple of situations rat-holed on what I thought were really tangential issues. Not that they weren’t interesting, they just took most, or all, of the time away from the topic that was supposed to have been discussed. Perhaps a stronger moderator in each case
would have helped, but I’m not totally convinced.
I did walk away with a few notes, pointers and as I like to call them, “nuggets” of information, but I’m currently not convinced that it was worth my time to be there. That’s not to say it wasn’t incredibly valuable for many, if not most of the attendees, but for me …. “eh”.
What doesn’t help is that I suck at networking. Really, truly, suck. What can I say? I’m gotten better over the years, but at heart I’m still a nerdy geek-boy introvert who’s more comfortable behind a keyboard than in a room full of strangers. And that’s perhaps the biggest personal opportunity I lost at Gnomedex, and one of it’s biggest values. It was a room full of high caliber industry … geeks.
I mentioned above that I was fortunate enough to have Wil Wheaton sign a couple of books. More correctly, I was fortunate enough to get in line early enough that I could purchase his books before he ran out. (Wil, if you ever read this: thanks for taking my check, and “whoo hoo” for selling out. Uh … selling out of the books, I mean.)
I’d been planning for a long time to purchase both of Wil’s books, so this was a great opportunity. I also picked a copy of “Dancing Barefoot” for my friend Steve.
Now, Steve hated Wesley Crusher with a passion. When TNG was on, had taken to calling him “The Young God Wesley”, in reference to the character’s ability to walk in, make some insightful discovery that all of the adult characters on the show failed to see or grasp, and save the day. Repeatedly. Ad – gagging – nauseum, Steve might say.
So Wil was nice enough to sign a book “To Steve”, and include “F.K.A. The Young God Wesley”. (“I’ll write whatever you want” was his quote, but naturally I didn’t have time in the signing line to let him know The Rest of the Story.)
Don’t worry, Steve “gets it” that the actor is not the character. It’s totally symbolic, and he’ll get a great kick out of it. He’ll also enjoy finding out that Wil’s not that much different from him (right down to D&D), and hearing about WILLIAM F. SHATNER.
I read Dancing Barefoot before I left Lake Tahoe. It’s a kick, and I’m looking forward to Just a Geek.