Thursday, 17 December 2009

GeekFest and Beirut

BeirutImage via Wikipedia

So the dust has settled on GeekFest 3.0. How was it? Well, at least today you get better than the last post-GeekFest report, which can be summarised as 'W00t'.

Attendance was down last night, which rather wrong-footed Saadia and I as we had catered for 150 people following last GeekFest's awful F&B shortages (We estimated 100 geeks and at least 200 pitched). Last night we allowed for 150 and we think something like 80 people actually pitched, the same as at GeekFest 1.0. So everyone got particularly well fed, and that included the stunning spicy prawns, which were stunning, spicy and prawny. In short, they did what it said on the box.

Woah! Attendance down? Is GeekFest dead?

Don't think so, really. Last night was a 'dry night', so many people stayed home or went to home party events. It was also a holiday night for many, the first public screening of Avatar, the last night of DIFF and the thirteenth Monday after the summer solstice. Add to that a number of people had already flown home or were over-busy with homegoing preparations and you get a growing number of Tweets yesterday that said 'Won't be doing #GeekFest tonight'.

What we did have was a smaller, more 'hardcore' audience that stayed around longer and chatted harder.

The GeekTalks were smashing - the Shabib boys were engaging, entertaining and intelligent, Omran Al Owais' ideas for mosque design in the C21st were amazing and deserve to be put into action - that someone is willing to bring change to religious practice that is yet true to the spirit and intention of observance was quite stunning. That Omran met with 'Not Like This' as a response from authority is no surprise, depressing though that be.

Jack Frizzell's talk about ZU's newsletter/web/social campaigns was great - it was an engaging look at how you create a grassroots community tool of real value, bring people together, drive participation and change the way stuff is done. Brilliantly, Jack also shared measurement of the success of the programme he's been running, which in itself drew a round of applause.

Dan Stuart's view of online education and translating formal learning activities into a way of structuring your personal online interests, interactions and engagements was another way of looking at stuff that I, for one, do 'organically' - but he tied together these things in a way I hadn't thought about. For that, alone, I found his talk worthwhile.

However, you can actually have too much GeekTalk. The problem is that The Shelter's theatre seats, max, 50 people and everyone wants into the talks because the atmosphere in there is electric - a casual, bum on the floor audience with great speakers who have something interesting to say and Q&A that is a real 'bounce-around' of ideas and attitudes.

Trouble was this time around that the audience knew that moving meant losing your place, so there was no movement of people between talks. Which meant that many people simply couldn't attend talks they'd really like to have seen.

What's the solution? Not sure. GeekFest Dubai will ALWAYS be held at The Shelter. Transferring the talks to the main room means breaking all those groups and conversations up - so I think, at least for now, we'll keep the talks in the cinema. What do you think? How do we let people sit in on the talk that they really, really want to attend when seats are like gold dust? Without bringing in regulation and thought police stuff?

Quietly, two brilliant graffiti artists were decorating the outside 'garden' area of The Shelter throughout last night's event. I loved that this GeekFest's art event was unheralded and, in the main, unnoticed. We think an art event should be part of every GeekFest now, even if you have to look really, really hard to find it. Again, would value your opinions.

Thanks are due to the TechnoCase peeps. The LG screens were sweet and the svelte LG surround-sound speakers played the evening's DiscoBallBreaker-provided soundtrack nicely. The AMD graphics stuff was stunning and had Geeks smashing cars or zooming into 3-screen panoramic views of the earth all through the evening, so that was nice. The TechnoCases are meant to engage conversation and AMD's gaming stuff certainly had the gamer boyz and gurlz drooling, slack-mouthed and generally paddle-fingered. Which is, as conversations go, slightly sad. But then you can never really talk with gamers...

The big news of the night is something that we didn't quite get around to sharing. Because we're shit at running community events, basically.

Yesterday we committed to running GeekFest in Beirut, Lebanon. The plan is to hold the first event at the end of January 2010 - Saadia and I will be working with the amazing (to steal a catchphrase) Alexandra Tohme, whom many will know from her work at Zawya Dow Jones, to pull the event together. We're very much in the back seat on this, Alex is driving it and owning it and is to blame for it in every way. In fact, Saadia and I are really just there to take the credit and will obviously disown Alex in a nanosecond if it isn't all just awesome. Alex is better known on Twitter as @alexzawya.

GeekFest Beirut will be the same as Dubai. UNorganised. And it will be bloody fantastic.

*(Ten demerits if you Googled '13th monday after summer solstice' because I made that up just for the hell of it)
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Oussama said...

This is my second GeekFest and it was good to catch up with friends. All the presentations were awesome and relevant. I agree with you, the venue for the talks adds to the atmosphere of informality and somehow relevance, reminds me of college days study groups. Having said that, I found out I was not made for sitting on steps for a long time.

Kudos to Saadia and yourself

KJ said...

I must tie myself to the back of a car and get dragged along SZR till I catch fire from the friction for missing this event!

As for the shows, could you have a videocam inside and hook it to one of the TVs outside, and talk with the LG people (or whoever is providing the tech) to provide headsets for those who wanna listen?

aimee said...

I was so sorry to have to leave GF before it really got going - great to pop in and see folk, but the lurgy was strong, and I've spent the weekend in bed, so prob best I didn't stay to infect the geek community!
My thoughts - I reckon you could use a projector on the main wall and shut the lights down for the talks, using the cinema and area by the loos for anyone who doesn't want to listen - they are the minority methinks? You'd get a great mingling effect, with instant discussion and freedom to move around which the seated cinema doesn't encourage so much. That's just my 2c.. Congrats on the event and sorry I couldn't stay.

Dan Stuart said...

Great event at which I was happy to speak. I really appreciated how switched-on and engaged the audience is...a real treat for a speaker. Big thanks to Alex at al.

Alexandra Tohme said...

Well you certainly put a good disclaimer for the event in Beirut, I particularly loved the "disown in a nanosecond" but i have found a smaller unit of time, yes, its called the YOCTOsecond.

Hopefully a good turnout at the tweetup tonight in Hamra will result in some good thoughts.

Alex Tohme

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