There's something that's been irking me for some time now. It's the one reason I least enjoy most technological get-together events, even the purely local ones here in South Florida. The problem? It seems that most of these events aren't about meeting people, finding out who's around locally doing tech, etc. Instead, these events are about sales.
I don't mean booths and vendors showing off their wares. That's a given at any event and is usually what makes them financially possible. I'm talking about the overall attitude people seem to take when attending these things. They see them as a way to "network" and promote themselves, their business, or their services. Rarely do they see it as a way to mingle, make connections, and help others who might need it or find the help they need.
Sure, those things are basically all the same, just with different vocabulary to explain them. Or are they?
Think about this: The first is all about getting something for yourself. The second is all about social interaction (albeit in the name of business). The subtle difference there is the attitude I was talking about.
When I go to these events, I'm always hoping to see what the latest, cool thing a local developer or engineer is coming up with. Or to find out if anyone wants to trade some office space for a couple of hours of scripting. Or maybe to see if anyone needs some connections that I might have to find them a new job, partner, or associate to get their work done.
In fact, I do very little sales when I'm at these events. At BarCampMiami, for instance, I met a lot of new friends, had a great time, but literally didn't make a dime. Later, however, someone I'd introduced to someone else, which turned into a collaboration on a new project, answered my tweet when I was looking for a last-minute graphics artist to change a logo. She did it for free as a thank you.
If I had approached the event with the idea of only schmoozing to get paid, I'd have never made that connection. I'd bet that over half of my Twitter friends and people I email regularly are those I've met at various events like PizzaTweetups and local tech venues.
So now my question is: what will it take to change this paradigm? How do we alter the way people think when they approach these tech events? How do we change them from schmoozers to friends?
Sure, we could pump something interesting into the air, I guess, or make it mandatory for everyone to get drunk. But that all has side effects we may not want. Plus it might be illegal. I'll ask @BocaChief.
I'm not sure what it would take, to be honest. It's something that needs to happen, though. A community that does nothing but attempt to sell to one another is not a community. It's just a group of marketers trying to out-market one another.
Maybe the whole thing needs to be re-thought. Maybe when all that are attending events are these sales forces and nobody seriously into tech shows up, things will change. Or perhaps a grassroots phenomenon like we had in the old days with weekly Dungeons and Dragons get-togethers and pool parties for the old BBS community? Ya, I know. Geeks. Still, that is probably the root of the current social media phenomenon and the Internet itself, really. Maybe we need to start over like that and try this again from scratch.
What do you think can be done? Anything?