Friday, October 21, 2011
I was invited to attend Brooklyn Beta in 2010, but due to other obligations, I couldn’t make it. What I heard in snippets, blog posts and tweets afterward only intrigued me further, and this year I was able to attend. The things I’d heard? They were barely an indication of what I experienced.
Presented by FictiveKin and Analog (more appropriately, Cameron Koczon and Chris Shiflett) as well as a supporting, devoted crew of thirty, it took place in, well, you guessed it, Brooklyn. More specifically, The Invisible Dog — an art gallery–cum–event space that BB rented out for the event. It was the perfect location — neither a hotel ballroom or a traditional conference facility or hall — but a true creative space that matched the event itself.
This was my first time to Brooklyn. Laurel and I stayed in Bed-Stuy, a part that’s seen very little gentrification, where we set ourselves up in a beautiful Airbnb brownstone that our host made a little oasis of. The neighborhood was a little rough around the edges, but it never concerned me much. In actuality, it epitomized this event for me. Heartfelt, honest and raw.
We have a saying, a motto, among our friends back in San Francisco — “We live raw here.” This is a term of endearment. That we live “hard.” And I experienced that in Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Beta was:
- The kind of conference that made me reevaluate the worth of every other industry conference.
- So exciting that every night I’d recap the speakers and their talks to Jen over the phone with a palpable excitement.
- So good that my aforementioned excitement makes Jen, who never attends these sorts of things, want to attend next year’s.
- A necessary hub, binding together the disjointed thoughts that were on all our minds. I often found myself texting other attendees (who were sitting in other places in the same room) with backroom chatter and points of interest that went something like, “Woah, we’re thinking about that too!”
- A well-run, tightly executed event, but that allowed and, more importantly, adapted and listened to the general flow of its attendees. When things got off schedule, it was all good. We all adapted and were in it ‘til the end.
- Not a conference I expected lunch and dinner at, and yet, there it was. Plus, late afternoon snacks. And coffee. And beer. All of it from local businesses that fit in right with the crowd. Circling in and closing the loop.
- Not a design conference. Not a development conference. It was bigger than that. It made you think beyond what you do. It made you feel small, but in the way that small ripples are what make big waves. That we’re all in this together and that together we can truly make a difference.
- Cameron Koczon and Chris Shiflett’s vision come to life. I kept saying to myself, “This is some next level shite. So dope!” Cue Aziz Ansari mimicking R. Kelly in a skit: “Who can top that shite, who can top that shite!”
- As good as its speakers, but as good as its attendees. Yes, it was a smaller intimate event. Yes, only so many can attend. Yes, it sucks that way. But my god, I can’t see it scale up. You’d end up with the mess that SXSW has become. Quality over quantity applies here. Call it elitist if you like, call it exclusionary, but I call it quality control.
- Amazing. Wonderful. Energetic. Inspiring. Full of love.
The motto or tagline of Brooklyn Beta was everywhere: “Make something you love.” The design, by Workshop, emphasized “Make” and “Love,” and so, from a distance or with skewed or unfocused eyes, all you saw was “Make Love.” Sure you could snicker at that, but I latched onto the idea that we should be makers of things that make people feel loved. Appropriately, Brooklyn Beta did just that.