This is the celebrated journal of Mr. Simon Collison A.K.A Colly

Brilliant Brooklyn Beta

28th October 2010

Back in May (during a drunken Beer Friday in New York’s DUMBO) my friends Chris and Cameron outlined their plan to put on a unique event for the web community. If they pulled it off, it would be fantastic. Well, they did it, and the result was the incredible Brooklyn Beta.

Brooklyn Beta logo

Taking place on October 21st and 22nd in the wonderful borough of Brooklyn (where I hope to live soon), this event brought together a diverse group of attendees from around the globe. We gathered not just to hear some fantastic speakers and attend some wonderful workshops, but also with the aim of getting to know each other a little better, spark new ideas, forge new working partnerships… and drink a significant amount of ale.

I’ve been very fortunate to meet most of the people I always wanted to meet at events over the years, but Brooklyn Beta was overwhelming in that regard. I didn’t just find time to meet established practitioners and (dare I say) heroes, but also a number of really exciting new folks who have come to my attention over the last year or so. Cue ideas for collaborations, and secret reveals of amazing projects that I desperately wish I could write about. All I can say is that people are making so much smart shit that it makes my brain hurt.

Diverse presentations

The program was well curated, and the general theme was based around investing what you do with love. That might sound obvious, but the stories we heard on the day were incredibly inspiring. Shelley Bernstein from Brooklyn Museum shared a warm and funny story of her battle to attract funding coupled with her drive to engage the community through really smart use of social media. Cameron Moll explored the journey he’s taken to make Authentic Jobs such a huge success, with refreshing honesty and personal reflection. Elliot Jay Stocks was even more honest as he explained the successes and mistakes he’s made with the excellent 8 Faces magazine.

It was wonderful to hear Kevin Cheng reveal so much about how the Twitter team arrived at #newtwitter. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson gave us a fantastic insight into what makes an app worth investing in, drawing on his vast experience whilst demonstrating an empathy with developers and a sharp awareness of their limitations and problems. Last but not least, Marco Arment eloquently described the steps he’s taken to make Instapaper such a must-have application across numerous devices. Apparently he doesn’t do many presentations. You’d never know.

My workshop

My Analytical Design workshop took place on the Thursday afternoon, and I don’t mind admitting that I was unusually nervous. This was down to a combination of my attendees (the likes of Jason Santa Maria, Jon Tan and others) and also my decision to explore ideas and interests that as of yet I haven’t truly formalised. This meant that the three hours was a bit of an exploratory journey, with me sharing my investigations, wishes, and motives with the group. Thus, it wasn’t a traditional workshop format, and might even have been hard-going for some, but the feedback was really positive, and has given me the confidence to push these ideas forward for my writing and speaking in 2011. Thanks, all.

Mapalong and Gimme Bar

We saw a number of demos on the day, including the brilliant Mapalong, a tool for personalising and sharing maps around events, places, ideas… anything really. A cleverly designed app, Mapalong is fantastic, and will be available to play with to a testing audience very soon.

We also had the first public demo of a rather brilliant scrapbooking tool called Gimme Bar. Cameron first showed me this at his place the week before, and I was honestly thrilled. It is rare that someone identifies a problem, solves it so elegantly, and really strikes a chord with someone like me. I’m quite a tough judge of new ideas, but Gimme Bar is wonderful for collecting images, videos, text, web pages, and much more. Mark my words, when they make this thing available, designers like me will go giddy with pleasure.

A team effort

Chris, Cameron, and everyone from Analog and Fictive Kin deserve a huge amount of credit for making this event so special. Kudos also to the army of assistants and helpers from across NYC who chipped in to make the event run smoothly, and invest it with a grassroots integrity that made everyone feel welcome. I for one cannot wait for next year.

As a final note, let me tell you that this was the only event where I have been given a free pair of socks. Now, that’s unique.


# Patrick Haney responded on 28th October 2010 with...

From everything I’ve heard, it sounds like Brooklyn Beta was a great event, and I wish Jenna & I could be there. Unfortunately, we were on the opposite end of the country, spending a few days in Hawaii.

Yes, feel bad for us.

The more events like these, the better. I’m really enjoying the smaller, more personal conference/learning events these days. Not that I don’t love Austin in March…

# Petra Gregorova responded on 28th October 2010 with...

Lately, it seems like that there are more and more great conferences happening everywhere. I’ve started a wish-list of those that I would love to attend at some point but it’s becoming harder and harder to pick few in between. There are so many that I’d love to go to, whether it’s for their line up, content or even location.

Brooklyn Beta was most definitely one of them, but found out about it after already using up my yearly conference allowance from work. Bummer! :( So, all I was left to do was reading twitter feed, people’s reactions and their experiences. Just by knowing about the high caliber line up alone, I knew that everyone was up for a treat. Now I know for sure that I’ll have to make it to Brooklyn Beta at some point for the conference, as well as to explore a new destination. :)

# Trent Walton responded on 28th October 2010 with...

Cue ideas for collaborations, and secret reveals of amazing projects that I desperately wish I could write about.

It was great to finally meet you, Simon.  One of those collaborations better have something to do with that shiny new domain Josh Brewer recently registered- even if it’s further on down the list :)

# Jon Tan responded on 28th October 2010 with...

It was a treat to finally cross paths after all these years. Your workshop was insightful, thoughtful, and erudite. Thanks so much for being there, mate.

I’ve heard so many good ideas during and since Brooklyn Beta, it completely validated all of our hopes for it. My only regret is there were so many people I didn’t get to meet. Hopefully next year!

# Christopher Murphy responded on 28th October 2010 with...

It was great to conjure up another chance to catch up over a few well-earned beers and being an attendee at your workshop was a privilege. Your workshop was fantastic and I returned home with two notebooks packed full of ideas and drawings, and lots to think about.

As for the event as a whole, I wholeheartedly echo your sentiments. Cameron, Chris (and the super-committed behind the scenes team) deserve every credit for what was one of the high points of my year. I first heard about the Brooklyn Beta idea from Jon and Elliot over a few beers in Belfast and, like you, imagined the possibilities… Cameron and Chris exceeded these in every way imaginable. They’re genuine passion for the community was evident and should I be fortunate enough to get an invite again next year I will definitely be there in a flash.

# Adam Robertson responded on 28th October 2010 with...

This is a great review of an amazing event, I have come away from Brooklyn Beta after meeting many great people, with a brain full of ideas a new URL and the need to lay low for a few weeks to allow for full recovery.

It was a pleasure to meet yourself and I look forward to New Adventures in January very much.

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