1st November 2012
After my trip to Minnesota I travelled straight to Brooklyn. I never need a reason to visit my favourite borough, but I was especially excited to attend my third Brooklyn Beta as this time it would be as an insider, supporting my Fictive Kin.
Figure 1: A selection of badges, including coveted Crew badge.
Following my talk at the Creative Mornings Benefit in DUMBO (more on that in a forthcoming post), I took a slow walk to The Invisible Dog to see how I could help with setup. Unfortunately my focus on that talk had compromised my time, so when I arrived much of the hard work had been done by the core team and army of volunteers. I moved a few chairs and pinned up some banners, but would love to have done more. What’s worse, I was starting to feel ill. Poor lamb.
Figure 2: Setting up at The Invisible Dog.
I managed half-decent reviews (or at least had enough to report) for BB 2010 and BB 2011. Alas this time around I was feeling especially feeble by lunch on day one and ended up retiring back to the apartment, returning only to catch bits and pieces of the following two days. As you would expect, I did indeed soldier on through the evening activities, where I am at my most productive.
That said, I witnessed the incredible opening morning, with the fucking hilarious and honest Aaron Draplin, the wisdom of Seth Godin, and a short set from a musician I like very much indeed, Mr. Ted Leo (sans Pharmacists).
Figure 3: Aaron Draplin gets BB off to a profanity-tastic start.
I caught a few others here and there from a lineup of surprises that also included IT pioneer Ted Nelson, former Svpply founder and Fictive friend Ben Pieratt, dangerous bearded air guitar champion Rob Weychert, Githubber and nice chap Kyle Neath, the brilliant Maciej Cegłowski, entertaining and political Baratunde Thurston, speedy songwriter Jonathan Mann, and Mayor of Newark Cory Booker (now that’s a mayorship worth giving a shit about, Foursquare nerds).
As Dan Mall said on Twitter, “Brooklyn Beta puts forward-thinking designers in a room with forward-thinking politicians. Dwell on the power of that for a minute.” Yeah. Wow.
Lest I forget, there are two other factors that make BB unique. Firstly, the details. Lots of events take care of the details, but Chris and Cameron really make sure the details have details. The namebadges were handmade and had personal thoughts from our Mams, Dads and partners. The button badges were super-collectible and the swag sexy. The Etsy printing presses were steaming hot. The locally sourced food was again top notch (and yes, we had hot dogs from Bark again). With the help of Jessi Arrington and her Super-Mom, the whole Dog was turned into a BB playground full of frills and thrills. In fact, just about everyone from Studiomates, Fictive Kin, and anyone I ever met in Brooklyn seemed to help in some way. Incredible.
Figure 4: Thanks to Shiflett and my Mother for the personalised biography.
The other big factor of course is the community. This year more folks than ever were packed in to the Dog, including 50% who won much sought after tickets through the lottery. This created a mix of loyal BB veterans and new faces that made the extra-long breaks a real conversational treat. In the evenings there was Rock Band, dance routines, and hula-hooping at the venue. We even had a puppy party. Elsewhere there was more fringe activity than ever, with companies such as Hyperakt and Squarespace opening their doors. There were parties from the likes of Mailchimp, Kickstarter, Twitter, and Facebook — all eager to get a piece of the BB action. Rest assured I got an unhealthy piece of their bar tabs.
I’m sorry to those who were not there if I’m rubbing your nose in dirt you can already taste, but Brooklyn Beta 2012 was really special, and in its third year finding its stride and wearing its identity better than ever. Sure, I had to miss a few of the presentations, but that’s only a small part of a bigger experience. Something quite unique happens in Brooklyn each October, and many of us find it difficult to articulate why it matters so much to us.
Figure 5: Chris and Cameron close Brooklyn Beta 2012. Proud of them both.
What I do know is that I come away inspired and eager to work, but with a fresh sense of danger. I feel unsafe, in a good way. By that I mean I feel challenged, and I feel the work I do is a privilege. It isn’t good enough for me to rest easy, accept things as they are. At Brooklyn Beta we inspire each other to work harder, make a bigger difference, affect change, and try to help others.
I’m sure this sounds incredibly grand and overblown to some of you, but many of us feel re-energised after BB. There is an enormous sense of positivity, a feeling that we can each make a difference, and use our skills to do good work with good people for good people.
At the very least, we are reminded to “make something you love”, in the knowledge that others will love it too. What could possibly be better than that?
Figure 6: Make something you love, and others will love it too.