Last week I had the pleasure of attending my first Nerd Nite. If you’ve never heard of it, they’re an organization with branches in dozens of cities around the globe with a simple program. They take over a bar one night a month and have smart people give short talks. This month’s topics included an innovative ice-cream maker discussing her methods and launch of a thriving business, some San Francisco historians discussing an early-20th-century suburb made of abandoned trolley cars, and a biological engineer talking about antibody synthesis. They talk for about 20 minutes, leaving time in between to head back for a refill, and that’s about it.
And I think it’s totally genius. Here’s why:
Learning new things is fun. Smart people are interested in all kinds of things, and it’s too easy to get trapped in your same old circles in terms of new information (look up ‘filter bubble’ if you don’t know what I’m talking about. This is one of my favorite topics to think about right now). If you go out once a month with your coworkers or friends, you end up hearing about the same kinds of things. This is guaranteed variety. Plus, it’s low-impact (short talks) and high-enjoyment (you’re in a bar, not a classroom). So it’s not the commitment and stress of continuing education or the doldrums of a company self-improvement workshop. The format makes it easy to pay attention and get something unexpected and fascinating out of any given night.
Conversation topics provided. As may be well known from spending time with me ever (or following my Twitter), I like few things more than a pint with friends, but sometimes conversation runs dry and you end up talking about the same old things as always. How’s work? What TV shows are you watching right now? The weather — my god, the weather. Here, you have something novel introduced as part of the night out that immediately sets you off. In fact, my second-biggest disappointment of the night was the fact that my friends were ready to head out right after the talks ended. A wasted opportunity to soak in and chew on the weird and mind-expanding things we just heard which could have probably kept us going late into the night.
The best ’scene’ in any bar. My biggest disappointment though was not taking better advantage of the very full audience to meet some new people. Here we have the most finely self-selected crowd at probably any bar in the entire city. How can that room not have been filled with some of the smartest, most interesting people I’m likely to meet? Again, not filtered the way an industry networking event or interest-based meetup would be, but centered around a more diverse but equally sharp point of similarity — the desire to keep learning. And, well, also drinking.
I won’t pretend every second of the night was a wild success. They could stand a slightly bigger venue as it was almost uncomfortably full. The third talk was a bit dry (and admittedly a bit over my head). But in terms of concept and value, I’m extremely impressed and satisfied. See you there next month maybe?
Posted: January 23rd, 2012
at 7:20pm by brian longtin
Comments: 2 comments