14 October 2013
Brooklyn Beta Breaks Wide Open
2013 was a pivotal year for the [Brooklyn Beta] (https://brooklynbeta.org) conference. It’s the web conference that defies us all to “Make Something You Love”. It was fourth year for the conference, in which word of mouth had driven an unprecedented demand for access. The organizers faced a real dilemma this year. Being small is a big part of what made the conference so intimate and amazing, and being so intimate and amazing was what made the conference so popular over the course of the past four years.
After trying invites and lottery systems in previous years, in 2013 they made the decision to break it wide open. They invited three hundred to attend a two day event at the original location, a small art space called The Invisible Dog, and thirteen hundred to attend a one day culminating event at the Brooklyn Naval Yard. Most attendees were also invited to attend break out sessions happening all over the city.
Secrecy has been a tradition of the event. Little to no posted schedule, and no idea of who’s speaking. I appreciate this, I wouldn’t change it. The novelty of the secrecy, mixed with the new format, made the conference a little confusing for my colleague and I, who were both freshmen. Once we figured out what was going on though, we had an excellent time enjoying the city, meeting people and catching up. Also, in full disclosure, we managed to (respectfully) crash a portion of the smaller event on both days. We weren’t sneaky about it, and we never received so much as a sideways glance. Quite the opposite, we were constantly welcomed.
This had so much to do with the culture that was promoted and actively re-iterated by Chris Shiflett, who was a humble and awesome emcee. With every turn at the mic, he invited us to embrace an air of friendliness and inclusion, and we did. I can’t overstate how crucial this was to the energy at the conference.
Brooklyn Beta is a pioneer in an awesome new crop of web conferences. It’s a model for what we do with Cincinnati’s own QCMerge. They’re events that don’t focus on a specific technology, industry, or career path. “I’m From The Internet” is a Brooklyn Beta tag line. If you are, you belong here. It’s refreshing to attend an event that focuses on big ideas, creative people, and inspiring stories. It’s much more like TED than RailsConf. As a developer, it’s easily been one of the best conference experiences of my career.