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Brooklyn Beta

Last week, many of the Web's most influential developers and designers converged on a seemingly unremarkable art space (née factory for novelty invisible dog leashes) in Brooklyn for the first of what I hope will become a long-standing conference tradition: Brooklyn Beta.

Brooklyn Beta

Despite having personally helped organize several other conferences in the past, Brooklyn Beta has easily earned a spot at the top of my list of favourite events in my career.

I've been involved with planning this event nearly since its inception, but mostly in an advisory role. My friends and colleagues Cameron and Chris did the heavy lifting and deserve all of the credit, though they'd be the first to object to this statement by identifying the many people who came together to volunteer and without whom the conference simply would not have happened.

The goal of BB was to get a group of developers, designers, and (a few) savvy business-type people — the makers of the Web — in one room to meet, converse, show & tell, and hopefully to inspire them to collaborate and make something. Even though only a few days have passed, I know this effort was successful, and I can't wait to see the applications, sites, art and teams that arise and attend next year's conference.

In addition to the impeccable list of speakers, what really made BB stand out was the group of attendees who had the pleasure of spending the day(s) together. Despite my daze (see below), I finally put a face to many of the people whose blogs and Twitter streams have occupied large amounts of my career.

Much of the time leading up to Brooklyn Beta is a blur — we've been frantically trying to finish our app in time to demo (more below) at BB, in addition to handling last-minute details, and we quite obviously bit off more than we could chew. A tip: organize a conference OR finish a large application; don't do both in the same week.

To keep this from turning into rambling and to let me get back to putting some polish on the aforementioned app, here are a few things I feel worth highlighting, in point form:

  • I am blown away by the overwhelming positivity associated with Brooklyn Beta. I've been following the associated Twitter stream, and with the exception of one misinformed whiner (who didn't even attend BB), I've seen nothing but glowing reviews. Further reading: Fred Wilson (one of our speakers), Josh Smith (Plaid), and Charlie O'Donnell; I also put my photos of Brooklyn Beta on Flickr.
  • The first talk of the day, by Shelley Bernstein, far exceeded my expectations. It's not that I had low expectations, it's that the talk was absolutely full of wisdom and good practices. If you have the opportunity to see Shelley give this talk, I suggest you take it.
  • Marco Arment's talk on giving up his day job at Tumblr to focus his efforts on Instapaper was very inspiring. If I wasn't already hip-deep in a startup, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to resist the urge to build something of my own after hearing Marco speak.
  • Fred Wilson, who — from what I can gather — has been key in funding at least $80M of our peers' projects this year, spoke on Golden Principles for Successful Web Apps. The talk as a whole was very good, but he immediately captured my attention when he opened with a statement that seems obvious to me, but I feel is under-represented in the industry: Speed Matters. This point wasn't buried in the middle of a discussion; it was at the forefront of his talk. Remember this point; Fred obviously knows his stuff.
  • Gimme Bar! As I hinted above, we're on the cusp of launching a project that I've been working on full time since leaving my day job at the end of 2009. We demoed Gimme Bar at Brooklyn Beta and received universally positive and excited comments. This is extremely encouraging. You will hear more about this before next week.
  • Similarly, my friends at Analog demoed their project, Mapalong, which was also positively received. I'm excited for them to be launching as well.

If you missed Brooklyn Beta this year, hopefully you won't let it pass you by again in 2011.

There's so much more I could say… but I've got a project to launch. (-: