Last Friday I was at TechCrunch’s big mondo party. I met the guy who built del.icio.us. Guy Kawasaki. Dave Winer. Kevin Rose. And many other “famous geeks and technologists” and I spent more than six hours at that event.
So, why did I, in the first hour today at nofoo learn more Web sites and hear more original ideas discussed than at that entire six-hour event? Keep in mind that at today’s event. Keep in mind that for the first hour there was just one guy, Bud Ozborn, there. And he’s not a famous technologist.
Anyway, he told me about Joe Satriani’s “Guitarist TV” that is done using Brightcove, an Internet TV service.
Later as a few other people showed up I noticed we all were learning a lot faster and riffing off of each other’s ideas a lot more than at most of the other events I’ve attended this summer.
I learned about Swaptree, which will let me trade books, DVDs, and other things with you.
Joseph A. Paolantonio joined us and we started talking about identity and presence (he wrote up what he remembers of the afternoon on his blog). I forget why we were talking about Anne Galloway’s blog (she’s a PhD candidate at the department of sociology and anthropology at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada) but I’m glad we did cause she talks about stuff I would never consider. Ahh, it was when we started talking about how we relate to each other and physical spaces.
Anyway at the end we all noted that we had a great time and a great conversation — better than we usually have, even at events where the people are smarter or more accomplished — and started thinking about why that was?
I realized that you can really only talk with three other people at one time. If there’s more than four, then you’ll actually start spliting up into two separate conversations. Get to about six or seven people and you’ll have two conversations and you’ll want to pay attention to both.
So, we’re now already in ADD land for conversations. Pay attention to the interesting one.
It gets worse the more people that get added. Then you want to “graze” for the best conversation — at TechCrunch there were so many interesting people that you couldn’t spend more than a few minutes talking to any one (and there was the social pressure of knowing that the guy behind you listening in could have been a journalist or a blogger that’d put your stupid opinions up for the world to make fun of). If you’re stuck talking to someone at such an event, even someone who is damn brilliant and interesting you keep looking around for someone who is even MORE brilliant and interesting.
And, even if you are a brilliant conversationalist and stay focused on the person in front of you the noise level goes up and up and up. I remember talking with one guy at TechCrunch and I literally couldn’t hear his answers so I gave up on any type of intelligent conversation.
Out of my two years when I attended FooCamp I remember only two conversations clearly. And both of them were in this very small-group clustering and stayed in that cluster for a very long time. One was where the two guys who started Google walked in on Patrick and me at about 11 p.m. in an empty cafeteria. That was an experience I’ll never forget.
Another one was where I was sitting at lunch with Esther Dyson, Stewart Brand, Jeff Bezos.
In what setting have you learned the most in one hour from other people?