Why we created the Media Party and it became an extravagant party about media innovation with global reputation
In March 2011 we founded Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires just when the wave of deep transformation of media landscape began to rise. In the first meetings we made in Buenos Aires many programmers and very few journalists showed up. The idea of Media Party emerged after making #hhba meetups during one year. We started travelling to some international events and we saw that it was going to be difficult to explain to our community what was happening elsewhere. In October 2011, I was invited to an event called Media Fabric made by Sourcefabric in Prague where I met Douglas Arellanes, who has since then come to the Media Party every year.
Then I went to Mozilla Festival, a three day event at the University of Ravensbourgh in London organized by Mozilla Foundation which I found shocking. It was a nine-floor building with people doing things at every level. No keynotes, no presentations, no power points. One of those levels was hosted by the Knight-Mozilla Open News program, where Aron Pilhofer, at that time in The New York Times, was putting together the first book of data journalism The Data Journalism Handbook. I thought we had to try to replicate this event in Buenos Aires.
Five years later, we have the biggest Hacks/Hackers community in the world with 6000 members, over 88 other cities (including foundational ones), and much of that has to do with the creation of Media Party, which is a kind of conference, workshop and hackathon with a couple of characteristics of our communities that we didn’t saw elsewhere. This time, we managed to convince Aron Pilhofer to come down: yeah, the guy that built may be the most impressive interactive team inside the New York Times, but also founded Document Cloud and Hacks/Hackers. Pilhofer also led The Guardian interactive team and he is now returning to the United States.
The aim of Media Party is to transfer knowledge from different communities, in an open and collaborative space, something that not usually happens in events where journalists are all sitting listening talking heads. In the Media Party we schedule talks, a media fair and workshops and every of those have a productive spirit: people tell what they do, how they do, what tricks they use. The amount of free hours offered from the community exceeds any other workshop, course or training event in the market (more than 100 hours of workshops). And we have a lot of successful stories on the Media Party as an opening gate to many people who got jobs, built projects, companies, etc. It is a heads breaking event.
Other wanted to replicate Media Party in many countries with diverse luck. They tried twice in Miami, and now there is an experiment to be done in Africa. But the heart of the Media Party is Hacks/Hackers Buenos Aires and entrepreneurial and collaborative community that we’ve been putting together the last five years. The Media Party is about people. A formidable network that we created in the last five years and continues to grow.
The event is scalable, much as we are allowed by the infrastructure of the venue Ciudad Cultural Konex: it started with 15 or 20 workshops in 2012, and now is going to have around 50, with 200 sessions in total. Sadly, wee had to reject too many proposals this time.
This year we are bringing media entrepreneurs to work on media innovation in an industry that is changing quickly: Russia, China, Australia, Spain, United States. The model we invented mutates depending on the year, according to the needs of the community, as we learn: the short talks came from needs of small projects to have more visibility. This year we will give space for start-up companies to present to investors (so-called pitches) because we believe that we need to train better media companies looking for funding. But the core is that every talk, pitch or workshop ends in a big hackathon.
We have also managed to attract new partners, in addition to market validation with support from IBM that comes to teach technology of artificial intelligence and semantic analysis, Amazon with scalable technologies, WordPress and Google Shield, which allows us to diversify sources and make the event sustainable over time beyond any mishap.
Modesty aside, there is nothing like the Media Party in Latin America in terms of quality and quantity of exponents or the size of the community, and very few gatherings in the world that have this model. It’s also a demonstration of the power of Hacks/Hackers as a global and decentralized network and at the same time focused on personal relationships based on reputation that can make an event like this, even if it was not run by their founding cities like San Francisco, New York or London. Media Party is recognized as a phenomenon to follow and study. We think it is like a big cinema festival, but more fun because we make our own movie.