Visiting Brooklyn JS from San Francisco

Why Doesn’t San Francisco Have a Brooklyn JS?

I was in Manhattan recently for CSSConf (which on its own was awesome; more on that some other time), but while attending the Brooklyn JS meetup cross-over event, I was inspired to try to recreate the effect back in the SF bay area. Why? Let me try to explain.

All of the meetups I’ve been to in SF were very corporate, very dry, very technocratic. They are hosted at startup offices or worse at large, clean, impressive offices like Google. You are there with three-hundred other people, which you feel intimately because you have to wait in the lobby downstairs with them and ride up the elevators like sardines twenty at a time. Hopefully you don’t have to sign an NDA. Food is often provided, which is either pizza or a startup chef’s take on healthy flatbread. There is often coconut water. I get the inkling feeling everyone there is expecting to be fed. I talk to people, but always about what company they work for, and what skills they have (for I am constantly trying to hire). Corporate sponsorships are always pitches to work there. Talks in SF can be useful, but feel like sermons being preached from a pulpit and admittedly kinda boring, at least for fifty of the allotted sixty minutes.

Brooklyn JS was a crap-ton of fun. I haven’t had so much fun at a “meetup” since never.

Jed and Brian are natural hosts. They make you feel like you’re in their living room, having a cup of tea. I don’t remember which came first, the happy greeting or the barbershop quartet singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow, with Jed as baritone. I knew Jed sang, but only on the fringes of memory and I had never witnessed it. It was calming in a room full of energy, possibly more thanks to the three other members of the quartet than Jed. Jenna Zeigen, the Digital Ocean sponsor, read a punful poem eliciting (gleeful) groans.

Then came the panel. The second-best panel I’ve seen was a very informative one. It was chock-full of useful information I could apply in my own work. The best panel I’ve seen is probably this Brooklyn JS one, made up of Jenn Schiffer, Armando Amador, Claudina Sarahe, and Chris Coyier and moderated by Jed and Brian. And I don’t know if everyone in attendance consciously realized this, and I hope they did at least subconsciously realize it, but the panel and moderators succeeded in making everyone on stage feel totally approachable off-stage. They were hilarious to listen tell anecdotes, opine, and make fun of each other. If you heckled from the audience, it was fine, but you had better be mad clever because they for sure were going to have a witty comeback. Sure, the content was useful and Wikipedia may document this event as the start of the Inline CSS War, but to me this was really about getting to know these people. Afterwards, I knew I could walk up to any one of them and ask to give them a hug. They were human and they were like me, except maybe funnier.

And then, the karaoke. Have you ever seen a member of TC39 sing Queen on-stage? I’m now fortunate enough to have witnessed Rick Waldron belt out Bohemian Rhapsody among a group of singers. Don’t let his waxed curly mustache fool you: that dude likes British rock. Now, I did prefer the more intimately run KaraokeJS (previously hosted by Isaac Schlueter), but this one allowed me to sing a duet of A Whole New World with Asia Hoe, whom I had only met the same day (we nailed it). We are now karaoke buddies for life.

Now what?

So, my fellow attendee Billy Roh and I are venturing to start yet another Bay Area JavaScript-ish meetup in the same vein. The working name is WaffleJS (doesn’t everyone likes waffles?) and we have some crazy ideas. We’re hoping we can recapture what makes Brooklyn JS so special, but also just try to be an alternative to the current tech meetups in the Bay Area. I’m putting Fun and Creativity as our priorities. I hope it will be irreverent and unifying.

If you’d like to help or have some ideas (or even things you’d like to see avoided), you can find us organizing on GitHub.

Update: Our first event will be August 5 at SOMA StrEat Food Park. If you like fun, waffles, and tech (and karaoke), come join us!

Also, thank you Mariko and Will for behinds-the-scenes organizing Brooklyn JS. They never come on stage, so you’d never know how much they do (I still have no clue).