Last week I went to New York, Brooklyn to be more exact, for Brooklyn Beta. Brooklyn Beta is a small, friendly web conference aimed at the “work hard and be nice to people” crowd. Once a year, they welcome some of the friendliest web designers, developers, and entrepreneurs to Brooklyn, and invite speakers to highlight meaningful problems that need our help.
Last year tickets sold out very quickly, and many people were unhappy about the experience. This year they had a random drawing for tickets and I was one of the lucky ones to buy one. VI Company was willing to participate in the costs, which is awesome, so I bought a ticket, booked an Airbnb and flight and off to Brooklyn I was! Here’s part 1 of 3 my report:
Chris & Cameron decided to make Brooklyn Beta better, even for those that didn’t get a ticket, so they put together a week (including the weekend) full of events and they called it Beyond Beta. Everyone could pick and choose from events, including talks, hackathons, open houses, meetups, eating, drinking, knitting, and more.
I decided to join the Beyond Beta events on Tuesday and started with an open house at Etsy. Etsy is the world’s handmade marketplace and they have a pretty cool office, however there was no tour, just a brunch/hang-out where I got to meet some of the guys and girls going to the conference and beyond. I met a few guys and tagged along to Manhattan to go to the open house of the Bit.ly-offices.
After this session we walked from Chelsea to the Meatpacking District to visit the Chartbeat office, where Megan Fischer showed us around and we went to Betaworks offices as well. Since we were close to the Highline we ate a nice lunch at The Standard Bar & Grill, why not?
We went back to Brooklyn, to the Invisible Dog where the conference is held. This is normaly an art centre and it shows: cool wooden floors, ceilings and brick walls, great for a conference like this. Etsy had provided a screen printing setup where I printed my own shirt. Later that day I went to Hyperakt’s Backyard Party. They had a keg (translation: free beer), and all the fixins for delicious s’mores. I’m an admirer of their work for some time, so it was nice to meet Deroy and the rest of the team. I also met a couple of people I “know from the internet” like the guys from Oak Studios, Jessica Hische & Russ Maschmeyer and Robert Eerhart.
The folks from Mailchimp had an open-bar at the Clover Club, so naturally we went there, and naturally it was full. Outside I met Maykel Loomans, Dutch designer at Instagram and Able Paris, designer at Big Spaceship. We went to Brooklyn Social for an Old Fashioned. Then we went back to the Clover Club for drinks: a great time and the conference hadn’t even started!
Brooklyn Beta 2012 – Day 1
The first day started of with Aaron James Draplin, a designer from the Mid-West. His presentation was awesome, what a funny guy. I’d seen some of the things he talked about (I urge everyone to watch this) but it was still cool to see him talk so passionatly about working for Barack Obama (“The Man!”) and John Hughes (“When Farmer Ted calls, do the f-ing job!”). Some highlights from his talk: Get cosmic + Celebrate the unsung heroes of design + Work hard and love this shit!
During the summer Brooklyn Beta held a summercamp to help designer-developer teams build the next generation of web products and change the world. During the conference we saw video’s of these products. First up was Maker’s Row. Their mission is to make American manufacturing accessible. Whether you’re a company or individual, they are providing unparalleled access to large and small factories in the USA. After that came Skillcrush, a community-driven, fun way to learn new tech skills and share these with others.
The next talk was by Alex Payne, who works for Simple, a fee-free, customer-friendly, beautifully designed online banking service. Before that he worked as an engineer at Twitter. He talked about figuring out what matters and the topics that you need to deal perils with like: “jurisprudence, economics, ethics and aesthetics. He had to deal with lots of nay-sayers and investors, but it is really rewarding. “You need to love it, to do it!”.
The breaks between talks were about an hour, so everyone has plenty of time to meet each other. I got to meet many awesome people from Tina Roth Eisenberg to Chris Glass, Simon Collison, Greg Wood and Frank Chimero. Lunch was excellent hot dogs from Bark!
Seth Godin, an American entrepreneur, author and public speaker, was next and one of the many things he talked about was Lego. They almost went out-of-business because the only made blocks that do multiple things. You’d have to use your imagination to build something. But only when they made kits that do only one thing did they survive. How sad!
He talked about revolutions: they destroy the perfect and enable the impossible. And he talked about Making versus Assembling: when you are doing something that might not work, you are doing something interesting. If you’re not, you are just following instructions.
Other highlights: You can’t yell at the masses anymore, they’re trying to avoid you. You need to whisper into the ears of those who want hear from you. You need to tell a story! Permission marketing: would people miss you if you were gone? If Linkedin stopped sending you emails all the time, would you ask them why they stopped?
Ben Pieratt, former designer and ceo of Svpply, was next. Svpply is a curated collection of the world’s best products and stores and a few months ago he sold it to eBay. He showed us six lessons he learned from leading and selling Svpply.
- Pursuing scale can cloud the mind and poison your product: he launched Svpply in oktober 2009 and it became popular very quickly. It was invite-only and he got many e-mails from VC’s wanting to invest. He took funding and in 2011 Svpply “plateaued”, meaning the growth was gone.
- Business people talk and they are professional talkers: one of the VC’s made some empty promises, he let another VC go and ended up with no investors at all.
- I am capable of ruining a company through Pride, Fear and Stubbornness.
- Hiring for Culture was absolutely the right way to do it. He learned that his designs are capable of disrupting billion dollar markets.
- People are the medium: not the pixels.
- I love the internet. I want to build for the web.
Another Summer Camp demo: Farmstand. Making it easy to discover and share the best of your local farmers market.
Kyle Neath, designer at GitHub, started with Conway’s law: “Organizations which design systems are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations” and “Have nothing in your houses that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”, by William Morris. “We are driven by autonomy, mastery and purpose. At Github there are no managers, just 123 employees. They favor leadership over management. His advise: build your own tools and make them beautiful: you’ll use it more.