Face To Face Still Wins

I miss Real World greatly because it wasn’t about the sessions (though I thoroughly enjoyed them).  It wasn’t the after-hours entertainment (though I really enjoyed that as well).  It was the people that I talked to before, after and sometimes during sessions (in the hallway of course).  It’s where ARBP was born due to networking with a bunch of other REALbasic developers.

Here’s the money quote from the CPU blog:
The point is, face-to-face still matters. And in fact all our globally-connecting-social-networking tools are making face-to-face more, not less desirable. Thanks to the tools y’all are building, we now have more far-flung friends–including people we’ve never met f2f–than ever before. We now have more people we want to connect with in the human world, often after years of electronic-only contact.

Isn’t that the truth?  Now that I know more people and keep connected with business networking sites like Linked-In I want to meet these people face-to-face even more – not less.

I don’t know about you but I get inspired to do great things when I’m around other developers.  It’s one of the reasons why I like having my employees in the area.  I don’t need to see them every day (I’m sure they don’t want to see me every day either!) but, when we get together we get and feed ideas to each other that I’ve never gotten just via email and phone.  As much as video-conferencing is easy to do I don’t feel much inspiration with it (I think it’s the one thing that Star Trek never really got right IMO).

The blog post continues with a list of suggestions for getting users to meet other users in the real world:
1    Put together a “How To Start A Local User Group or Club” document.
2    Offer free materials for the user groups
3    Treat your user group leaders like royalty
4    Instead of a traditional user group, provide guidelines for a Study Group
5    Hold a very low-cost annual weekend conference.
6    Encourage users to start a local BarCamp (or other *Camp).
7    Use Meetup.com as a resource!
8    If you already have online user forums, enlist moderators to try to form an offline meetup.
9    Hold special cocktail receptions/parties for user group leaders at industry conferences in your domain.
10    Advertise/promote your user group events on your main page!

Of these, perhaps #5 is the most interesting for RS.  As much as I like Austin, I’ve now been there multiple times and since I’m no longer young enough to be a bar hound I’d much rather go to some places that I’ve never been or have some interesting things to do.  Boston, Chicago, LA and maybe New Orleans would pretty much cover most of the US and those are interesting (if not destination) cities.  I’m not sure what cities would be good in Europe and Asia, but I’m sure you could get good coverage there as well.

Thankfully RS has already said they would hold regional events.  Only time will tell what the regional conferences will be like.  Hopefully there will be a mix of marketing and technical based on feedback of potential attendees in the area.  If RS will work with us, ARBP will try to hold a day of training before or after the event.

The drawback to this approach is that I can’t image RS saves any money by doing the regional events rather than just 1 event like Real World.  I might be wrong, but in Austin all the local people got to go home at night.  The regional events would require airfare, hotel and many other expenses.  Scaling back the engineers is the only way to save costs, but then is it as effective in drawing people in?  I know many people went to Real World JUST for the access to the engineering staff.  I dunno if it’s feasible in these economic times.

What are your thoughts?  Do you prefer the face-to-face events?  Do you think smaller regional ideas is better than 1 world-wide event?