I’ve already been accused of drinking the kool aid this week at Gnomedex, and there might just be an ounce of truth in that, but I really don’t care. In the last year and a half I’ve attended what many would consider to be among the biggest tech events on the planet (having done both a Steve Jobs keynote and a Steve Ballmer monkey dance among others) but in terms of substance, Gnomedex is the best so far.
It’s not as shiny as other events, nor does it have A-list speakers, but it’s the substance that counts. Where in the world could I get 30 minutes with the guy running Icanhascheezeburger, and finish the day with the Dancing Guy giving a dance with most of the crowd on stage. Speakers aside, it’s the mix of people that count. I shouldn’t say this, but unlike your typical Valley event where everyone wants to be your friend because they have something to sell, here people don’t have a hidden agenda (on the most part) so you see the real, non-shallow side.
I’ve met up with some really great people. I started the week with Christian Anderson from Jobster. Relatively unknown, but proof positive that PR isn’t evil. I caught up with the Grooveshark team, including the extremely talented SB Spalding. I finally met Drew Olanoff, who is perhaps one of the most energetic, genuine and awesome guys I’ve ever had the privilege to spend time with. I’ve shared a drink or two with Brian Eisenberg, a guy I only knew from Twitter but has turned out to be great company. Brian Solis, the champion of PR 2.0 has a great taste in champagne, and deserves his status as one of the leading PR guys in the Valley. Eric Rice, who sometimes scares me, but is intensely intelligent, and always adds something unique to the mix. I even caught up with Jeremy Wright, my former business partner, who was last seen having a serious drink at tonights (Fridays) party, and adding to the record of strangest things that can happen, we may even renew a business relationship in the future. Of course I can’t forget the world famous Liz Strauss. I remember she came into b5media years ago (I presume she’s no longer there, but I have no idea, we were just hosting her blog) and I can remember saying that I just didn’t get anything she did, but I knew she was the best at it. Years and wisdom have improved my understand of her appeal, and she’s as good in person as she presents herself online.
I’ve missed a pile of people on that list, so my apologies upfront, because there are way too many people to mention. A shout out to Chris Pirillo is due and just, because not only has he delivered the event, he somehow manages to be a nice guy despite the glare and attention he is constantly under. It could of course be a very good act, but even his employees sing his praises, and I’ve not once noted any insincerity yet, and I’d consider myself a reasonable judge on such matters.
What I really love about this event is that most people I’ve met do what they do because they love it. Sure, some make a lot of money along the way, but there’s a genuine passion here that isn’t focused on a Google buyout or their next $10 million round. For me today, it supports the notion that doing what I do for the love of doing it, not just the money, or even for money alone, is not a lost cause. Indeed, it will help drive me to continue doing what I’m doing. An echo chamber of sorts perhaps, but sometimes you have to fly half way across the world to drink that koolaid to keep yourself going. I can only hope that in 12 months I’m in the financial situation to afford another trip back.