1st Fox Valley Geek Dinner

A gaggle of geeks gathered for a good time on 16 October 2007 at Fratellos Riverfront Restaurant in Appleton under the mantle of the first Fox Valley Geek Dinner.

The dinner was a good start to what I hope will be a tradition of memorable geek dinners in the Fox Valley, northeast Wisconsin and other parts of Wisconsin. As mentioned in a post a month ago, the idea of starting the geek dinners in this region sprang for reading a blog post and from having read "Never Eat Alone" by Keith Ferrazzi.

The conversations in which I took part or which I overheard on Tueday evening were interesting and fun. They also held the seed of future conversations and collaborations. Those future interactions between people who met at the dinner will be fun to follow and hear about in years to come.

The geek dinner started at 6 PM, although several of us arrived at 5:30 to get the lay of the land and relax with quiet chit-chat before the actual event. Not too long after 6 PM, the group wandered from the bar area to our table. There were ten of us for dinner, although next time I might set it up for eight if most participants don't know each other. Ten or twelve people will be a nice size if most of the dinner participants have met at least once or twice so they know names and a bit about each other. But when a majority of the people don't know each other, eight is likely the maximum number which will allow everyone to talk for at least a short while to every person at dinner.

The food and atmosphere at Fratellos was generally good, but a Fox Valley search to find a quieter setting with a round or oval table is needed. A quieter setting would have allowed people to more easily talk in groups of three to five. At Fratellos, it was difficult to have more than two or three people included in a conversation. Having a round or oval table would also connect the group better than a long narrow rectangular table.

Digital pictures of the event to include with this blog post were in the master plan, but with everything else I was doing on the afternoon of the 16th, I forgot to bring the camera. It would be nice if I had a thin pocket-style camera like Justin K's Canon Elph, although Canon primarily calls them PowerShots these days. Maybe Santa will bring me the PowerShot 850, which is 3.6" x 2.2" x 1.0" -- it fits nicely into a pocket whilst still feeling like it's not a toy. With a 4X optical zoom, 8 mp, image stabilization and all the typical modern digital camera features, the 850 would be much more fun to put in my pocket than my older Canon PowerShot A610.

The dinner lasted longer than I expected, with the first person trying to exit about 9:40 PM, although I think it was actually 10:20 when he left. Some of the people had long drives, including the far side of Lake Winnebago, Milwaukee and Wausau. The last four of us to leave decided to get a cup of coffee or something else to sip on while we chatted. Turned out that Starbucks and Copper Rock had already closed, so we ended up at Basil's. By the time I got home, midnight had already passed by...

We'll set up the next Fox Valley Geek Dinner soon. I'm sure there are other tech-inclined people in northeast Wisconsin who will enjoy spending a few hours over dinner with other like-minded inhabitants of this region. Building the tech community will unquestionably lead to worthwhile and enjoyable new relationships. With a bit of luck those new relationships will also lead to some great new ventures or adventures.

Here are websites of the people at our first Geek Dinner (if I missed some, let me know and I'll add them) :

Appleton Products USA
Abba Makolin Waldron & Associates, LLC

I always look at events and projects with a critical eye and try to figure out what I could have done differently to help things turn out better. Not everything went the way I had envisioned for the geek dinner, but I've got some ideas for making the next one even more 'successful.' In spite of there being a few things I wasn't satisfied with, however, all the feedback I've gotten so far was that people enjoyed themselves and will show up for future Geek Dinners. In the end I guess that's the real test of whether it was worth pulling the event together.



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