For those of you following along with the experiment at home, initial tests suggest adding beer to a web geek meeting does indeed make it more interesting. Or maybe having it on a weekend does that. Or maybe a smaller group. Or pizza. In any case, I had fun yesterday, learned a lot, and I would no longer say “Denver’s web community is boring me.”

Here’s something I learned before lunch even started (aside from the restaurant not opening until noon — oops): I had always assumed punch card computers worked by circuits connecting through the holes in cards. But it turns out they were entirely mechanical, with air bursting through the holes and flipping switches on the other side. Neat.

And of course there were web-specific topics too. But you’ll have to come next time to experience all the excitement. Maybe we’ll swap out pizza for ice cream or something, continue experimenting. In the distance, I still have my eye on BarCampDenver. Things are looking up.

 

Since moving to Denver, I’ve made a concerted effort to familiarize myself with the Denver web geek community. I’ve signed up for every email list I could find and attended every meeting loosely related to what I find interesting on the interwebs. But frankly, Denver’s web community is boring me. I haven’t found a single person playing with iPhone web interfaces nor the Wii JavaScript API nor microformats nor OpenID nor anyone who went to BarCampDenver last year. And few even know what these things are.

The lack of interest in any of those specific trends is not itself a problem. They may all turn out to be just passing fads. But I think these are symptoms of a larger problem: Denver web geekery is not a creative industry; it's a manufacturing industry. There’s an important difference between a web manufacturer, someone who churns out sites on an assembly line schedule using the exact same tools over and over again, and a web artisan, someone who takes the time to investigate, compare, and understand those tools, could maybe fix them when they break.

I want to be in the latter camp, not least because the former camp is being gradually replaced by increasingly automated tools. The manufacturing industry is not a sustainable career path; robots can manufacture. The plethora of web-related jobs and scarcity of candidates (I’m seeking a new coworker, by the way) in Denver is, I think, another symptom of this problem. The jobs are open because they’re unappealing. They’re boring, low-paying, and bound for obsolescence. Just as monoculture is bad for biological communities, it’s bad for this industry.

That’s my theory anyway. So what should I do about it? I’m still trying to figure that out, but when I suggested to the Denver web design MeetUp that once a month meetings wasn’t enough, some good ideas came up. Specifically: 1) go outside, and 2) drink beer. So as a test of these ideas, I’ve proposed an event, and a few people have signed on already.

What: Web Geek Lunch
When: August 18th, 2007 12pm - 2pm

So if you or anyone you know is near Denver and interested in beer, pizza, free WiFi, and web geekery, please spread the word. Hopefully we’ll be doing this more in the future.