This afternoon, as I returned to New Work City from watching the winners of the Yahoo! Open Hack Day, I was thinking - why is this one fo the first efforts to gather developers together in a community setting to do development? What happened to the semi-regular efforts that go on in other development groups?
I know of various tech meetups like NYCPython, NYC PHP Meetup, and other groups that connect here at NWC, but something I have been craving is a form of community that I saw happening in Silicon Valley in the way of SuperHappyDevHouse originally started at an old college friend's home, David Weekly (of pbwiki fame).
Long ago (34 events ago), Dave and some of his friends rented a house in the foothills along Highway 280 (about 10 miles north of Stanford). After causing a police action to occur at their home, they took a page out of the storied LAN house concept and began to take out their regular furniture and bring in long tables and set up chairs throughout the house. Then they'd set up wifi and power throughout (beefing up the power distro and the Internet connection) and invite a few hundred friends over to hack away at whatever they were doing.
Toward the end of the day, they would set up a screen and have the different developers who were working on projects, show off their wares to the other people in the event.
Granted, this was series of developer/testosterone driven events - but it gave this community of developers a chance to connect, socialize and perfect their skills (or skillz) through regular events.
At the Millenium Hotel today, I saw a glimpse of this here in NYC - where developers were amoungst their peers making a mark on their own work - after a night of hacking on the 8th floor of the hotel. Granted, Bre and the Makerbot (or Makerbox, I mistakenly call it at times) crowd might have been the rowdiest of the crew (with their new News Toast concept), the energy in this group was supportive and enthusiastic. Showing your warez to your peers after working with other peers - and getting applause for great work - this is the positive reinforcement that developers and creative types need to push through the tougher slog there is in being a minority within a larger community.
Much like how religions draw strength from regular gatherings and remembrance of teachings long ago, events like this can help foster strength, resilience and depth amongst the community to continue what is necessary here in New York - a skills-base of developers and creators who want to make things and continue to become successful.
We need this kind of effort - this kind of regular event. Not once a year, but once a month - like SHDH. Reading the post from Fred Wilson on how New York was getting cred for having google have it's second largest office in NYC and Microsoft having its large office here as well - this is not a measure of their contribution to the community of developers - this is a mark of their acknowledgment that media dollars are here in NYC - and developers here are often sales engineers, not originators of new solutions or services.
Yahoo's effort in doing Hack Day here (as well in other locations like Chicago, South Carolina and London) is about the outreach and connection to the communities. With their libraries (like YUI 3.0) and their new YQL service, they are engaging in a grassroots effort to build up the community. It is about lifting all boats, not just about the ones nearest Sunnyvale, that will increase marketshare and technology adoption.
I ring out a clarion call for others who wish to make this a common occurrence here in NYC - and would like to make another one happen in January 2010.
(Thanks to Chris Yeh and his team for putting in the investment and time into making this event so successful.)