Meeting up with Dave Winer, in NYC

Dave Winer is back in his native New York this holiday week and presided over his latest meetup tonight, an 'unconference' at The Cooper Union.

I met up with “a self-described male, native of New York, resident of Berkeley. 51 years old. 6 foot 2 inches tall. Etc. Having participated in the development of RSS,” tonight at the “Wollmann Lounge” in The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, in downtown Manhattan.

The “self-described male,” Dave Winer, is back in his native New York for this holiday week, and presided over his latest meetup, an “unconference” at The Cooper Union, billed in advance as “the best-attended NYC meetup of a certain ilk.”

Well-attended it was; About 50 New Yorkers (and a few out-of-town visitors) gathered to talk tech, together.

Winer called the meetup promptly to order at 5:30pm; He took to the conventional “presenter’s table” at the front of the auditorium, but promised an unconventional evening.

Photo by Donna Bogatin

Winer prefaced the meetup with a nod to “unconference” philosophy and protocol: “the intelligence in the room isn’t up here, it is out there.”

In preparation for tonight’s meetup, Winer referenced the BloggerCon unconference format at Scripting News, discussing the role of a discussion leader:

Think of the discussion leader as a reporter who is creating a story with quotes from the people in the room. So, instead of having a panel with an audience we just have people. We feel this more accurately reflects what's going on. It's not uncommon for the audience at a conference to have more expertise than the people who are speaking.

The discussion leader is also the editor, so if he or she feels that a point has been made they must move on to the next point quickly. No droning, no filibusters, no repeating an idea over and over.

The discussion leader can also call on people, so stay awake, you might be the next person to speak!

Winer threw out a few ideas to jump-start conversation—his previous night’s “exciting” Knicks game, “surging” the troops in Iraq—no takers, so he used the discussion leader’s perogative and called on someone!

Winer asked Steven Levy to talk about the development of his latest book: “The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture and Coolness” and asked for insight on “How do you write a book?”

With the tech ice broken, the “intelligence in the room” soon surfaced in lively discussion of Apple stock options, second time entrepreneurs and Microsoft patents. The diverse views expressed reflected the diversity of the audience: software developer, Internet marketer, IBM exec, IP attorney…

The official meetup officially adjourned at 7pm, it was then on to a Cuban restaurant for dinner, cocktails and conversation.

I asked Winer what he had hoped to accomplish at tonight’s meetup:

I never have expectations going in, but it is good to learn stuff and have fun.

Mission accomplished.