Melbourne web geeks follow Oxford pub tradition

MELBOURNE -- Following on from the Oxford tradition, Melbourne Geek Night is an informal get- together for people who work in the web and design industries to collaborate, innovate and share ideas.
Written by Lieu Thi Pham, Contributor

MELBOURNE -- Beers and ideas flow steady at Melbourne Geek Night, an informal night of short talks for people who work in the web and design industries to swap skills and share ideas in the relaxed setting of a bar.

Hosted by Ben Tollady and Andrew Gunstone of Melbourne's Thirst Studios, the bi-monthly event is focused on a series of micro-talks that explore new techniques and technologies on web-related topics that cover everything from 3D printing to gaming economics.

"Melbourne has an amazing wealth of smart, creative people, particularly within the web industry, but lacked a forum like this in order to facilitate the regular sharing of skills and ideas," Melbourne Geek Night Co-founder Ben Tollady said.

The idea for Melbourne Geek Night was inspired by both the Melbourne Ignite Talks and the Oxford Geek Nights. Tollady, originally from Oxford, heard about the Oxford Geek Nights from a friend who described the event as a very popular knowledge-sharing night held upstairs at a pub.

Tollady was impressed when he heard that the event was based not only around socialising but on an informal presentation format that ran to a strict 5-minute per talk schedule.

"It meant that the speaker had to get their message across quickly, and if any of the audience wasn't interested, it didn't matter too much because it wouldn't be long until the next, different talk would start. It meant you could have a few different topics to entertain a broad audience," Tollady said.

Inspired to start a Melbourne spin off, Tollady got in touch with the organizer of Oxford Geek Night, a guy by the name of .J.P. who said he didn't mind if Tollady borrowed his idea.

The first Melbourne Geek Night was held in November 2011, with the next (the third in the series) to be held this Tuesday night.

Speaking at the upcoming event will be Stanley Johnson of Brand DNA, a creative director who will show how the working methods of of an obscure group of German musicians, branded as Krautrock by the English music press, taught him how to survive in a business dominated by the young.

"To the un-initiated this talk may sound more than a little preposterous but no more so than a DJ in The Bronx back in the 70s looping a rhythm from a little known Krautrock record to invent hip hop as we know it today," Johnson said.

UI Developer Ryan Seddon, who works at both Seek and the CSS Ninja, will also be speaking at the event. He hopes to enlighten his peers on the "HTML5 drag and drop", a technology that gives uses the ability to drag files (such as photos) from your computer into the browser (i.e. Facebook, Twitter) which would upload automatically.

"It gives powerful abilities to developers that make it really easy for consumers to accomplish a previously repetitive task quickly," Seddon said of the personal project.

The third speaker, Steve Sammartino from advertising agency Grey, will talk about why and how gaming points will soon circumvent currency, and "how game mechanics will invade commerce like an 8 Bit robot from 1984."

Tollady is confident that the diversity of speakers and topics will continue to bring in a good crowd. "The industry moves so fast and there are always new techniques and technologies emerging, so I'm sure there will be plenty to talk about well into the future," he said.

He also firmly believes that most practitioners in the web and design industry in Melbourne are very open and keen to share knowledge and techniques.

Melbourne Geek Night speaker Sammartino confirms the sentiment: "I just love being part of it...that people are getting together to share ideas, because it is worth doing -- no agendas other than to take a ride of knowledge together. It's the kind world I want to live in."

Tollady and Gunstone are also hoping to use the Melbourne Geek Night event as a foundation to help build a close, friendly community of web professionals in which people can network, find employees or jobs, and creative or technical partners to collaborate on projects.

Image: Thirst Studios.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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