5.31.2009

#Tweetup (?)

Now if he says that he's afraid,
Take him at his word.
And for the price that the poor boy has paid,
He gets to sing just like a bird.... (Stage Fright, The Band)
I attended a 'tweetup' this week. By way of preamble, I have worked, off and on, with things online since May 1995, a time when Internet access for consumers was pretty much brand spanking new, unlimited dialup access without hourly restrictions was all the rage, 'the next big thing'. In those heady, long-lost days of innocence*, my employer would occasionally host user group meetings, there was a tremendous interest in all things online, and it was considered revelatory when an early session included a video tour of the primitive server room, complete with a glimpse of the slender cable that carried the connection to the Internet backbone.

Later, as times changed and I switched jobs, 'blogging' -- kind of a Web 1.1 social networking platform -- became the next big thing, and so there were blogger meetups. I actually never attended one of these events because I never really saw the point... From my perspective, I put what I can come up with here, and the audience judges accordingly -- this site is usually quite unread, unless I provide some amateur reportage on some local event largely ignored by the 'professional' media (usually, but not exclusively, bike races).

Now, however, blogging is passé, twitter is all the rage, and 'tweetups' are the next new thing. The event I attended at least had theme beyond just twitter, it was billed as as a "localvore tweetup", and as such, featured an impressive spread of locally produced food products. The write up of this event in the Burlington Free Press attracted the usual horde of negative commenters, sniping aggressively at both the menu, and at the concept of social networking via tools such as twitter.

On one hand, I have lots of issues with Vermont at this juncture -- particularly the stagnant economy and incompetent politicians -- I think the state is becoming a micro-California. But I do appreciate Vermont's food culture, I am not a haute-cuisine snob, but think that it is a generally good thing, that I have more choices for fresh bread and locally brewed beer, in Waterbury, VT (population 5,000) than in all of Wilmington, NC (population 100,000, and part of a MSA with over 300,000 residents). But I am far from convinced about twitter, it's intensely narcissistic, and made up of lots of self-reinforcing interactions: like associates with like. It was kind of ironic at this event, that I had dinner with a young couple, apprenticing at the Round Barn for the summer, who didn't have any online presence at all -- not even Facebook, so we talked mostly about North Carolina food culture (southern fried water) instead, it was good -- but slightly odd -- to have an real, face to face, social interaction, an increasingly rare thing this days.

*The old days weren't so innocent, I worked at an ISP, one the company's customers was murdered with a pipe bomb sent via UPS, the victim had been involved in online transaction fraud.

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