Story of the GeekDinner

I was asked to do a short write up on how the GeekDinners came about for a radio interview on SAfm tonight.

The origin of the GeekDinners.. well, this my version. I think Rob first told (me) the story of how the London GeekDinners (v1.0) started. Feel free to correct me if I get the details wrong.

GeekDinner v0.0

Geeks have been having dinners for a long time. I remember going to Cape Linux User Group dinners around 2000. The key ingredient has probably always been interesting conversation (and food, obviously).

GeekDinner v1.0 : London

Enter: Graham Knox (wine marketer) and Hugh Macleod (social media strategist and cartoonist).

Wine and wine marketing is the second most competitive industry, so Hugh and Graham (genius marketers) had an idea to use the internet (blogging) and word of mouth (social media) to market wine.

They sent wine to bloggers. Bloggers wrote about the wine and the Stormhoek brand spread through social networks and became know as the blogger or Web2.0 wine.

In June 2005 the first GeekDinners were held in London. Hugh and Robert Scoble were there. They used a wiki (a web page anyone can modify) as a way for guests to sign-up.

So now the ingredients became: interesting conversation, social lubricant (wine) and open (web-based) self sign-up.

GeekDinner v1.1 : Cape Town, South Africa

The Stormhoek farm is in Wellington, close to Cape Town. So Graham, Max Kaizen, Dave Duarte and Chris Rawlinson (I’m guessing) started a Cape Town GeekDinner in August 2006.

Same ingredients and wine as the London Dinner, but in the Mother City.

GeekDinner v1.2 : The 27 Dinners

At this point Dave and Mike Stopforth had started a marketing company and chose to re-brand the dinners. They called them 27 Dinners. They would be on the 27 of each month and I’m guessing 27 hints at the +27 dialling code or SA.

The idea spread to Joburg and Durban.

GeekDinner v2.0 : The New Original GeekDinners

..”by the geeks for the geeks”

Not everybody was happy when Mike and Dave “hijacked” the GeekDinners, renamed and controlled them.

I attended the first 27 Dinner in February 2007. I was less than happy with the change, so I did what any stubborn geek would do.. picked a fight and started the New Original GeekDinner movement.

Somebody said she would eat her hat if I pulled it off, or something like that. Good motivation.. well, we’re just gonna have to see about that!

So, the next day I registered the domain, got a logo, setup a blog,
wiki and planet.. and started planning the first in the new series of GeekDinners which would be at Barbarellas in Constantia a month later (March 2007).

A few of my memories of the GeekDinners

How it all started.. searching for CaffeNeo’s details I found a blog post by Mike. I emailed him and we had a cup of tea at CaffeNeo. I then met Max and somehow I was invited to a small dinner at Sinn’s in Wembley Square (Nov 2006). This would be my first GeekDinner or bloggers gathering. I met Henk.. I think he said something like.. “blogging is just like writing an email, but a lot more people see it”. So two days later I installed WordPress and started blogging.

The last v1.1 dinner was in Hout Bay in December 2006 aka the Summer GeekDinner. This was the first time I met Nikki (probably the only blog(s) I’ve read start to finish) and Dave. I remember taking Mia along (oops, had to move those pics, no longer public).

GeekDinners vs. 27 Dinners

These days the GeekDinner and the 27 Dinner happily co-exist. In Cape Town they alternate monthly so they don’t compete.

So, how do they differ..?

Well, the 27 Dinners tend to a attract more of the marketing types and groovy geeks. The GeekDinners attract more of a techie geek community.. but a number of people attend both. There is no dress code for being a geek.

Traditionally the 27 Dinners have followed a more centralised and closed planning model for venue and speaker selection and sponsorships.

The GeekDinner takes a more open, decentralised and democratised approach. It’s kinda like an open source software project. There is no official committee. It’s anarchy in a sense.. order without leaders. It’s more of a benevolent dictatorship model.

The new original GeekDinners have been going for almost 2 years now. As long as they remain fun to plan and attend, the model works.

“We reject: kings, presidents and voting.
We believe in: rough consensus and running code.”
– David D. Clark