I spent the last five days in Portland, OR, attending the World Domination Summit 2016 (WDS). The event first organized by Chris Guillebeau in 2011, and after following Chris’ blog for few years, I chose WDS as my professional development trip for this year.
The main values of the event were listed as community, adventure and service, so I thought they all fit quite well into what I do day to day, coaching women.
I loved the challenges where attendees had to come up in pairs, and each be assigned a challenge. Mine was to catch up with someone for fifteen minutes – I ended up calling my grandma.
The music was way too loud. All attendees were given gift boxes, and were instructed not to open them until a certain time. While I can appreciate the built in drama of not knowing, I am not convinced this was the best way to play it, as that meant that hundreds of people will have to spend two hours in the heat. Many headed home before the big reveal.
There were definitely meetups for every interest and hobby – from entrepreneurship to ethical polyamory to meditation circles. Although I was a little surprised to discover that the startups had no structure or agenda to them – they were simply large groups of people left to their own devices.
If there is one thing I know about groups of adults is that we are strangely similar to toddlers – we need organized activities to keep us busy, otherwise, we just wander around, breaking things, and munching on carrot sticks.
Once again, I was struck by the disconnect in mood (and ethos) – the event was held at a large warehouse nightclub (a beautiful venue, by the way) – disco lights, big screens, glow sticks and blaring music. Most of the crowd filtered out to the courtyard, making it almost impossible to mingle by the end of the night – once again, confirming that people would rather be mingling and chatting in small groups.
I can see a more fitting closing party, where the dance/music area was separate from the main area, and few quiet areas were set up. Based on some attendee posts, a number of introverts were anticipating being overwhelmed at the closing party. I was overwhelmed myself, spending the first twenty minutes or so, lying on a bench, and staring at the ceiling.
What went well?
The event was quite well organized, especially considering that the logistics included 1,000 people (and more for the meet-ups, and other additional activities) in Portland downtown core. *Note this was a major downsize from the last few years when the event ballooned to over 2,000 attendees.
We did spend quite a bit of time in lines – waiting to get into the main stage theatre, waiting to get out of the main stage theatre, waiting to get onto shuttle bus, waiting to get into the next event venue, but the actual details were thought through very well.
What could go better?
I sensed a bit of a disconnect in the vibe of the event, and who I know the organizer to be (this knowledge is based on Chris’s public persona, however, I have no reason to doubt his authenticity).
I ran into a friend from Toronto, who, perhaps, without knowing it, was able to shed some light and clear up some of my confusion around the event.
“You have to keep in mind, that most of this crowd IS introverted. AND nerdy. And thus, a bit socially awkward”.
That explained everything. The weird summer camp feel of the activities. The seemingly contrived nature of high-fiving the ambassadors upon entering the theatre. The superhero walk.
And I, ladies and gentlemen, am a hardcore geek.
So you can appreciate the disconnect.
What the hell is the difference, you may wonder. Or, you are already exclaiming “Who, the fuck, cares???”, in which case, I invite you to peruse my recent blog post on that very matter, and politely excuse yourself from discussion at hand.
Many have attempted to distinguish between nerds and geeks (and dorks, and dweebs, and more… however, my black and white nature feels more at peace with a Boolean argument).
Curiously, both groups share one characteristic – intelligence. After that, significant difference between the species must be noted.
Urban Dictionary defines “nerd” as someone whose IQ exceeds his weight.
Geeks often portray high intelligence and obsession with one or more subject, while nerds often combine high intelligence with social ineptitude.
Unwittingly, I have excluded myself from the proud ranks of nerds, as soon as I read “The Hobbit”, and hated it. I went so far as removing “reading Lord of the Rings” from my bucket list, further cementing my non-nerdom.
I have avoided writing about certain events, not wanting to be bashed by the fundamentalists. Yes, every event that has been running for a long time has them.
Just try criticizing Burning Man. Oyyyy…
For me, that resulted in an awkward Skype conversation with a devout Burner, demanding to know why I was not 100% sold on the event. No reservations of any kind are allowed among the fundamentalists. It is about faith, after all.
In X, we trust, and all that. The nature of X is completely irrelevant – be it veganism, Burning Man, or ultra running.
And there you have it. A weekend of the World Domination, and another semantic argument.
Will I be back?
I can see how coming for the second time promises to be significantly better than the first time, given a cliquish feel of the crowd. It is significantly easier to insert yourself into groups, once you know someone in that group.
Yet, my first experience at WDS may indeed prevent the second experience from ever happening.
I also see this as possibly cost prohibitive in the future. With the main stage tickets running for over $600 USD, cross-country flight and four to five night stay – the opportunity cost is simply too high.
I can head to Guatemala for a month instead. Going to WDS again means not going elsewhere.