O'Reilly Media's events, from the old Emerging Tech Conference and OSCON to FOO Camps and Strata, have long been energized and productive gatherings of geeks from around the world. Communities were forged there and emerging ideas were accelerated to action. I have fond memories of those real-world scenes, including the 2005 ETech Conference, one of the very infrequent times Xeni, Mark, Cory, and I were all in the same place. Photo evidence below. Sadly, O'Reilly president Laura Baldwin has announced the shutdown of O'Reilly's in-person events division. That marks the end of an era in computer culture. From O'Reilly:
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It has been a rough few weeks as we’ve seen the COVID-19 virus take a toll on our livelihoods, our families and the world economy. People are losing their lives, and businesses are suffering in the shadow of revenue losses and a volatile stock market. The virus has had a material impact on O’Reilly’s in-person Events division as well. We previously made the painful decision to cancel our Strata California and Strata London events. Today, we’re sharing the news that we’ve made the very difficult decision to cancel all future O’Reilly in-person conferences and close down this portion of our business. Without understanding when this global health emergency may come to an end, we can’t plan for or execute on a business that will be forever changed as a result of this crisis. With large technology vendors moving their events completely on-line, we believe the stage is set for a new normal moving forward when it comes to in-person events.
It's the end of a geeky era: After 19 glorious years of flogging movie, comic book and gaming-related swag, ThinkGeek is shuttering its website next month.
From The Verge:
ThinkGeek will officially close down its website and will migrate its operations over to its parent company GameStop’s website instead. In the meantime, the store is holding a 50 percent off “moving sale.”
By way of explanation, a GameStop spokesperson would only provide the following business-speak: The company is “engaging in a strategic business transformation initiative to build the GameStop of the future,” and that as part of that effort “we have made the decision to reorganize our ThinkGeek business by streamlining the operations of our ThinkGeek.com ecommerce platform and transitioning it within our GameStop.com omnichannel platform.”
Apparently, renewing that domain name every year was way outside of GameStop's budget. I suppose that being able to buy the same kit online will do, but it just won't be the same. Back in the day, I bought a number of handheld console emulators from ThinkGeek. It always felt like I was getting away with something special. I can't imagine having that same customer experience by shopping through a corporate behemoth like GameStop.
On the bright side of things, for the time being, over 40 of ThinkGeek's brick-and-mortar shops will remain open across the United States. I mean, you can't shop there at 3am in your underwear like you could with their website, but it's something, I suppose.
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Epic Nerd Camp
is a 5-day summer camp for adults in Pennsylvania's Poconos Mountains that celebrates cosplay, LARPing, RPGs, Quidditch, escape rooms, swordplay, wizarding, and many other special interests popular among geeks. The Washington Post's Karen Heller paid a visit
ENC was the brainchild of Kim Kjessler, 37, a former dolphin trainer, and her 26-year-old chef husband, Bentley. “I designed a camp that I wanted to go to,” she said in the Arts and Crafts shed, where campers created wizard staffs, leather apothecary cuffs and Edvard Munch-like portraits of a “Last Jedi” porg.
She was inspired by gaming gatherings such as BlizzCon, where she met Bentley five years ago. “I love conventions, but they’re not tailored to making friends. It’s hard to make friends as adults.” She wanted camp activities and camaraderie. A sort of Burning Nerd...
ENC promotes two overarching tenets: You’re free to be who you are, and this is a no-judgment zone. “If you’re looking for some nerds to troll/bully, ENC is not for you,” the camp website states. “We’ll boot you out and keep your money.”
Participants described middle and high school as an interminable hell. They had to become adults, and wait for the world to change, to gain acceptance, and find their tribe. Yet it can still be hard to fully unleash their inner geeky selves.
"‘Growing up, we were the weird ones’: The wizarding, mermaiding, cosplaying haven of Epic Nerd Camp" (Washington Post via NextDraft)
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Weird Universe shares the tale of Larry Canaday, the 1970s football coach at Eau Gallie High School in Melbourne, Florida, who would bite the heads off live frogs to psych up his team before games.
"Our kids love it," Canaday told the Associated Press in 1977. "They say 'Look how wild the coach is, let's get wild, too!'"
Canaday said he started the practice when trying to fire up one player. "I looked down and saw this little frog and just reached down and bit it. The boy's eyes got big as saucers and he became a real go-geter."
After several years of the ritual, school officials told him that the "frog-biting must cease."
"Last year we were winning," he said in the 1977 article. "But now we're losing, and certain intellects will use this as an excuse to pick on football." Read the rest
"The password to unlocking the secrets of the heart… is Swordfish."