Wednesday, April 30, 2008

ROFLCon: Unknown Quantities

Memes, originally uploaded by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid.

I'm still wandering around rainy streets here, thinking about the conference that blew through. I keep saying that I wish I could have experienced ROFLCon asynchronously. There were too many places to be at once, and instead of being in all of them, I mostly stood in hallways clutching tattered pieces of paper (stained blue by jeans pockets) and my cellphone, in heart-racing fists.

While the conference was happening, I couldn't imagine it ever happening again. It was too surreal to even imagine replicating. At the same time, though, it was so captivating that it was hard to imagine such a strange portal vanishing forever. Only after it was all over—only then did I really start thinking about what made it work, and whether it could be made to work again.

At the Barbarian afterparty, I got a chance to talk to Scott Beale of Laughing Squid. It was all the afterglow, of course, and so people were being generally very positive. But I was still impressed by the strength of people's belief that it could and should be done again. Scott mentioned the fact that the first time, people weren't sure whether it was "okay" or not to attend, follow, believe in ROFLCon; the whole thing was one huge unknown quantity. Now, though, "people needed to know that it was okay, and now that they know it's okay, you'll get an incredibly strong response the second time around." (Paraphrased.)

Scott was right, of course. But when he said that, something struck me. Sure: now that it's a known quantity, it would be much easier to get people to believe in a future for ROFLCon. But what if part of what made ROFLCon work was the fact that the audience didn't need to be given permission to come? They didn't need to know it was "okay." They knew that even if it wasn't okay, it would at least be an adventure.

That sense of adventure permeated the conference, I think. I wouldn't ever want to lose that. I'm glad, grateful, stunned that it was "okay" this time around, of course. But maybe ROFLCon just doesn't have a choice. Maybe it will always have to remain an unknown quantity, in order to be anything at all.

Thoughts on this matter infinitely welcome, as I probably will not stop thinking about it, ever—diana dot kimball at gmail dot com.

(Thanks also to Scott for the very neat picture, which perfectly captures the jankity-crank aesthetic of ROFLCon 2008.)


DAL said...

As someone who found the conference via twitter at about midnight the night before it launched, the whole thing was appropriately surreal and phenomenal. I enjoyed the bits and pieces that I was able to nibble on, and I enjoyed meeting such a diverse and unusual crowd. I say: definitely bring that energetic, geeky and creative vibe back in some way or another, call it ROFLCon or TweetGroup or whatever makes sense next year. My 2 cts.

DaveFisher said...

A second ROFLCon would be very different surely. Awesome, but certainly different. The surreal nature of it I don't think can be fully replicated. It was somewhere between excitement, fear, anticipation, confusion, and happiness.

I know that for me personally that the weekend could never be replicated :) but that is an entirely different story of course.