Posted on May 13, 2014 by nudelzrulez
We had a hypothesis that needed testing at Disqus — would people that love to talk about their interests online, do the same in the “real” world? As it turns out, they do. And with vigor.
Online communities are our focus at Disqus. But to the average person, they may not be the most approachable or natural space to convene and connect. So we wanted to explore ways to tell the story of our communities by putting them in their natural, off-line environments. Think of movie buffs at a premiere of an indie flick. Or car fanatics at the local car show.
This past weekend we hosted our first Disqus IRL event in collaboration with Michelle Tam (and her husband, Henry Fong). Together they run the popular Paleo food site Nomnompaleo. When Michelle and I first chatted about hosting an event for her online community members, we weren’t sure how it would play out. Would a bunch of strangers really be able to hit it off? We decided to say, “Screw it, FEED THEM AND THEY WILL COME” (I’m paraphrasing a bit here.)
We gathered up 20 guests (via a giveaway on Michelle’s blog) for a family-style dinner at the gorgeous Cookhouse, in North Beach, San Francisco. The lovely and talented paleo chef Diane Davidson, of Cast Iron Kitchen, prepared recipes from Michelle’s book. The only thing left to do was test our hypothesis, and get our little group of paleolithic eaters together in real life!
Most of our guests were from the Bay Area, but we were lucky enough to entice people to come from as far as Park City, Seattle, and Los Angeles. And once people started to arrive, it was obvious we were onto something.
These people were excited. One woman literally squealed when Henry offered to sign her Nomnompaleo cookbook. I thought glasses might crack when eruptions of laughter periodically tore through the room. I’m not a Paleo eater myself, but after seeing people make instant, enthusiastic connections, I considered converting then and there. I wanted to be part of the tribe.
One of our guests, Kim, summed it up best when she said, “It was really surprising at the time (but not so much in retrospect) how passionate we all were about Paleo cooking and Michelle’s blog. It was neat to connect with people in real life over a shared interest.”
Sitting down to dinner only fueled the discussion further. As each dish came out, people exchanged recipe tips and resources on where to find good takeout Paleo food. (Along with a little lamenting over why the recipes didn’t taste this good at home.) At one point, Lisa, one of the guests, said, “I was so surprised to see fish sauce and ghee on the counter, but then I remembered where I was — it’s awesome.”
Much like Kim, I was initially surprised by how easy it was for people to strike up a conversation. But it soon became clear that whether people were online or off, a good community is a good community. And that means people from all walks of life sharing the same interest, getting together to share an experience and talking to whoever they’re next to with ease. Another guest, Jill, said “I knew the Nomnompaleo followers had to be a good crowd, but I had SO much fun and have some new connections.”
One of the original promises of the Internet is the opportunity and ability to connect with people who love the same things you do. This is the core of our mission at Disqus. And for the first time in the real world, the Nomnompaleo event delivered these same connections in spades. The only thing sweeter than playing Paleo Matchmaker were the Mexican Chocolate Pots de Creme we had for dessert.
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