Big Ideas Social Club?
October 29, 2010 7:42 PM   Subscribe

I live in Washington, DC, and I'd like to get together with people and talk about interesting ideas, preferably somewhere where networking bullshit is kept to a bare minimum. I don't care what they do for a living or what big ideas they're fluent in, just want them to be interesting. Does this thing exist and, if not, how do I create it?

A couple additional notes:

- I'm no longer in college.
- MeFi meetups are great, but fairly infrequent. Ideally, I could do this every week or two.
- meetups around here tend to be either really network-y or about walking.
- Professional organizations around here are all about the networking, which keeps substantive conversation to the barest minimum.
posted by l33tpolicywonk to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Drinking Liberally
posted by empath at 7:54 PM on October 29, 2010

Designers hold Pecha Kucha Nights which are similar to what you want but not quite. There is more focus on the work they do and the presentations range from funny and interesting, to a surprisingly boring and awkward six minutes of your life, and are only sometimes about big ideas. I honestly think the concept would work better in a non-design setting, where people wont already have pre-made slide shows of their work to use. Even though I am a designer, I would totally rather go to the non-design version of this event is what I'm saying. Start it up.
posted by tmthyrss at 7:59 PM on October 29, 2010

Not exactly what you're looking for, but it sounds like you would enjoy Nerd Nite.
posted by quadrilaterals at 8:01 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I concur that most of the stuff around here is too damn networky. Makes me crazy.

I would second the endorsement of Nerd Nite. Nerd Nite is not really a conversation-oriented event, but it's possible that Zaki and Rebecca would be interested in advertising some kind of conversational offshoot to an interested crowd, if there's a willing organizer.

Dorkbot meetups, while tech-centric, seem to be free of network bullshit. I think the Philosophical Society lectures, held at the Cosmos Club, may also be up your alley.
posted by wam at 10:00 PM on October 29, 2010

Best answer: You should start a salon, a la Paris in the 1700s. I've read there's something of a resurgent modern movement in the US for salons, among people looking for pretty much exactly what you are. I've wanted to host salon nights for ages but I don't currently have the space to invite enough people to make it interesting, and I can't think of a good local space to rent/borrow that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. But I'm sure there are bars with event rooms that'd give you the event room and turn down the music in that room if you were buying lots of beers. I bet they'd even give you a drink special if you guaranteed X people would show up. (I mean, they do for college gamewatch groups at the drop of a hat.)

Personally I'd invite a local college chamber group or some student artists or a local poet or something to play/exhibit/give a reading at the beginning (if I were in a more private setting), just to give people something to talk about at the beginning, kick it off with something. But clearly not necessary.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:50 AM on October 30, 2010

I agree that for a city so damn serious about itself, the quality of conversation can lack. However, as you get older and more established in your career (you're early 20s, right?) the quality of professional (networky) conversation improves vastly. People actually know a lot about their subjects and there's natural synergy when you get together. It's more about actual ideas and connections once you get established and aren't so worried about your professional standing. (On the flip side, people can also get so sick of work that it's a party foul to discuss it!)

So I would counsel patience, and maybe also reaching out to the young people in your field who seem truly interesting and intellectually curious, and see if you can get to know them well enough to have some good conversations with the pall of shallow networking removed. You could even start your own discussion group along these lines.

Last thing - I know some alumni of St Johns College have regular salons/lecture groups in DC. These folks are the opposite of shallow. They probably welcome guests.
posted by yarly at 6:11 AM on October 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding Pecha Kucha type stuff. I've met a bunch of interesting people through it and through follow-on blog exchanges, and short succinct presentations of ideas/whatever give something to talk about. (I am a designer, but there are things like Ignite running on a broader base and you could start your own too. Holding it in a really public place like a proper venue or a cafe attached to a museum/gallery/government building/etc makes it easier for people to join.
posted by carbide at 6:12 AM on October 30, 2010

I'm glad you posed this questions because I'm in the DC area and sometimes really hunger for more interesting conversation, stimulating discussion rather than the usual lets-compare-status conversations that go on at a lot of events. I started a meetup group many years ago and from that made a few really good female friends and get a lot of enjoyment out of our idea sharing - we all met at dinner events where we got a chance to sit and talk and then branched away from the group. I'd love to find good group synergy again so I'll keep checking this thread. I also must say that I hang out with older people which has proven to be a lot more satisfying than my peers - I've experienced this since my mid-twenties - you may want to seek the company of those slightly older/experienced/ or just different than what you are used to.
posted by dmbfan93 at 8:42 AM on October 30, 2010

Best answer: Moving over to IRL, where we're gonna try to make this a reality.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:55 AM on November 2, 2010

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