Seattle Techies Take to the Streets for a 10-Day Geek Week

8/13/10

We have a lot of events here in Seattle that are so quintessentially representative of Northwest culture—Bumbershoot, Folklife, Bite of Seattle, SeaFair. And then there are all of the gaming conferences—like Casual Connect, and the Penny Arcade Expo—and way too many tech-themed meetups to count. Each and every event, no matter how different, is blogged, Tweeted, and talked about. I think it’s safe to say we’re a pretty diverse—and technologically inclined—bunch.

But I’d never heard anyone be so absolutely upfront about the nerdy nature of Seattle’s tech culture—that is until word got out of the first annual Seattle Geek Week.

The inaugural Geek Week—ten (not seven) days of tech-oriented “geeky” events, kicking off today—is the brain child of Seattle-area entrepreneur, technology consultant, author, blogger, podcaster, enthusiast, and self proclaimed geek, Chris Pirillo.

Pirillo, who founded content publishing network Lockergnome in the early ’90s and has been the man behind the Gnomedex tech conference for the last ten years, says Geek Week is an opportunity for Seattleites to wear their “geek” badges with pride. He says he’d witnessed other cities “rally around their own communities,” so why not do the same for techies, nerd, and “geeks” right here in Seattle?

“Geek Week is there to get people amped up and to raise general awareness for what I believe is a geekiness inside of Seattle,” Pirillo says. “I see all these art festivals, and that’s great because you see art geeks there. I see these food festivals, and that’s great because you see food geeks there. This is for technology geeks.”

At Geek Week, Seattle techies will have a chance to come out of the woodwork and commiserate on all things geeky on the Seattle tech scene. The next ten days will be filled with panels, conferences, meet-ups, and parties on a variety of techie topics—from software and hardware to entrepreneurship, cleantech, social media, startups, and demos. Seattle tech organizations sponsoring events during Geek Week include BarCamp, Social Media Club, TechKaraoke, Innovate100, TechCafe, and more. Some events are free, while others require registration. Check out the full lineup here.

They’ll be a little something for everyone, according to Pirillo.

“People like getting out, they like getting together with friends, they like meeting new people,” he says. “My hope with this is to get out to communities around town small and large, and cross pollinate—I hope to have the Medici effect.”

I asked Chris what he thinks are the events to watch for out of the 10-day lineup, and he listed off a handful of what he thinks will be the popular picks, including the two major conferences anchoring the week—pii2010 (which stands for privacy, identity, innovation), and Pirillo’s own Gnomedex (if you’re interested in going, sign up quick, because according to Pirillo, it’s going to be the conference’s last year). These, he says, are for the “more serious-minded geeks.”

Other events range from fun and games, like the Seattle Geek Golf Tournament, which has an 8:00 a.m. tee time this morning, to small get-togethers, like SMC Seattle’s “Social Media & Entertainment” Q&A on Tuesday with The Oatmeal creator Matt Inman, which Pirillo calls “wildly popular.”

Other events to watch throughout Geek Week: Gnomedex is kicking off its opening celebration with an event called Chic Meets Geek, specially designed to “bridge the social gap between the cultural chic and intellectual geeks,” with a special surprise geek and/or chic celebrity guest. “This is the first time this event is happening in a city outside San Francisco,” Pirillo says.

The Gnomedex Open Government Hackathon on Sunday, August 22nd will also be a popular event, according to Pirillo. The free 24-hackathon will bring Seattle techies together as they test their bandwidth, and race against the clock to see who can build the best open government application before the day is over. The idea is to take open government data, “and develop something people can use,” Pirillo says.

And just in case this doesn’t sound like enough geeky silliness, Geek Week will be capping off with a Bellydance Tweetup on the evening of the 22nd.

The variety of events speaks to Pirillo’s true aspirations for Geek Week—to get people out of their offices, away from their computers, and interacting with each other.

“If people like that, and it gets them out of the house and gets them mixing up, then I consider that a success. So even if it’s just two people, I’ll be happy,” he says. “Too many people talk about doing things, but don’t actually do them. So if anything, Geek Week is about taking action. I’m always surprised to discover groups around town who overlap with my interests.”

Over 300 are expected to attend Gnomedex alone, and although Pirillo doesn’t know how many people will be participating in Geek Week when all is said and done, he does say he has “very lofty goals” for the event. He’s like to see it become a Seattle staple—maybe even one that returns frequently throughout the year.

“It doesn’t have to be once a year, it can be more often,” he says. “It all depends on how many geeks there are in Seattle. That’s the big question: are there enough geeks in Seattle?”

Thea Chard is a correspondent for Xconomy Seattle. You can e-mail her at theachard@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/theachard. Follow @

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