DC's Tech Scene, an Overview

Living in the city and being vaguely social, I meet lots of interesting people who share a passion for communicating over the web. Many of those people do not know about DC's amazing tech community. As a reference, I offer this overview of the community. It's biased by my interests and energy, and I have no doubt I'll miss some important events and sites, but that's what comments are for.


Websites


Being a tech community, we communicate a lot over the web. There are a couple of major sites that can get you acclimated and up to date quickly:


  • To get an idea of everything going on for the week (and really for farther out than that), Ross Karchner provides and updates the invaluable DC Tech Events Weekly, a calendar of all DC's technology-related groups and events.
  • To help us organize ourselves, discuss (and setup) events, and share information, the always impressive Justin Thorp set up the DC Technology Network on ning.
  • To help us grow our careers, recruiter extraordinaire Robert Neelbauer runs Job Matchbox, a blog and job board.
  • To help people keep up with the many valuable DC-area tech bloggers, I run PlanetDC, an aggregator of DC tech blogs.
  • To find and join all manner of groups, check out Meetup.com, tool that helps groups organize events and helps people find those groups. I can thank meetup for introducing me to the community through the excellent Web Standards meetup.

Big Events


There are a couple of big events that I know of and can gladly vouch for. I'll break them down into monthly and less frequent.


Monthly


  • Refresh DC is a monthly gathering of DC's "best and brightest new media professionals in the DC metro area so that we may learn from one another." Each month a different local luminary speaks on a topic of interest, from widgets to web design to application security. The talks are followed by drinks and networking.

  • NextDC aims "to attract & connect people who have a stake in future of tech and new media in the Washington DC region, and to provide the online & offline opportunities for social and professional connections to be made." So far, it has mostly been drinks and networking (think Refresh without the speakers), although I've heard talk of changing the format to add discussion.

  • Web Content Mavens is "a Washington DC based networking group focused on web content from all perspectives - technology tools, site management, usability, information architecture and layout, as well as content creation, editing and formatting." Following the format of Refresh, most events feature a speaker and networking, and the topics and crowd are largely content-focused. Who said you couldn't get a job with a BA in English...

  • The Capital Cabal holds "a monthly networking event where D.C. area 'new media' professionals gather to meet, share war stories, swap schemes, hire talented professionals, schmooze, invest, find investments, kick-off a job search or just relax with other digerati." No speakers, but reports indicate lots of high quality people and business opportunities.

  • Social Media Club provides "a community for the champions of social media and those seeking to learn," as well as high-profile speakers and networking opportunities.

Less Frequent Events


  • BarCamp is an "ad-hoc unconference and is part of the larger BarCamp movement. While there are topics suggested for discussion, there is no set agenda until everyone gathers. Attendees are required to participate to some degree: either by giving a presentation, demo, etc. or by facilitating a group discussion. Topics are flexible, as well." The last DC BarCamp was in August and was a blast -- better than conferences costing hundreds of dollars more.

  • Holiday parties such as the Technoliday Party allow community to get together to celebrate and relax as friends and colleagues.


Smaller Events


Finally, just as important as all the bigger (75 - 200 people) events are the many, many small, topic-specific events. One of the beauties of living in a large, metropolitan city is that you are likely to find other people who share your specific interests and are willing to talk about them. I know I find events such as the Zope/Python User's Group of DC's monthly meetings inspiring and informative even if the potential audience isn't more than twenty of us. And there are groups for everyone, from bloggers to schemers (and nonprofit professionals, designers, SEO experts, and just about everyone else).


Where to Dive in


The community is vibrant and inviting, and we're always excited to meet new people passionate about technology and communication. Depending on how extroverted you are, there are all kinds of entry points into the community. Certainly peruse the calendar and meetup, and definitely join us on ning and read us on the planet. Then, find some events that look interesting to you. Personally, I think it's easier to attend some of the smaller, more topic-specific events before coming out to one of the bigger events; however, that's me. If you are having trouble finding a group that shares your interests, ask someone on the Tech Network, or come out to a big event, such as refresh, and ask around at the bar after the talk. Everyone has something to add. Speaking of which, if there's some event that I didn't mention, please let me know in the comments and I'll work to keep this up to date.