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Providence Geek Dinner is Where It’s At

Thursday, June 10, 2010


If you didn't already know that the geeks will inherit the earth, the proof is monthly at the Providence Geek Dinner at AS220 in Providence. And last night, all you needed to see was a room filled with 80 very smart people drinking Narragansett 16-oz lagers and rubbing elbows with the likes of RISD President John Maeda (pictured below, with Jack Templin and George Loftus, left to right), WaterFire founder Barnaby Evans, and political candidates John Lombardi and Angel Taveras.

Further proof: an old-school style bulletin board at last night's event, covered with printouts of job postings. As Geeks co-founder Jack Templin said, "You know, the last recession we got killed. We were all on the street.  This time it's not a tech-led recession.  And I think most people know it. It's going nuts for us as people are trying to retool the economy."

Templin and Bryan Jepson founded the dinners nearly three and a half years ago. For the Geeks, who largely populate technology and digital media backgrounds, this monthly get-together brings a speaker in and allows for easeful chat and networking. Geeks, it turns out, have possibly learned from the networks they've created. They're better cocktail party guests than most socialites.

And it draws a crowd. Tonight's speaker, OSHEAN (pronounced ocean) CEO George Loftus gave an overview of the non-profit consortium's 500 miles of fiber infrastructure connecting all of Rhode Island's colleges and universities, most of the hospitals, the courts, Secretary of State's office, and RINET's K-12 public schools. It's one of the country's top cyber-infrastructures dedicated to

research and education, and it's here in Rhode Island.

Loftus spoke for 20 quick minutes, then took avid questions until Templin called a halt. Then out came more beer, more food from AS220's restaurant next door, and plenty more chat. John Chiafalo, a tech guy whose company is called Your Computer Concierge, introduced a recently relocated tech friend with a fine art background. "I dragged him down to show him there's a tech scene here as well as an art scene," he said.

Similarly, Barnaby Evans brought China Blue, an artist friend recently relocated from New York, to meet the Geeks and show them a light-emitting insect bot she'd created. Trapped in an old-school Mason jar, the buzzing little piece of art charmed the group.

Evans, whose world-famous event can be construed as old-fashioned as the talk here was fashion-forward, described the common ground. "WaterFire is about celebrating community," he said. "Rhode Island is blessed with hundreds of wonderful communities. And the geek community, inventor community, and artist community have a lot of interesting connections."

Art, technology, networking, Narragansetts.  Business cards fluttered, chatters lingered. There was no better party in town.

The next Geek Dinner is July 14 from 5:30-8:30pm at AS220, 115 Empire St, Providence.  Free and open to the public. For more information, visit the Providence Geeks.


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