SEM PDX Networking Meeting – Tuesday, Feb. 12th.

This is a brief of what happened during my first SEM PDX networking meeting.

It was at an Irish Pub downtown near the waterfront. Everyone was standing in groups of twos, threes, or fours, and talking in a common space next to the bar. They all had sticky paper name tags on their business suits. I brought two students with me who were also interested in new media, and we quickly located the registration table। There wern’t any nametags left, so I dropped the name of the guy who invited me to the event and we were quickly directed to him.

Todd Mintz was kind and down to Earth. I’d later realize how prolific and connected he was, but for now he was a nice guy. He was more digital than real, because his presence online was a lot more formidable than it was here. I asked him how he got into SEM PDX, and when he started getting into Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

He said he’d started his career in spam. It’s great to think that the spammers have been corporately snapped up after demonstrating their annoying genius tactics on our unwilling inboxes for almost a decade.

I asked Todd who I might talk to if I wanted to get my friend into the industry. He pointed to a tall guy with a refined and professional face with short sideburns, short black hair, and a leather jacket. He was speaking to two other people. The way the people stood when they listened to him was very precise. He kept himself in a spatial position of power and seniority over those who spoke with him.

In order to cut into the conversation, I would have to apply equal social force to distance the two current conversationalists.

First we walked past the agency guy and chatted by ourselves, and then slowly edged into the conversation from the edge of least resistance। My friend madea group-referential joke to interest the agency guy, and we began to exchange data। We were students. He ran…what? An agency? How interesting. What does it take to get a job like that, at your agency?

He ran through the process. To him it was very simple.
Get a blog. Make content. Make more of it. Write all the time.
The blog – optimize it. Get great keywords in it. Use all the stuff on the SEM PDX site. It’s all there as an introduction.
He told us that he was on Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, Twitter, and he had a blog. List his blog on my blog. He’ll list my blog on his. Add him as a friend on Facebook, ect. Come to tall of the networking events. Read everyone’s blogs. Contribute search optimization techniques…

Then he pointed to a woman whom another guy in a tie was talking with great interest to.

Kent Lewis, President, Anvil Media: Then take her certification course. She’s like the god of search engine optimization instruction. Her course for 10 weeks, and you’re good to go. Demonstrate what she’s taught you on your blog, and you’ll get hired by me and get lots of money.

At this point he gave us his business card.

“You do this,” he said, “and you’ll be making more per hour than a good attorney.”

Me: Yay! No LSATs!
Him: You know it.

Just then a heavily drunk man came up to Mr. Lewis and tried to network with him. It was bad because it was obvious that the drunker man was trying to stave off his fear of approaching such a great agency head. The agency man stood his ground, and discussed back with the man about sports topics and things, then spun the conversation in the marketing direction in order to glean insight into a piece of optimization information the drunk man had stored in his brain somewhere. His ability to sift through and direct another towards information retrieval was fascinating. After the snippet of information was released from the drunken man, the agency head smoothly negotiated him away from his presence by simply using nonverbal cues.

At this point, one of my friends seemed a little overwhelmed. This was his first networking event, and I am not sure he could handle it. There was a recipe in front of him that would allow him to secure some form of hyper-modern marketing career, and I don’t know if he wanted to go into internet marketing anymore. He went outside the pub and sat on a bench for a minute, then involved himself in a very long cell phone call.

Another guy, whose name tag read Helwitt-Packard, told my friend and I that he was in the “experience economy”.

Me: “Oh, like Starbucks?”
Him: Barely.

He told me that every website was a unique experience, and that the consumption rate of a website was tied to a certain experience. He was in the buisness of making websites whose shopping experience made it almost imposssible not to purchase a product.

Now the consumer is immersed in advertising, completely immersed in the “self-confidence of the present” (Bauman, 132). As the old experience of light modernity begains to melt into air. Straight, literally into the air. The wireless phones, the wireless networks. Everything is untethered from it’s source. Everything is mobile, but no longer heavy as liquid. Liquid flows, but it is still a heavy object.

All places are now allowed to decay and then are sold to the highest bidder.

I asked him how I might get into the market, and he told me to make a webiste and write all the time. He told me to engineer a piece of code that would make it impossible for site visitors to click the ‘back’ button.

Me: Woah, using the porno website trick?
Him: Hey. What do you want to be when you go into industry? It’s not going to be the same jobs as before. It’s all going to be Internet. It’s going to be a game of self advertisement, writing, and advertising. You don’t advertise your site right, and you’re just another hive worker.

He asked me if I wanted to know a cool trick, and without allowing me to respond he began to tell me.
Him: Do you have a business card?
Me: No, not tonight. I left them in my other bag.
Him: Well, you can get a bunch for free from vistaprint. Just make them with what you want to be on them. For instance, if you plan on being the President of the United States, just print…what’s your last name?

He looked for a name badge.

Him: You don’t have a name badge! You need a name badge.

I told him there were none left.

Him: Well, then, why haven’t you innovated?

He grabbed a roll of masking tape off the registration table and pulled a business card from his pocket. He handed me a pen and I wrote my name on the back of his business card. While I was doing that he made me a loop of masking tape and handed it to me. When I was done, he looked infinitely pleased with himself.

Him: Innovate. And when you make your business cards, write “Amber Case, President of the United States”, because then when you become it, people will find that card somewhere and call you up. Or if you put ‘consultant’, people will call you up because one day they’ll need a consultant and will find your card.

The even was supposed to last until 8pm, but everyone suddenly left at about 7, leaving two disoriented guys talking to each other in the middle of the room. One guy was ran a hosting company, and the other one ran a search engine optimization company. My friend talked to the hosting company owner, and I talked to the SEO guy, who was from India.

I like talking to people from India because they’ve generally been trained to speak with these very precise British accents. Also, their attention spans are not constructed like those of Americans, which is a relief for discussing and exploring new and interesting concepts.

I told him about the “anthropological perspective” and we talked about the mechanical to organic nature of the web. It was brief and precise and amusing. I liked talking to him because I could watch new knowledge decompress into his head. I’d been perfecting my story pitch the entire night, and he got the last version of it. Version 6.0 or whatever. Next time I go I will start with a new story and will beta test it on Todd through Facebook.

So the night went well. My friend and got contact information from almost everyone we talked to. I feel like it’s becoming a fun game for us – like Baseball Cards or Stamp collecting. When people become commodities, I guess it is legitimate to reduce wins to card-collecting abilities.

The nature of the event was unique in that everyone who talked online was able to meet in real life. I looked online and found a growing number of websites dedicated to existing both on and off the net.

What do I have to compare this to? I’ve studied the legal community and that’s where I can draw the most parallels. Either that, or magicians. Closed information gained only by those who are in the industry or who immerse themselves completely in a very focused information base. This information base was composed of both humans and technology and yet it created surprisingly organic results.

I guess I’ll have to go to more of this। I added Todd on Facebook and he told me that if I posted what I’d been talking about with people he would post it on his blog. I guess if I tried that I would learn a little more about networked information and the speed at which it runs.

SearchFest 2008 is at the Portland Zoo. I’m amused with this decision, since it is probably the last place I’d expect a conference like that to be.


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