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Weekly Review #44: Stranger gatherings, NewCo festival, and LA ostentation

I went to a lot of socializing with strangers events this week (I suppose you could call it networking, but it wasn’t specifically job related). First was the Stanford Salon, a casual and intimate affair on Stanford campus every Monday facilitated by a few CS graduates who have taken it upon themselves to present their lifehacking knowledge to others. Accordingly, we played some theatre improv games and listened to a management consultant talk about influence.

Next up was a Tea With Strangers Open House, that service started by a Penn grad who just wanted to meet more  interesting people. Both this event and the Salon were very effective at curating exclusively high achieving intellectual clientele while being technically open to the public, which is no easy feat. I theorize it is because both are based around the social networks on one key person, who started the event, told their friends, who then told their friends. Thus while everyone is indeed strangers, they are only a few connections away from one another, which means they’re all similar open minded, tech savvy, and curious. Plus anyone who is interested in meeting strangers is going to like others interested in meeting strangers.

Last up was the SF NewCo Conference, where the city’s startups open their office doors to attendees and talk about what they’ve done, their strategy, and roadblocks surmounted. I learned about how mountain lion sighting drive user engagement at Nextdoor (and how they would mail expensive postcards at the behest of neighbors in order to get non tech savvy households on the site), how Betabrand uses patently ridiculous marketing schemes to drive virality (like only using women PhDs as models), and saw both Pinterest and Soundcloud’s sweet SF digs (Pinterest has big TVs displaying Pins in real time with themed days like Mondays are men, Tuesdays as UK pinners, etc). Great opportunity to see the faces behind the product.

Then it was off to LA for the weekend to visit high school friends. I learned that the visible horizon is only 3 miles away on flat land, (I know, right?) built sand castles on Manhattan Beach with a diverse array of toddlers, and visited the preposterously ornate USC student apartments known as The Lorenzo. They’ve got 3 rooftop pools, a colorful fountain, arcade, and sand volleyball courts, all styled like Caeser’s Palace in a rather sketchy neighborhood near Downtown. Really highlights the disparity between white privileged USC kids and the surrounding denizens.

Not much on the online front, except for Bootstrappers.io, a nascent site along the lines of Hacker News, Growthhackers.com, and Product Hunt. Then there’s Gawker theorizing that Aspergers is an essential part of Silicon Valley, and some solid learning resources, namely: