Last week, Engadget put the word out that they were hosting a meetup event in Manhattan's East Village on Thursday night. I've never been to a meetup event before, but I figured this one sounded like fun, and less of a forced social interaction than other meetups I've avoided thus far (NYC bloggers and Slashdot, primarily). So after work I took the J/M/Z train to Essex Street in the East Village, feeling like I was in another city altogether. That's what happens when you take an unfamiliar subway line to an unfamiliar neighborhood. I found the location of the meetup without any trouble: Compact Impact, a Japanese gadget store. It's not really an electronics store like I'd seen in Tokyo. It's just a storefront with a small showroom of quirky Japanese gadgets, like a light-up pen, magnetic necklaces, portable inflatable speakers, and so on. The Engadget editors were already there chatting with attendees and handing out raffle tickets for the giveaways later that night. Around 8 PM they held a Q&A session, and I asked the first question (is there any perceived competition with Gizmodo or other gadget blogs) and one of the last ones (what upcoming gadgets or toys were the editors excited about). Then, at about 8:45, they raffled off about 20 different prizes, including Nintendo DS games, iPod add-ons, a Pocket PC, and an Orange SPV smartphone. I didn't win anything, but I still had fun talking to other gadget geeks and seeing the editors (whom I'd heard before on podcasts but never seen in person).
The only bad thing about the event was that the store was way too small for the number of people who showed up. There were probably 150-200 people there at peak times like the Q&A and the raffle, and the store was just not large enough to fit everyone comfortably. I'm sure we broke several fire code regulations. It's hard to find a large space in New York that could hold that many people and allow for speakers and microphones without costing the organizers and attendees a fortune. I spent about half my time outside the store keeping cool and talking to other "Engadgeteers," and ventured inside just for the main events. Also, they offered free beer in small plastic cups, which was a cool gesture. But there were quite a few kids there who were under 21, and while I didn't see any of them drinking, I didn't see anyone carding them either. I kept hoping we'd avoid a police bust for serving minors (talk about your flashbacks to college days!). I think it was a great event nevertheless, and I hope they have another one. I need another chance to win a new cell phone.
I took a few pictures at the event, and I'll try to remember to upload them tonight. I did send them to Engadget, so they may show up there before they show up here.
PS: Engadget has their story up now, with a few of my pictures as well.