We headed out for taco salads and soup at the Easy Restaurant on King Street after our last class of improv comedy. My three classmates and the teacher were all deeply into the Toronto improv and sketch comedy scene. I was the lone non-comedian, and I got a fascinating glimpse into that world.
They talked about the awkwardness of telling non-comedians about your interests. When the conversation turns to what people do, they feel that people who are outside the comedy scene just don’t get it, saying: “Oh, you’re a comedian? Tell me a joke.” One of my classmates said that this was probably why practically all her friends are also in the comedy scene. I wonder if they also have problems with the echo chamber effect that we see online, when people end up talking only to people like them.
They talked about the challenges facing the Toronto comedy scene. There are lots of stand-up rooms in Toronto where people can practise their material, but attendance is hit-or-miss. If you liked a specific comedian, it was hard to find out when and where they’d perform next. Shows were better publicized, but individuals were hard to track. I asked them if it was a matter of marketing. To me, it seemed obvious: if you were starting out as a stand-up comedian or an improv comedy performer, why not make it easier for people to find out when you’d be performing next, and share your adventures along the way?
They reacted strongly against the idea of self-promotion. To them, the idea of an amateur having business cards, a website, or a Facebook fanpage smacked of pretentiousness. It was okay if you’d done a number of well-received shows, or had some kind of national profile. If you were just starting out, you needed to know your place.
I found that really interesting because we run into the same social norms against self-promotion in different business cultures, and it can get in the way of connecting.
I think people do want to keep an eye out for teams and people they like. Facebook’s use of “Fan” might turn people off, so they’d need a more neutral space that can keep track of teams, individuals, shows, and locations. It would be a natural fit for Facebook integration, calendar exports, RSS feeds, and mailing lists. You could probably build the whole thing using out-of-the-box Drupal and the Content Creation Kit. Data entry would have to be done manually for a while (listings from Now Toronto and from the major venues?), but it might eventually grow into something that people can update on their own.
I don’t see people paying to use a service like this, but it might be supported by advertising (and perhaps a share of ticket sales, if you have an e-commerce system tied into venues’ ticketing).
In terms of marketing, you’d probably approach venues that don’t have event lists, as well as teams and individuals. Teams and individuals would be your primary channel for marketing. You could also offer a badge for venues, teams, and individuals in order to advertise upcoming shows, and pre-designed flyers (like what Meetup now does), and provide webpages for people who don’t have their personal sites set up yet. Posters near established comedy venues would be good, too, and hand-outs given to people in line. Business cards might be interesting too.
A business idea for someone who’s really interested in the comedy scene, perhaps! =)
BarCampEarthToronto was a blast, and so was my laptop ad campaign.
It's about time that we stopped advertising just Apple or Dell. ;) Do something creative with your laptop cover! Double-sided tape peels off quite cleanly, so go do something funky with it! =)
@BarCampEarthToronto, Brooke Gordon, serial entrepreneur
Know what your value is. Know what your customer looks like. Create scenarios. Find out what a typical customer looks like, so you can tell other people what you look like. Make sure that you get involved in networking. Get those government resources.
@BarCampEarthToronto: Search engine optimization
Terrific idea! Ryan McKegney identified the top 1% in his RedFlagDeals.com community, rewarded them with stickers and other stuff, and encouraged them to evangelize. Great! Also, you have another 1% who want to get more involved. As for the 1% who are jerks: do things in an open and fair way. Also, keep in mind that there's a negative response bias in large online communities. People who disagree with something will be the loudest. Takeaway: You set the tone for the site, because you are such an integral part of the community.
Random notes: Alan Hietala talked about bridging multiple communities in World of Warcraft. Event planning for MMORPG. Heatware - independent reputation system. Jason: no one makes the first post, so you seed.. but dependency? .. Also, start with existing communities.
The problem with conferences is that I always, always run into scheduling conflicts. I really, really wanted to go to the two talks about communities, the two talks about culture, one talk about perception, and of course I have another session to run on information overload.
Six sessions, three time slots. Aiyah. You don't need a CS degree to know that's a problem.
So I convinced Mike and Quinn to merge their talks on culture. Then I looked for the people responsible for the meta-community talk and asked if they could merge with Ryan's talk about building communities. They agreed!
I couldn't merge with Mike's talk - thematically different, and I'd probably run a long conversation - but hey, that was a great win. All the people who merged said it would be a good idea because they needed less than an hour. Everyone else gets a nice panel. And I learned that if you ask, people will probably say yes.