CONWAY — If breakfast is the best way to start the day, it might also be the best way for “geeks” to meet new people, share ideas and keep their creative juices flowing.
David J. Hinson, executive vice president and chief information officer of Hendrix College, said the first Geek Breakfast will take place Feb. 23 at Bob’s Grill, 1112 Oak St.
“A ‘geek’ is basically anyone with a strong interest in technology,” Hinson said. “The Geek Breakfast is an effort to bring together like-minded individuals to talk about various aspects of technology and social media.”
He said that, so far, about a dozen local professionals and academics have agreed to attend the Geek Breakfast. Technology is the theme, but there is no set agenda or format.
“Conversation is the currency,” Hinson said.
Hinson has a lot of experience in the tech field, having written and sold such applications as Cheap Gas, which he sold to GasBuddy.com. He imported the Geek Breakfast in Nashville, Tenn., which he helped form in 2007.
“It was an opportunity for informal networking,” Hinson said of the first Geek Breakfast. “Small-business and creative people met and talked about what they were doing. It was the first place I ever saw a flip phone or an iPhone. It was a neat way to meet movers and shakers.”
Hinson and his family moved from Orlando, Fla., to Conway in May 2011, when he accepted his position at Hendrix.
“There is a vibrant atmosphere here” for start-up and technology-oriented companies, he said. Conway seemed to him a good fit for the Geek Breakfast.
“ There are all kinds of nerds - people who are into every gadget as soon as it’s introduced,” he said. “We can get our blinders on, and it’s hard to break out of that echo chamber. This is a way for someone at Acxiom, for example, to meet someone from AETN or Conway Cowork and talk about their business models, find out what else is going on in the community.”
The rules of the G eek Breakfast stipulate that “everyone is invited,” and that Geek Breakfasts “shall never be sponsored.”
“We don’t want people coming in for a free meal,and we don’t want an agenda,” Hinson said. “This is not a profit-making event, and I’m not trying to build a brand around Geek Breakfast. This is about ideas, and everyone is expected to come in and contribute to the conversation.”
Hinson said the fast-moving pace of technological changes should make for interesting conversation.
“No one five years ago could have foreseen Facebook having 800 million users or the impact of Twitter,” he said. “Looking for ward, I don’t know what the next disruptive technology will be.”
He said “disruptive technologies” are those that transform how people perform everyday tasks, such as watching television, buying books or music, or banking.
“It would have been hard to explain to someone how important it would be to have an iPad,” Hinson said, “until you see what all you can do with a tablet. Already the sales of tablets and hand held devices are outstripping sales of traditional desktop computers. Two years from now, something we’ve never heard of will probably come along and change things again.”
He said technology and the social media do have downsides.
“People don’t seem to understand that there is no delete button on the Internet, and nothing is ever completely private,” he said. “We have a false sense of what really is private, and people haven’t really reconciled to that yet.”
Exposure to various forms of social media can also lead to fragmented audiences and shortened attention spans, Hinson said.
“Our attention is pulled in ways it wasn’t in the past,” he s aid. “People us e d to share experiences, but today they might watch Madonna’s Super Bowl concert on television, or streaming on the Internet, or on Facebook.”
However, social media can lead to more networking, which is part of the goal of Geek Breakfast.
“Networking allows you to build on social capital you’ve already established,” he said. “Through social media, you can keep up with people you went to high school or college with, or former employers, better than ever, and that can make for some important connections.”
He said his own career has followed the trends of social media development. He developed games and software, and wrote applications for Facebook, before recently moving into the mobile-media marketplace.
Hinson said he looks forward to seeing how many people attend the Geek Breakfast.
“I don’t think we’ll overwhelm Bob’s Grill,” he said with a laugh, “but I hope we’ll do better every month.”
Staff writer Daniel A. Marsh can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or firstname.lastname@example.org.