Let's do it again--another perspective on the San Francisco Meet & GreetJan 3, 2004 (Updated Aug 30, 2004) Write an essay on this topic.
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Ever since I started this hobby of writing on-line reviews three years ago, I've always felt a little in a vacuum. Some of my friends have been encouraging, but whenever the subject comes up I usually watch a glazed expression grow in their faces until we move on to another topic. When I moved from Amazon to Epinions, I received a little more satisfaction because of its feature to allow users to respond to each review online. I'm one of those people who needs my alone time, but I also like to set some aside for schmoozing. When Epinions announced its third Meet & Greet would be in San Francisco, I RSVPed right away. It was fun meeting some of the personalities I've brushed with online face-to-face and it was well worth the effort. The best parties are the ones where the people all share something in common and those active on Epinions are also intelligent conversationalists. I would definitely go to another Meet & Greet.
When I first prepared to go, I wasn't sure what to expect. I had read a few of the reviews from the previous Meet & Greets and, judging by the way they mentioned on-going developments at Epinions, I half-expected they were going to start out with a small meeting where the Epi employees would make some sort of presentation. I took the time to make a few notes of topics I wanted to ask about, including a couple of minor catalog problems I ran across. Seeing it as good networking opportunity, I also brought along a few copies of books a friend of mine wrote to see if I could find a reviewer for them. As I thought about the early start time, I also decided to use the Meet & Greet as an excuse to review another haunted hotel (the Sir Francis Drake) and spend a little more time in the city by the bay.
One review of the New York edition said it pays to be there early, so I hiked the treacherous trail past Union Square, my beloved Macy's, and the Metreon to the Thirsty Bear and arrived about 25 minutes before the 1 p.m. start time. At that stage, only Crystal, who handles abuse reports at Epinions, was there. We chatted in the bar for a while until Garrett arrived carrying a big box, then the both of them went upstairs to set things up for the reception. Feeling a little silly for arriving so early, I chose not to intrude on them as they had whatever employee talk they wanted and did their setting up. Other Epi emps arrived and went straight to the loft. I waited at the bar until the appointed 1 p.m. start time, then climbed the stairs to the loft. When I arrived, I was warmly greeted by Nirav, Alexis, Garrett, and Crystal. Epi kids were all over the place, some even sat by the holes of the billiard table. I was given a nametag, which included the Epinions logo, my first name, user name, the number of reviews I currently had posted and the date I joined, and we chatted. Gradually, people arrived, mostly Epi emps among the first, including Andy and Paul. Baron, a.k.a. "okiebug," arrived a little later than most of the crew. He introduced himself as one of the least helpful and most blocked users on the Epinions website, as his postings are usually just test checks on how things are working.
A limited bar menu was set up, consisting mostly of well drinks--sodas and beer. Pitchers of sangria were prepared. It had been a while since I had one and found the Thirsty Bear's version to be quite potent. I waited until the end to give it try and found myself a bit light-headed when I left. The restaurant gradually began setting out the food, buffet-style, starting with bread served the Italian way (to be dipped in oil and vinegar), then a salad of cold, roasted vegetables. After about an hour, Nirav told the Thirsty Bear staff to bring everything out. Soon we had meatballs, shrimp, roasted potatoes, and chicken wings with dips. It seems like there may have been another dish or two, but, unfortunately, I forgot to note all of the menu items.
Paul turned out to be a rather easy guy to talk with. He also lives in San Jose after relocating from out of New York. Coincidentally, when he first moved to the west coast, he stayed at the Sir Francis Drake. He mentioned something about not getting along with a couple of the staff members there, but he had a corner room that he thought was fab. Unfortunately, he heard nothing about any of the ghosts that inhabit the hotel. Crystal said that the manager of the Starlight Roof, the restaurant on the top floor of the Sir Francis Drake, is a friend of hers. When I told her it is haunted, she had the heebie-jeebies and intended to ask her friend about it. She said she could never stay in a haunted hotel.
Another fellow reviewer finally arrived around 1:30, Macresarf1, who was accompanied by his adult son. What a friendly fellow. We chatted about our reviews for a while and I thanked him for the nice comment on my San Remo Hotel review. He soon had a beer at the bar and spent most of his time chatting there with Stephen_Murray when he arrived. Horsewspr joined them when he appeared. Considering how clear Macresarf1 makes his Scottish ancestry, I'm surprised Doc Devience wasn't there to meet him.
Another reviewer I enjoyed meeting was Tiffy0380, who told me of her love of books. I was very happy to hand her two of the three I had brought with me. She is trim, attractive, and her profile shot looks wrong. The young woman I met had dark hair. Regardless, with all of the weight I've putting on during the past few years it's hard to not feel envious. Same goes for Crystal and Alexis.
Kristinafh takes the second-place award for traveling the longest distance for this Meet & Greet. She definitely has a minxish quality in her demeanor. She spent most of her time with Dustygold, making their rounds at the reception, trying out an idea for their annual anniversary writeoff, "Chicks with Dicks." Megugrrrl supplemented it with "Dykes on Bikes." Dustygold and Kristinafh both joined Epinions on the exact same day, hence their cooperation to commemorate the event with a writeoff. However, when Dustygold admitted to writing only six reviews this year, I feel the need to urge her to do more. So, lots of stars for Dustygold, *****.
The person who traveled the longest distance to the San Francisco Meet & Greet was Volition45, who came from New York and amazingly has yet to achieve advisor status with over 100 reviews posted. She told me she has no particular dedication to any category on the site, but she will start thinking about it. She attended the New York M&G as well, so it would be cool to have her perspective on the two events.
Megugrrrl, one of the restaurant category leads, failed to remember exchanging email with me until I mentioned I had asked her to create a product page for The Asylum, in Jerome, Arizona. Since Jerome had no place in the database yet, that was a hassle. I appreciated her perseverance.
Sweeper, one of the electronics CLs, eyed me with a look of confusion as I approached him. He asked if we had met before and was trying to place me. I tried to think of areas that I frequented, such as San Jose State University and science fiction conventions, where I might have been seen, but I was unable to help him. Then he asked where I worked. How embarrassing. He works at the same company I do. He had spent time in my department chatting with my lead, Carlene, but considering all the people who walk through there, I hadn't recognized him at all. People always seem to come to chat with Carlene.
I also met zzJulia, who also reviewed the first item I ever did for Epinions. She concentrates mainly on the Beauty category and believes books are hard ones to do. I think it all depends on what you know. I think music would be tough, because all I know is what I like. With her good looks and snappy outfit, the beauty category is one where she is certainly appropriate.
Mike_Bracken was also there with his wife, Lighthouse, who said she had been rather inactive for a while. Ladygumby was a nice lady to chat with. She only had 10 reviews posted that day, but she has been building up her repertoire since then. Tennis_player and his wife were friendly conversationalists, who showed polite interest when I described my adventures in haunted hotels. Other reviewers who attended, but I talked with too briefly were Mrisch (my eyes must have glazed over when he said something about finance) and one other I missed who I hope will speak up. Unfortunately, real life obligations kept me from writing this report up sooner and my memory is a bit sketchy.
Some of my Epinions innocence was lost as I picked up some of the ways and means of the community. I was a bit disturbed when one of the more active members said that others have solicited her to block someone on the site. My home system is dial-up and really low on RAM, making rating at home impossible for me at the moment. I just do what I can when I have a better terminal in front of me, usually at work during lunchtime or after hours. Being unable to participate as much as I'd like, I'm naturally not as visible as others and have never been bothered by such a loathsome request. Members should make up their own minds about other individuals on the site. I realize it's a political one, but is it necessary to form backstage alliances? This isn't Survivor. I just avoid the members who discombobulate me.
Towards the end, Nirav expressed some disappointment that only 16 reviewers showed up for the Meet & Greet. I shared it, especially since Crystal had already told me that 21 responded that they would. Toward the end, several of us clustered around a table as restaurant staff cleared up the dishes. Megugrrrl, probably the closest thing Epinions has to Herb Cain, was ready to party some more. I would have joined her, but it appeared no one else was interested.
All in all, it was a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon. My previous expectations were inaccurate, but that is no problem. The vibes were harmonious and it was satisfying to be able to talk to people about my reviews and Epinions without them trying to change the subject right away. I'd love to go to another. Nirav said the next Meet & Greet will happen during the February-March timeframe in either Chicago or Texas. Because of the weather, it's more likely that they'll choose Texas first. Who knows? Maybe I'll go as far as to fly in for it and become better acquainted with more of Epinions's wonderful members.
More reviews on the November 15, 2003 Meet & Greet in San Francisco:
A Very Nice Time, by Tennis_player
San Francisco Meet, Greet, and Eat, by Sweeper
Third Time Is A Charm - San Francisco, The Hot Bartender, and My Girls, by Kristinafh
Well, I Can Die Now, by Dustygold
A Thanksgiving Present: A Late Report on the San Francisco Epinions' Meet 'n Greet, by Macresarf1
Food, Drinks and Fun at Thirsty Bear; The SF Meet n Greet, by Tiffy0380
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