Hamilton hosts Canada's first 'Geek Breakfast'

This community driven networking event for self-proclaimed geeks has sprung up in cities all over the world, and now it has come to Canada.
McMaster University continuing education instructor Jared Lenover speaks with some of his students at Hamilton's first Geek Breakfast at Williams Fresh Cafe on the Hamilton waterfront Saturday morning. (Adam Carter/CBC)

If a group of seagulls is a flock, and a pile of crows is a murder — what do you call a gathering of geeks?

A Starfleet. At least, that was the best guess to come out of Canada's first Geek Breakfast at Williams Fresh Café on the Hamilton waterfront Saturday morning.

Geek Breakfasts are community driven networking events for those with a penchant for technology — or simply: geeks. Participants gather monthly over a meal to discuss social media, digital marketing, programming, design, and how best to use their skills collectively to better their respective communities.

The original Geek Breakfast was founded by podcaster and blogger Dave Delaney in Nashville, TN in 2007. Since then, Geek Breakfasts have sprung up in 44 cities around the world. Saturday's event was the first of its kind in Canada, and was organized by Hamilton firefighter John Piercy. He says Hamilton's Geek Breakfast is about getting past the sometimes-impersonal nature of social media and establishing connections to foster change in the city.

Hamilton firefighter John Piercy was the organizer of Hamilton's Geek Breakfast - the first of its kind in Canada. (Adam Carter/CBC)

"This is about getting people face to face," Piercy said. "This is a great opportunity to get people out to share their expertise with blogging or social media."

"People meet online and everybody with Twitter and Facebook sees a picture, but this sort of situation is great because people can share their resources and share what they have."

Piercy may be a firefighter by trade, but he's a geek at heart. He got involved with computers back in the early 1990s, and started the Hamilton Flickr photo-sharing group back in 2006. What started as a modest group of ten people sharing pictures of the city has ballooned to almost 800 burgeoning photographers sharing photos of Hamilton — some 30,000 shots in all.

Piercy says the Hamilton digital crowd is extremely passionate, and just keeps growing. "It's just gotten bigger and bigger," he said.

About 35 people showed up for the inaugural meal, including social media stalwarts like city hall livestreamer Joey Coleman and Twitter activist Dan Jelly, alongside business owners and social media students looking to test the waters of what the medium can do.

McMaster University continuing education instructor Jared Lenover came out with some of his students to "show them around" Hamilton's online community. Lenover teaches two different courses at McMaster that centre around building social media relationships and refining social media research techniques.

"A lot of my students are fairly new to social media, so this gives them a chance to meet people in the community who are online or who do technical and programming work," Lenover said.

"This is a way to say 'look, these are real people in my community who are doing real work, and I can actually collaborate with them and help the community.'"

Both Lenover and Piercy say they feel like Hamilton is more engaged online than many other places, as evidenced by the robust nature of the #HamOnt hashtag on Twitter and the real implications discussions that take place there can have on the real world — like Dialogue Partners' much publicized ousting from a city hall contract concerning citizen engagement.

"There was a time when if you were labeled a geek, you were kind of one out of ten in a group," Piercy said.

"Now more people are adopting it."