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30 January 2011 @ 10:01 pm
Bookmooch Meet-up in Berkeley  
Today, a group of Bay Area Bookmoochers was having a meet-up in Berkeley. Now, normally I don't get very involved with the offline branches of the various book sites I used, but the founder of Bookmooch, John Buckman, was hosting this event. I've always wanted to meet the guy, so I decided to go.

A local Bookmoocher, noting my RSVP to the event, asked if we could carpool since we lived in the same city. I'd never met or spoken with her before, but I thought, "Why not?" We arranged to meet at a light rail station. When Seanie found out that I was going to drive myself and a stranger up to Berkeley, he insisted on coming along. I'm glad he did; secretly, I was dreading the car trip because I've never driven that distance before.

When we arrive at the train station, she's waiting. With a dog.
First mention I've heard of a friggin' dog. It was a good thing that Seanie was driving, because if it had been my car I would've wheeled around and taken off. I mean, it's a little rude to mooch a ride and fail to ask if your four-legged companion is OK, no? What if I was deathly allergic to dog fur, or something? But Seanie is much nicer than me, so he didn't make a fuss about the animal.

As we're riding along, she spots a polyester American flag that Seanie keeps in his car to fly on patriotic holidays. "Why on earth would you want to hang that?" she asked Seanie. Seanie, the former Boy Scout from a long line of Republicans. The guy who has a painting of an eagle hanging on his wall and has family members who go hunting every weekend. He wants to fly it because he loves America. Why wouldn't he? I mean, we freakin' live here.
...why would you even ask?

This is a relatively petty complaint compared to bringing a dog without warning and attacking the tastes of the person giving you a lift, but she didn't offer to help pay for gas or anything. My mom raised me to always offer to split gas, because someone's doing you a favor. I guess this isn't a universal cultural norm, but all of my friends do it so I was really surprised. Turns out this bookmoocher was something of a professional moocher; near as I can tell she spends her life traveling the world with little more than a suitcase full of clothes.

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Sorry, I sorta derailed into a rant there. Anyway...
So we went up to Berkeley to meet with other local Bookmoochers, who for the most part were
A/ Female
B/ Older than me
C/ Friendly
One of the things folks were supposed to do was bring books they wanted to trade. I brought up a handful of BMJournals that had gathered in my home, but no one was really interested in them. I mean, I had one or two "Oh, I've heard of that project!" and I ended up giving a couple of them away. But there weren't any other people around who also added to journals as a hobby. It all worked out, though; no one had brought any books that really interested me, so there wouldn't have been much trading anyhow.

But the real reason I went was because I was curious about the site's founder. Turns out he's a nice enough guy, kinda quiet, but very smart. He was a bit distracted at the meet-up, which was understandable. Everyone was there to meet him, and wanted his opinion on every little thing. Like, I really wanted to show him the BMJournals, because he's the founder of the site and isn't it neat that this whole art project/community has formed around his brainchild?? But with everyone pushing private agendas with John - he'd just announced a couple of changes to the site that will affect international trading - t made it quite difficult to have a conversation with him.

The one strong vibe I got was that John is very aware that the site is his. How to explain this...he knows that Bookmooch is his sandbox and he can pull out all his toys and walk away at any time? It's not that he's going to do this. He certainly didn't sound like he wanted to 'kill' Bookmooch. He's just very proprietary toward it. There's nothing wrong with this - I'm sure that's how Steve Jobs feels about Apple, too. It just suddenly clarified why he's currently butting heads so strongly with some of the more vocal moochers who don't like the new plan to change the cost of international mooches from 2 to 3 points.  Their idea of who owns the site (the community at large!) is very different from his.

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