What I Learned at Greenville Grok

Mar 20

My friend Matthew Smith organized a small gathering (conference? alt-conference? nonference?) in my proverbial backyard this past weekend. The first Greenville Grok was a blast for a handful of locals and out-of-towners.

So, what’s a grok anyway?

[grok] — verb

1. to intimately and completely share the same reality or line of thinking with another physical or conceptual entity
2. the intermingling of intelligence that necessarily affects both the observer and the observed

[Origin: 1961, coined by author Robert A. Heinlein in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land]

The weekend was equal parts 10 or 20-minute presentations/questions/thoughts (here’s a spreadsheet of topics), relaxed conversation, shared ideas, food and drink from local eateries, and good old fashioned camaraderie.

I’m an introvert by nature and I admit to not being much of a “conference guy,” so this format was very appealing to me. No fluff, no filler, no lines for the bathroom—just an onslaught of ideas and feedback with a stellar group of people. Here are a few highlights and orphaned thoughts from my notebook…

On Project Managers:

Project Managers without any subject matter expertise are glorified secretaries.
Rob Wright

On free [journalism] content:

If it’s free, it’s dead. Either no one’s going to do it or everyone is going to do it and it will suck.
Yaron Schoen

On side projects:

Getting stuff done isn’t the only thing.
Matthew Smith

On articulating the mission first:

Unless pixels help you hone it, iterate goals and your message before you begin development.
Cameron Koczon

There was much more to chew on regarding business, clients, teams, side projects, language, trust, paywalls, journalism, apps, beer (oh, the way these gents love their beer…) and I was only there for one day of the three. I can get down with that kind of return.

Many thanks to Matthew for organizing and everyone else who attended—you filled Grok chock full of amazing content. Let’s do this again sometime soon.

Update: Cameron posted a great write-up and curated a Twitter list of all in attendance.


  1. Record it next time. This sounds like a very interesting format that I’d love to replicate in the future.

  2. This sounds like it was really solid.

    As someone who just got back from SXSWi, I’ll say that you definitely made the right choice.

  3. Benjamin Thomas

    Let me know when the next one is. That is awesome! Some Great Topics!

  4. Haha.. Grok is like the funniest word in the world. And I agree – record it next time and put it up. Very intriguing stuff!!

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