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From hashtag to reality: the BEA tweetup

May 30, 2009 |  8:13 am

Thegreenhouse

The hashtag has taken hold. Book Expo America's first tweetup -- unofficial, put together by a few hyperenthusiastic publishing industry twitter-folk -- was a genuine success.

Crowds packed into the Green House in Greenwich Village, filling the room within 30 minutes of the party's start. They had all heard about the tweetup -- a real-world meeting of Twitter friends -- through the assiduous efforts of @russmarshalek, @katmeyer and others. They organized, got sponsors who covered a Kindle giveaway and the vodka for the "michiko kakutinis" and, most importantly, tweeted about the #beatweetup in the weeks leading up to the conference.

As might be expected, the crowd skewed younger than the average BEA party. Interestingly, they came from across the conference's various cultures: Booksellers, staff of publishing houses big and small, journalists, publicists, authors and bloggers were all in attendance. Attendance may be down at BEA, but there are still thousands here, and they often segment by specialty.

So what was it that united the crowd at the Green House? Perhaps the hope that #beatweetup would introduce them to those they'd been engaging with online about books and more, in 140-character-or-less spurts.

There were just two obstacles. First, the music: While it was a great selection, it was really loud. It was hard to have a conversation that didn't involve shouting into the ear of the person next to you, which meant connecting happened slowly -- and in tiny increments.

And then there's the other problem: Although one industrious planner had printed badges with Twitter handles, it seems every one of us, myself included, is a bit fatter than our Twitter pictures would have you believe.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Carolyn Kellogg

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