The first ever Nerd Con: Nerdfighteria was held February 25-26th, 2017, in Boston, Massachusetts, and was by far and away the best conference I have ever attended. Relatively small, at a max of 3500 attendees, it provided an in-depth experience that brought a 10 year old online community into the physical world in a tangible way.

A performance by Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers on Saturday night

I’ve tried to write this post several times and just can’t quite find the words to describe the amazing experience that I had during Nerd Con: Nerdfighteria. It was like stepping into an internet space that somehow, for just two days, existed in the real world, and it was magical. There’s no other word for it. Suddenly all of these people that I’ve only ever seen or known online were there in the same room, talking about shared experiences and milestones that were personal and yet belonged to a community of millions at the same time.

I’ve been a Nerdfighter since 2007. I came in with “Accio Deathly Hallows” in July and can trace back most of my online life to that point and to the threads weaving everyone connected to this community to that. Heck, I’m even part of IGGPPC because of a recommendation from someone in the Nerdfighter community, and my first iggle friendships were made by the shared creed, DFTBA.

Nerdfighter-iggle pals!

I’ve gotten into Wrock (wizard rock) and learned more about the world through Crash Course and Sci Show and I’ve made friends and I’ve traveled and I’ve blogged and vlogged and helped the smallest of helps to raise millions of dollars for charity and countless other things, all because John and Hank Green decided to try out a video project ten years ago. And I am hardly alone, but one of millions. That is a strange thing to think, as I can also remember the Big Deal of them reaching 100,000 subscribers (current count as of this writing is 2.96 million just on their main channel).

How can I capture for you an experience like this? If you’ve met your long-time pen pal in person you may have an inkling of how strange and yet how comfortable it can be: Here is someone I know really well and yet we’re meeting for the first time. Weird! Wonderful!

Working on a giant rug with all of the conference attendees

There were so many ways to experience Nerd Con as well, from the panels to the concert to the exhibitor hall (full of non profits that you could directly support or learn about while there). I particularly loved the community art projects that happened, from the rug woven by anybody who came by (I came by. I wove part of an orange stripe.) to the zine/flyer station where you could take any kind of materials and reconfigure them into new things.

Hanging at the ‘zine station

Beyond the interactive-ness of it all (and the nerd-punk-rock concert on Saturday night that including Harry and the Potters and Hank Green and the Perfect Strangers), the conference was full of amazing panels to attend to the point where I felt I had to make seriously tough calls about what to do and what I would have to miss. (I’m crossing my fingers that some of them got filmed!) Unlike at a typical convention, where the panels are focused on things like specific fandoms or shows, many of the panels at Nerd Con were more educational or introspective. Even the panels based around specific shows (like Healthcare Triage) delved into heady topics such as wins in public health (smoking secession rate! reduced teen pregnancy!) and possible future healthcare options.

I also attended a panel that was the reunion of Five Awesome Girls, a live edition of the podcast Holy F*cking Science (NSFW), a discussion of Having a Job While YouTubing (which I extrapolated to any kind of creative pursuit), and a panel-style version of Beer and Board Games that featured Maureen Johnson and Craig Benzine. I went to a talk about Why Games Are Important and a panel where random people just asked Hank and John Green questions– Question Tuesday on a Sunday. Basically it was a chance to delve deeply into things that I was passionate about in really specific ways, and to celebrate them with other people who are also passionate about them, but in a deeper way than an average con offers. I walked away with a better understanding of the topics covered (or just a really good laugh from watching Maureen Johnson play board games TO WIN.)

Other Random Notes on Things I Learned at Nerd Con (or things I was reminded of)

  • Creativity is a thing that is hard to do, but also needs to be a thing that brings you joy. If you aren’t enjoying it anymore, maybe re-evaluate why you’re doing it. Need a change of pace? Don’t be afraid to mix things up. Work at different times or work differently or even get a totally new job. Burn-out is real.
  • Creating things for yourself allows you the space to be zany, to take risks without a whole team of Professionals looking over your shoulder. Remember to give yourself a little space for yourself. — From Ahsante Bean: Do your creative work early in the day, so you “pay yourself first with your time.”
  • Keep being kind and try to do your best, and unkind people will eventually back down.
  • “There is no wrong way to be yourself” — Liane of Five Awesome Girls
  • Be confident in and kind to yourself; value friendship with other women because it is valuable.
  • Games are important because they allow us a chance to work through scenarios and conflicts in a controlled setting. Gaming with significant others and friends allows us to work through strategy and cooperation and problem solving before we encounter issues in “real life” situations.
  • Like wolf pups play to learn how to be adults, we play to learn how to do things in our lives and be better in relationships.
  • There is a lot of art in airports. Thanks, Pokemon Go!

A thought-board for sharing ways to make the world better, plus building a pizza by connecting with non-profits

What is Nerdfighteria?

Before we wrap up, I want to invite you to get to know Nerdfighteria, and to come play with us. Nerdfighteria is a community that, at its core, is the audience of the Vlogbrothers, John and Hank Green, but is also just a great group of people trying to make the world a little (or a lot) better. For more, here’s my Geek 101: Nerdfighteria to help you dive in. You can also check out A Brief History of the Vlogbrothers by Ryder Burgin (FootofaFerret):

The Nerdfighter community has grown a lot in the last ten years and now numbers in the millions if you count all of their subscribers across various platforms. All the same, it still manages to feel like a close-knit community with a core of shared values; namely that we are all made of Awesome on a molecular level and should work together to decrease levels of World Suck. And I have to say, Nerd Con: Nerdfighteria certainly felt like the best kind of culmination of the last ten years, as well as a stepping stone for the next decade or more to come.

Nerd Con was like a giant nostalgia-fueled celebration of everywhere we’ve been as a community for the last decade. The thread throughout, however, was the way the Vlogbrothers launched so many things that now make up how we think of YouTube, and even internet community in general. Positive support and celebrating the things that make people unique, the things people are unironically passionate about, and just plain geeky about while also trying to imagine others complexly is all integral to the spirit of Nerdfighteria.