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Just An Online Minute... Digital DUMBO Brings The Ugly As AOL Attempts To Rise From The Email Ashes

Digital DUMBO #22: Ugly Holiday Sweater Party, The DUMBO Loft, Brooklyn
December 15, 2010

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, there is nothing I am more attracted to than an ugly holiday sweater party.  I hopped off the F at York Street in DUMBO and pitter-pattered in the biting cold, fueled by the brain tease of a room full of DUMBO digihipsters in various knitted ropes of red and green.  I imagined an explosion of creative hideousness from this innovative bunch.

I am proud to admit that I am a theme dresser.  I simply have to harken back to years 8-19 and recall my Ohio brethren in their wardrobes sans irony.  Last night it appeared as though quite a few Digital DUMBO RSVPers were not yet comfortable living on the outside as theme dressers as my face fell when I got into the check-in line to discover button-down shirts and neutral-toned sweaters.  Yeah, yeah, people came straight from work.  This is the land of thrift stores, Kmart, and Walgreens.  No excuses!  Even Ruder Finn's Katy Kelley managed to slap on some brain-squeezing antlers on her "straight from work" way.

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AOL's Matt Knell was checking people in, and his sweater did not disappoint.  On the front, a huge stocking with AOL felted across the top.  On the back, Digital DUMBO was spelled out in Christmas colors.  Twisted around his entire sweater was a rope of Christmas lights.  Yes, they were lit.  Where the outlet was, I didn't ask.

Also sporting the lit look was Digital DUMBO co-founder and Jar Group dude Andrew Zarick.  Fully holiday-sweater-clad as well (and lurking nearby), was Digital DUMBO organizer Kaitlin Villanova.  Clarice Meadows was also there, mingling around with graphic designer Alexis Camp.  Carrot co-founder Chris Petescia was also wandering around as was new Carrot, Jen Rubio and her boyfriend, honorary orange root vegetable.

Former Carrot Creative creative and current SkinnyNYC Concept Designer Colin Murphy popped in in a huge furry hat with his friend Adam Gall, a trader (hopefully of Pokemon).  I ran into Mallory Dash of Converseon, who has been M.I.A. on the party scene for what seems like a year; Luke Chatelain of Temboo was keeping the bar goofy; and Buddy Media's Jenean Chapman, who was looking for a cheese cube. I met the guy who invented the Obama Condom, which was his preferred topic of conversation throughout the night. There were also a ton of new faces.  It was refreshing to look around and mutter to myself (aloud of course) "I don't know who the hell any of these people are."  

Refreshing finds like Cooper Miller, a multifaceted video art graphic dude, whose sweater was inventive and perverse all at once.  This man is my hero.  His sweater had a built-in fake arm -- and the mouth of his knitted Santa face doubled as a bottle opener.  I found him with Erin Doyle who, according to her Twitter bio, is a Social Media marketer by day; screenwriter, producer, actor, and children's musician by night.  Where does she find the time? Big Fuel's Juliette Richey went whole hog on the theme as well, as a sort of human-Christmas tree hybrid; she twinkled in a sea of green.

Let's talk about AOL, shall we.  In old-school creepy AOL chatroom style, nametags were meant to sport your A/S/L, all three of which I didn't feel like divulging.  The cold had slowed my brain, which made me put "Kelly" as my age.  And because they were the sponsor, AOL also interrupted the evening (very briefly!) with a demo of Phoenix, whose "rise from the email ashes" metaphor was not lost on me.  

"Remember when you used to look forward to getting email?" began Frederick Van Johnson, at first drowned out by the crowd, but he pushed through and eventually all remembered their manners.  AOL's goal with Phoenix is to make you love email again -- and they'll do this by providing you with a hub that is the delivery and receiving station for all of your communication channels. 

The reason I started hating email was because of spam -- and the reason I am starting to hate Twitter and even Facebook is because of overload of everything, so the idea of everything being in one place to a compartmentalizing person like myself doesn't really solve the problem.  However, I have written things off before and learned to love them in time, so I'm definitely looking forward to experimenting with the Phoenix preview, along with everyone else that RSVP'd to Digital DUMBO #22.

Which brings me to another point.  THIS is what Digital DUMBO should be about: early access to prototypes, but as a community.    As part of Digital DUMBO, there should be a responsibility beyond showing up for only the free-drink events.  Come and get early access to apps, tools, etc, and commit to participating in feedback activities.  If DUMBO is the tech/digital hotbed it claims to be, let's see it be part of the movement to help advance quality apps with their brain bits or put the kibosh on the limpy ones.  This isn't a new idea (I wish I were so brilliant!) but I haven't seen it implemented in the wild -- and it seems Digital DUMBO is the community to engage, based on their own hype, right?  AOL kicked it off.  I'd love to see another tech sponsor next month where an RSVP nabs you early access - but with that access comes great responsibility. 

What do you think?

Tonight I'm heading to the Conversation "Naughty or Nice" holiday party.  I'm so exhausted I hope there is a separate room for "Nice" where everyone gets a snuggie, stacks of Mad Libs, a copy of something by Chelsea Handler, a personal-sized box of champagne, and a heated recliner because man, I could go for that.  I'll let you know what happens.

Photos from Digital DUMBO #22 are up on Flickr!

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