GeekFest: Building a Community of Geeks in Jeddah

By | October 13, 2012

Image courtesy @yaya_artist on Instagram

Question: What’s the word for a geek in Jeddah?
Answer: “a Jeddi”
– Yasser Bahjatt

Last weekend I had the really great opportunity to speak about community building at GeekFest Jeddah. You can learn more about the event in my earlier post. I also wanted to be sure to share my notes from the talk here on the blog. Below is the summary of the chat:

Collaborating to Build a Community of Geeks in Jeddah

Who Am I?
I’m Claire Sale and I’m a community builder. I’m passionate about using technology for social benefit, and about building community around these ideas. I’ve built a career working with organizations in the US, UK, and now Saudi to help them build and support sustainable communities to meet a specific mission. I’ve launched communities for community builders, charity workers, and social innovators – all have been both online and offline communities.

My Goal
The motif for today’s event is Collaboration. I want to take this opportunity to collaborate with members of the community to find ways that we can work together to strengthen the network of geeks in Jeddah and create a sustainable future for the group.

Community Building
Why participate in a community? We participate to learn, share, create a solution, share a passion. Us geeks in Jeddah are already a community. Now, let’s work out ways to strengthen our connection as a group.

Let’s talk through some of the core principles of community building, and use OURSELVES as a case study:

How do you start when talking about starting or building a community? First: you must know your audience. We didn’t have time to have everyone introduce themselves, but we did have some shout-outs from the audience about the types of things this community is into. Here are the notes we took:

As you can see, we have a wide range of topics that we enjoy!


What are we already doing as a community?

The other organizers have already started creating this community, long before this event. They’ve…

  • Hosted events – like geekfest!
  • Written posts online for a general audience who are interested in geeky things in Jeddah
  • Created social media presences for the community
  • Started a podcast
  • What else? (please share your feedback in the comments below!)

Other ways to start a community

  • Create a website that is a one-stop-shop for all things about the topic. Like
  • Connect with related communities. Are there other groups functioning in Jeddah that attract geeks? What are they doing? How can we collaborate with them? The networks that the other geek-talkers are creating are perfect examples.
  • What else? (please share your feedback in the comments below!)

 How can you sustain a community?

Passionate and supportive community members AND…

  • Regular online communication
    • newsletter
    • forums/listserves
    • podcast
    • social media updates
  • Events – inperson, or online
  • Respond to questions and ideas that people share in response to your events and communications
  • Always invite new people to participate
  • Make your communication and events accessible to your audience
  • Make as much as you can publicly available – on the web, or in person
  • Clear Messages: timely, relevant, engaging – discussion. Not just advertising.
  • Community leaders!

All of these things support the forward momentum of the community.

A note on technology

Building community is not about building new technology platforms, but it is about leveraging the latest technology to help us build our communities! Experimenting and adapting, but always with a goal and purpose in mind.

We’re all geeks here, so let’s all experiment with the technology, but lets let the needs of the community guide the technology, rather than the other way around.

Sometimes older technology is better :-) Think about: forums. So uncool, but so, so useful!


So… where do we go from here?



We need to decide: What do we want to do as a community? Here’s the feedback that we received during the talk:

Solidarity, Personal/professional networking/ and more events were some of the key themes.



What tools do we all use? Where do we want to congregate online? Where do we want to congregate offline?


Leadership: Anyone Anywhere

Believe it or not, there is a lot of planning involved in keeping forward momentum for even the strongest community. Do you have a vision for the group? Want to help take the lead? Raise your hand!

Here’s who raised their hand at this event:

And, I hope we’ll find even more leaders out of this posting!



Let’s not let today be the end of the collaboration – let’s make it be the beginning! Let’s take our connections and our excitement about building this community, and make it happen: together.


Thank yous:
I want to send a big fat “THANK YOU” to…

  • The organizers of the event. You guys rocked it! I felt so welcome and I had a great time. I can’t wait for the next one!
  • Kinda: Thank you for joining me and for helping to take notes during my chat. I never introduced you properly during the chat and for that I’m SO Sorry!
  • The Store: This place is amazing – I can’t wait to come back with my friends!
  • Samsung: Thanks for bringing all the toys to play with! I had a blast playing (and winning) the angry birds competition and my prize of the brand new Galaxy Note II is awesome. I haven’t put it down since I got it.

I won the brand new Samsung Galaxy Note II for kicking butt at angry birds!