Thursday, March 13, 2014

Drink and Learn: An Interview with Nerd Boss Josh Manning

The tagline says it all: It’s like the Discovery Channel—with beer! For over a year, Nerd Nite has been enriching the Orlando know-it-all scene with riveting research, knowledgeable presenters, and another reason to drink on a weeknight.  So, who brought this delightfully nerdy event to Orlando? The Nerd Boss himself, Josh Manning.

Although Nerd Nite was born in Boston, Manning first experienced it in DC. Years later, when he moved to Orlando, his first thought was, “we need this here.” For him, it was the perfect way to show off the surprising pool of smarts that might not be expected of Orlando. “There’s kind of an identity crisis here… [but] there are a lot of reasons to attract intellectuals here: We have the Kennedy Space Center, Disney Imagineering, Universal, ‘Southeast Silicon Valley,’ or whatever, and multiple universities.” In effect, Manning felt that Orlando’s intellectual assets were being underused.  

Despite its seriously scientific roots, the free Nerd Nite  events are more than a lecture series: The goal is to strike a delicate balance between being enlightening and entertaining. “What attracted me to Nerd Nite is that it’s not ‘death by PowerPoint.’” It also helps, says Manning, that many of the topics are “borderline salacious.” Add to that a stimulating atmosphere and a bit of alcohol, and you can have yourself an informative yet engaging evening.  

Although the topics often lean towards the edgy, that doesn't mean the presenters are any less scientific. For a Valentine’s Day themed presentation, which covered topics as romantic as BDSM, Manning thought, “this is sexy and fun, but I’m not sure where I’m gonna get the nerd out of there.” But he was quickly convinced when presented with the speaker’s thorough sociological research on the topic.

What’s next for Nerd Nite Orlando? The series’ growing popularity has made it increasingly harder for it to fit into its usual space, Stardust Coffee and Video. It’s grown from 75 people a year ago to 180 people at the Nerd Nite Goes Oktoberfest. Needless to say, get there early.

Don't miss this month's Nerd Nite Orlando XIII, featuring Chindogu, Digital Heroes, and Cards Against the Future. It's happening Thursday, March 13, 2014 from 7:00 to 9:00pm at Stardust Video & Coffee.

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