The Meetup

xkcd readers successfully overran a park in Cambridge a week ago, and it’s taken me this long to fully recover. But boy, was it fun. Here’s a wrap-up:

Back in the spring, when I lived in Virginia, I drew this comic. The date was in the future, the coordinates were a park in Cambridge. When the date came last weekend, hundreds of people showed up.

How it went:

People were camped out there starting the night before. Without any obvious organization, they brought altered signs for the park, raptor costumes, signs, red spiders, and a tent full of xkcd-related memorabilia. They climbed the octahedral structure in the middle of the park and did their best to collapse it. Afterward, at the nearby Danahey Park, there was a trebouchet.

I had made a point of staying quiet about my plans for the coordinates. I just directed people back to the comic, which suggested that no one showed up. And, indeed, when I have dreams like that and go to the place or look for the person, there’s no one there. Dreams don’t work like that. So if they’re just your own desires whispering to you, of what use are they? As Haroun would ask, what’s the use of stories that aren’t even true? The answer was obvious. Dreams are where messages start, not where they arrive.

I realized roughly what would happen if I drew up the coordinates in a comic. And people came. It couldn’t happen exactly like it did in the comic, obviously, but it was a gathering of lovely people all brought together by their shared interest in adventure, puzzles, and people, and dreams. And it was a wonderful party.

I hung out nearby, with some friends and relatives, and put together my contribution to the gathering. Since the comic had created a counter to its own conclusion, clearly it needed to be corrected. I got 40 feet of whiteboard in 4×8 segments. I drew up the Dream Girl comic on the first one, but left out the concluding line. Instead, I left the next 35 feet for people to fill in what had happened.

I said a few words explaining this, passed out Sharpies, and then was swept to the center of a crowd of autograph-seekers. For a couple hours, I signed every blank surface anyone showed to me. This included playpen balls, shirts, breasts, a mattress, a picture of two monkeys having sex, and, at one point, the side of a Mobius strip. Afterward, we went to a trebouchet demonstration, had food, and (in a complicated string of events) reenacted the couch affair from Dirk Gently. After hanging out with some folks from Kansas and having a lovely hour-long conversation about the Animorphs, I fell asleep at 6:00 AM and slept for a full day — 25 hours — waking up briefly to eat.

Here’s an article in the Phoenix about the meetup.

Click here for a page with high-res images of all five whiteboards:

A few selections:

There were far too many pictures taken for me to wade through them all, but here are a few I pulled from the Flickr pool:

Goodness, there were a lot of people.

All the park signs were helpfully rewritten.

There were several gallant protesters insisting that all assertions be fully backed-up.

There are no words that can improve this picture.

I have not forgotten about the red spiders, by the way. The final two episodes will appear eventually.

There’s a giant structure in the middle of the park — an octahedron with a network of ropes inside. It was covered with people for the entire day, and — for no clear reason — they crowd-surfed a mattress to the top.

The structure, enveloped in people.

Isn’t CD Cambodia?

There was a mighty trebouchet.

Buckles were swashed.

Love was sought.

And thank you to all the people who picked up trash.

This was fun. Let’s do it again next year. Keep an eye out for coordinates.

221 replies on “The Meetup”

  1. First!
    *runs away from encroaching mob*

    Wish I could have been there, sounded fun. Also, the fourm is broken, both links.


  2. Wow, love the spam protection. I’ll feel horrible if I get it wrong. Anyway, looks like fun, too bad I’m on the other side of the country. Parents don’t exactly let their 16 year-old sons go to the other side of the country to go to something that’s not even an official event.



  3. Man, first I find out I missed a trebouchet, now a Dirk Gently homage! I really wish I could have stayed longer. What exactly was done with the couch?


  4. Couldn’t the coordinates have been slightly harder to figure out? like just 4 floating point numbers? x,y,z,t – ECEF coordinates and time in GPS weeks.


  5. you’d think cd is cambodia, but .cd is actually for some reason the domain for congo.


  6. 4×8 pieces of whiteboard, eh? Are they the big pieces of shower board (I think that’s what its called) from home depot that cost about 4 bucks? I hung two of those up in my room, there’s nothing like 64 sq. ft. of whiteboard! Do you coat the boards with anything? Because my boards are more akin to wet-erase than dry-erase boards. I tried pledge because something on the internet told me to (always a good decision), but it doesn’t work very well.


  7. Oh wow, that looks like it would have been fun. A pity I immediately forgot the coordinates the second I finished reading that comic. I don’t know why, but whenever I see a date, my mind secretly has instructions to commit the previous and next few seconds to write-only short term memory. Effectively, it just threw a few seconds of my life into the garbage bin. I won’t even remember writing this, because the post above mine has a date on it.


  8. next year don’t do it in your backyard but at some coordinates where you’ve never bin in a country where you’ve never bin. then see who still shows up.


  9. I agree with the “west coast” suggestion. More specifically, I suggest somewhere in the immediate vicinity of Los Angeles, California.

    I mean, if you were REALLY going to be fair you’d put it in China, but I don’t live in China, so you never heard that.

    For those of us who didn’t get that we should go and couldn’t have anyway…

    Don’t you feel pathetic now?


  10. This is just outstandingly neat. You may have the net’s coolest fandom.

    Hadn’t realised the date was coming up, but it’s a bit of a hike from London anyway.


  11. To be fair, the next time should be at -42.39561, 71.13051?

    I’m from HK, so there’s no chance for a meetup anywhere near anyway. 🙂


  12. Hah. After having a less than perfect day, this cheered me up pretty quickly. Sometimes the internet community just works the right way, and it’s really good to see it happen. You may indeed have the coolest fandom around, too.

    I’m upset I missed it, sounds like it was a pretty brilliant day. Oh well, maybe next time. 🙂


  13. God damnit, if only getting to the US from Brazil wasn’t so incredibly expensive and troublesome. I’ll make it my goal to be able to be there next year if it happens again, though.

    You guys are all awesome.


  14. Damn, it’s been 2 years since I last heard the word “Animorphs”.


  15. The big problem is you have fans worldwide! What about an average coordinate beetween every place in the world, so it’s quite near everyone? The problem with 0,0 is the water.


  16. I am dying inside to know that I missed a conversation about “Animorphs.” Really, please give me the gist of the discussion . . . that series was ridiculously fantastic.


  17. I’m happy for everyone who was there. I also admire you for catching on to the hint in the comic.


  18. Well… I would really love to go to that sort of thing, sure sounds like a lot of fun…
    I just love the comic, it’s the best thing i’ve read!
    And btw, come to Sweden, plz?


  19. nothing for it. I have to say it.
    OH MY GOD.
    I had no idea such people still existed. I love being a part of a fandom such as yours. xkcd is the best thing to happen to nerds since the internet.


  20. Your trebuchet/shoe idea was pretty sweet. It’s too bad they were always too heavy for the strings. I think I’ll try doing that the next time I take it out. Only I’ll use stronger string this time. That should work well. Either that or just use two or three strings on the same set of shoes.

    There’s a video of us loading the shoes on youtube.



  21. Now I’m even more jealous that I couldn’t go. Next year I’m planning better. (I would claim that I didn’t show up to stay true to the comic, but I’d only be fooling myself.)

    And now that you’ve reenacted the Dirk Gently couch caper, do you have any plans to rent out your time machine?


  22. C’mon, why not the midwest? I can say that you’d find an awesome reception in Madison, WI.


  23. Cambridge, UK would indeed be infinitely cool. I get the impression that it’s the kind of place that would work really well with something like this (reality checkpoint, anyone?) XKCD fans are everywhere, so it’s only fair that other Cambridges get a go too.

    Wonder how much the airfare would be, and how many people might chip in?


  24. Anyone interested in coming to Australia? The weather’s always fine Down Under! …. and that way I’d be able to make it 🙂


  25. the topic of “animorphs” just popped into my head for no particular reason yesterday and I am nowhere near the east coast. synchronicitic lag?


  26. You have no idea how happy it makes me just to know that this happened. Thanks to everyone of you.


  27. Man, you talked to some people from Kansas? I wish I could’ve been one of them, but the coords were too far away for me. Next time you should pick something more along the lines of N 37°20.282′ E -95°15.175′


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