- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Sure, bedroom-to-bedroom communication is fun, but even YouTubers like good ol’ face-to-face interaction, too.

Vloggers on the video-sharing site increasingly are meeting off-line in gatherings across the country. The meet-ups are organized by members of the YouTube community who are curious to get a real-life look at many of the faces they know only through Web cams.

Although the Google Inc.-owned site is flooded daily with millions of videos, its community is a structured culture that communicates by responding to each other’s postings. Its stars are those whose videos are the most-viewed.

Several prominent YouTubers have developed friendships online that bleed into the real world, but the gatherings that began earlier this year are larger affairs to which — true to YouTube style — everyone is invited.



The first notable congregations of YouTubers were held in January in Los Angeles and, more famously, in San Francisco in February, where about 100 people attended. These meets, known as “As One” and organized by Cory “Mr. Safety” Williams, drew many well-known vloggers, including Ben Going (“boh3m3”), Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla (the comedy duo known as smosh) and Paul Robinett (“renetto”).

Paul Bracewell, who goes by “Podcasting 101” on YouTube, has enthusiastically helped organize meetings through his Websitehttps://www.YouTubemeetup.com. His largest was “777,” held in New York’s Washington Square Park on July 7. It drew several hundred attendees.

Mr. Bracewell is helping to plan SouthTube in Atlanta on Sept. 22 and 23. DCTubeGathering 987 is planned for the District on Sept. 8.

The gatherings, predictably, are a sea of video cameras looking back at each other.

“Everybody is with a camera,” says Mr. Bracewell, a Houston resident. “Everybody is shooting everybody. There’s video rolling all the time.”

Typically, every aspect of events is recorded, including the invitations, traveling and main event. More than 3.3 million watched a singing video invitation to 7/7/07 by YouTuber “HappySlip.” Multitudes of recaps soon followed, each with its own perspective — a fractured point of view that can seem like “Rashomon” times 10.

After the New York meet-up, YouTube “Xaves511” said in a video: “Anybody that feels like the user community is a virtual community needed to be there to experience the reality.” He added: “We are a loving, caring, respectful community of people.”

YouTube has noticed the trend. In a posting on the site’s blog (www.youtube.com/blog) on Monday, YouTube said it has been “following the progression of these meet-ups and are impressed with what everyone has contributed toward making them an inspiring experience for all who have attended.”

It was not clear how involved YouTube plans to get in organizing the events.

“If Google gets involved, it could be interesting,” Mr. Bracewell says, “but it really should be left up to the users to throw their own backyard-barbecue gatherings that may or may not grow to have 1,000 or 10,000 people.”

For its part, YouTube, which generally is very conscious of its community, is asking users for comments on the gatherings and what the company’s role in them should be. An e-mail sent to YouTube on Tuesday was not immediately returned.

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