As a successful promotional products company, we meet a lot of people who order our customized beach towels. We know that every customer is getting a quality product, fashionable, well-made and reasonably priced but though we want to know how their towels worked out, we don’t always hear. Recently, we had a unique customer who did let us know. JCrete let us know how much they enjoyed their customized beach towels by sending a ton of pictures of their recent event. You may have to ask, “What is JCrete?” One of the JCrete team members, Kirk, told us their story and we wanted to share it with you.
JCrete isn’t a person, a place, a company, or even a group in a traditional sense. Team members describe JCrete as an “(un)conference,” sometimes as an “open-spaces conference.” Every year, a bunch of Java developers head to Crete for an exclusive event that is like a brainstorming session done while on vacation, in an exotic locale. It is a select bunch, but not for the usual reasons - 70 of the world’s top experts in Java development are invited to join – but they say if they missed you, you can invite yourself. They figure that whoever is meant to be there will come and after finding out what it is and who is there, only the qualified will dare.
The (un)conference is held at the Orthodox Academy of Crete, and while some of the meeting is done inside the academy, daily excursions to the beaches are an integral part of “open-spaces.” Getting to Balos Beach is not like the usual stroll from a hotel, it is a journey. The first leg is a challenging drive – over rough roads, subject to rockslides and blocked by herds of stubborn goats who refuse to move. The end of the drive is not the destination. The car must be abandoned to make the last mile on foot, down a rocky mountainside, where the trouble of the trip becomes trivial as the journey ends on a beautiful sandbar, between the island of Crete and the mainland of Greece.
Other days see an expedition to Menies Beach which is accessed by a road that was built and last maintained by the Romans. Both beaches are usually void of people – a paradise meant for thinking about nothing, but this group is not “average” and find it a perfect place to get some “work” done. JCrete (un)conference participants bob about in the sea while discussing the next wave of innovation.
The JCrete team organizes what might seem like a disorganized event but they have found that the (un)conference is a much better way to exchange ideas and collaborate with others. Unlike most business conferences, at an (un)conference no one has been forced to attend and there is no one trying to escape. Participants have not come for free swag, to gorge on banquet food and cheese pastries, or to stay in an expensive hotel suite. In fact, JCrete participants must bring their own food and have usually paid their own way to stay at the un-fancy center. Technically, no one is charged for their use of the academy’s rooms or beds but donation is encouraged.
This year’s conference did feature some swag – only it wasn’t swag because they pitched in to get it. Kirk arranged for us to customize some beach towels for the (un)conference. It is easy to understand why beach towels might be perfect for this event. Tech guys, responsible for some of the world’s most advanced technology, pack up food, clothes and personal items and head to the Mediterranean, some travelling halfway across the globe to visit some of the best beaches in the world but, ironically, staying at a bare-bones facility to talk about computer programming. What could go wrong?
Towels, there are no towels.
Before this year’s JCrete, Kirk et al, ordered some customized beach towels from Holden. They already had the design in place – which was a perfect representation of the (un)conference and its participants. A seemingly random jumble of words, running in different directions, in different colors and different sizes. When closely examined and seen from afar, it becomes clear that it is not random at all – which is what you should expect from people who order the disordered.
Like the (un)conference itself, their “swag” wasn’t free but it didn’t cost a lot. Their customized beach towels, served a much needed purpose, represented who they are, and looked good at the same time. They will also be around for a long time and may be seen by people who “need” to be at JCrete – kind of a secret handshake.
Kirk let us know how great the beach towels worked out at JCrete and even sent pictures of them in use – both for the beach and in non-traditional use as a banner.
Fittingly, Kirk paraphrases Douglas Adams when he told us, “A towel is about the most massively, useful thing” you can take on a Cretan adventure.” also adding “Holden Towels ensured that all the attendees of our little unconference were well equipped with this most useful thing.”