SOBA, a Twitch streamer community in Seattle, reboots vision and programming – GeekWire

Kenley Cheung, director of production & education at Seattle Online Broadcasters’ Association, addresses a crowd of streamers at SOBA’s first in-person meetup since 2020. (GeekWire Photo / Thomas Wilde)

As live events start coming back after a pandemic-induced hiatus, one of the major organizations in Seattle’s local livestreaming scene has taken the opportunity to reorganize its events and community.

The Seattle Online Broadcasters’ Association (SOBA) is a group that’s dedicated to providing local livestreamers and content creators with “a resource for collaboration, education, and mutual support,” according to its website. As of May, it’s officially established as a non-profit.

Since 2015, SOBA has provided Seattle’s broadcasters with opportunities to network, pool information, and learn from one another. As Twitch has grown, both it and its community of broadcasters have confronted a number of unexpected roadblocks, such as its ongoing issues with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). In the past, SOBA has served to help its members navigate that environment.

Before the 2020 quarantine lockdown, SOBA organized a regular get-together for its members in downtown Seattle at the GameWorks arcade bar. SOBA recently restarted that monthly meetup, holding its first one in August, shortly after GameWorks Seattle reopened.

As an attendee, it was quickly obvious that SOBA had taken some time to rethink its practices, with more proactive organization and corporate sponsorships.

“The break from monthly meetups allowed the team to sit down and think about what SOBA could look like in several years,” Kenley Cheung, SOBA’s director of production & education, told GeekWire.

“We had a lot of time to gather feedback and input from broadcasters both inside and outside the community,” Cheung continued. “This shaped our belief that we need continuous and effective feedback mechanisms to ensure that our activities, programming, and events are delivering value to broadcasters.”

This includes officially establishing SOBA as a 501(c)6 non-profit with a membership program; appointing a board of directors; and pursuing additional investment in learning and professional development programs, such as workshops and panel discussions.

“The community has told us that our professional development workshops on topics like Interviewing and Hosting and Improv for Content Creators have helped them become better content creators,” Cheung said, “and set them up for professional opportunities in the space.”

SOBA’s events for October are primarily focused on this weekend’s TwitchCon in San Diego. Panels organized by SOBA include “How to Become a Virtual Content Creator,” hosted by Portland, Ore.-based variety streamer Kisaka Toriama; “So You Want to Stream Art?” by live artist PokuriMio; and “Getting Started,” about the challenges of community organization on Twitch, hosted by Cheung.

SOBA’s various teams are presently run by volunteers, with events organized via its official Discord server. Its monthly session is typically scheduled via Twitch’s Community Meetup feature.

“Going forward,” Cheung said, “we plan on continuing our mission to support and elevate content creators by investing in the growth of our events and programming. We build supportive spaces for creators.”

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