Growing the largest per-capita Docker Meetup outside of the US

Reblogged with permission from Mark Coleman, the CEO of Implicit-Explicit and Co-Organizer of Docker Randstad. The article was originally published on the Implicit-Explicit blog.

 

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At Implicit-Explicit it’s our business to catch trends early. Following the Lean Startup scriptures, we organized the very first Docker Amsterdam Meetup in Mark Coleman’s (CEO at Implicit-Explicit) living room!

Despite the fact that nobody knew exactly what to do with Docker at the time, we ended up having to run the event over two evenings as the aforementioned living room wasn’t big enough!

Your turn

Those days are long gone. Now we’re the largest per capita Docker Meetup outside of the US and the 7th largest on Earth. That’s right. And you are just five tips away from achieving the very same.

Tip #1: Big names mean big crowds

Popular speakers have tight schedules and naturally want to go to events where they will have more impact. Now how to get those big names? Right! Good question… How do you get big names when you’ve just started? You’re just one Meetup group among many. Sending an e-mail is bound to land you in the spam folder, right? Calling? Fireworks? What?!

First we tried poaching: whenever there was a conference in town, or relevant speakers at a related Meetup group, we’d steal them. This takes a bit of persistence but if they’re in town anyway, your chances are greatly improved. Second we partnered. For us co-hosting together with Container Solutions was a smart move. Their network is large and still growing. Not to mention they provide many good Meetup speakers. Lastly, be on the look out for rising stars. Things change real fast in tech and this week’s nobody is next week’s big name. Know who these people are and pounce on them…fast.

Being able to get Bigger Names at Docker Amsterdam turned out to be the number one driver of growth. If anything, make sure you put your resources, time and efforts there.

Tip #2: Bring learning, be fun

Have you heard the one about the woman who goes to a Meetup, meets loads of new interesting people, has a great time and then refers that Meetup to everyone she knows? If our experiences are anything to go by; probably not. At Docker Amsterdam we do games, we throw around t-shirts, drink craft beers and get people to hug each other. (They are allowed to just shake hands if they’re shy…)

We do this because many Meetups are static. Too static. Speakers speak, people clap like they’re at a golf tournament and then everyone goes home. For selfish reasons we couldn’t do that. We are in the habit of transferring our considerable amounts of energy to others. So, Mark shamelessly decided to provide comedy relief in the pauses before, between and after speakers. The word soon got around. He has hosted DockerCon Europe ‘14 and will be hosting DockerCon SF ’15. Both amazing opportunities to spread the word further, wouldn’t you say?

Find someone who will do this for your Meetup group. Better yet, think hard about what makes people engage more. What makes them feel welcomed, appreciated and what will have them leave with a smile on their faces.

Tip #3: Ad hoc is a good thing

And then we thought it was necessary to have the Meetup on a fixed day each month. Very much against our own nature. We foolishly thought this was how it was supposed to be. But sure enough, routine rots. See it like this. When you’ve just found out that there’s a really good speaker in town, what do you do? Or someone from the community just got accepted for ycombinator? Do you respond with: “Oh, gosh, we don’t have a Meetup scheduled…shame…” Or do you rise to the occasion and start mobilizing the network to meetup, “anytime now!” Much to our surprise we found this really, really works. As long as the speaker is relevant you can even “have a Meetup tomorrow night! In a cafe with space for 20 people and cram 40 in anyway.”

This approach helps to keep things real and crisp. A tell-tale sign might be that these days we rarely get below 70 attendees and regularly hit 100+ before the abstracts, bios and location are even posted. So when you think regularity is good, remember that it’s actually exactly as it sounds, boring. We let opportunity and content drive the Meetup dates.

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Meetup Spotlight: Desi Empty Nesters

There are a lot of amazing Meetups out there that unite hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of people into large, vibrant communities.

But the Meetup ecosystem is also filled with smaller, more intimate groups that bring together a very specific subsection of a local community. Take the Desi Empty Nesters – NW Austin Meetup, for instance.

With a small but powerful membership of 28 people, the Desi Empty Nesters have become a dedicated and tight-knit family, where more often than not, at least half of all members attend each and every Meetup event.

We reached out to the Meetup’s organizer, Abha Sethi, to find out more about her Meetup experience. Says Abha, “I started this Meetup because my husband and I wanted to meet other couples in the Austin area who had similar backgrounds and were in the same stage of life.”

Abha has found a formula for her success: “I plan out activities that my husband and I would like to do, and talk it over with about 2 other couples.  Once I know that we will have at least 3 couples interested, I post it on the website. This way, no matter how many people can attend, we still have fun!”

They practiced their painting (and sampled some wine) on Valentine’s Day:

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Play with your Meetups

Do you consider yourself an athlete? Or perhaps you’re just a human who enjoys breathing, like me.

Meetup has sports for all levels of energy and enthusiasm, even imaginary sports.

Check out the new, modified and “improved” sports being played by Meetup members all over the world, and maybe in your backyard.

Bubble Soccer

Bubble soccer is exactly like soccer, except that you’re encased in a bubble. Seriously.

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This is a picture from the Bubble Soccer Korea Meetup in Seoul, South Korea. Pretty neat, huh?

Bubble soccer is all over the world! Check it out in your community, especially if you’re into soccer and/or bouncing into people.

Broomball

According to Wikipedia, in broomball “there are two teams, each consisting of six players: a goaltender and five others. The object of the game is to score more goals than the opponent.”

Thank you, Wikipedia. But it’s more than just that.

Broomball is basically the same as hockey, except you play with a broom instead of a hockey stick. And you wear sneakers instead of iceskates.

I’ve played this before and it’s awesome. Don’t take it from me, though. Check out the Omaha Broomball Club doing their thing:

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Quidditch

If you’ve never heard of quidditch, then I assume you’re not a wizard. Or at least you think you’re not a wizard.

Fear not, there’s plenty of time to become one, and what better place to start than playing quidditch.

Based on the sport in the Harry Potter series of books, quidditch is a now a popular, full-contact sport played all over the U.S. (You can find the official rules here, mudblood.)

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Check out these members of the Honolulu Quidditch Team flashing their skills.

Pickleball

Contrary to what you might think, pickleball is not the practice of placing tennis balls in a vinegar brine.

Rather, it’s a combination of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. According to the Chapel Hill Pickleball Enthusiasts Meetup, it’s also “the fastest growing sport” in the U.S.

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Photo from the World’s First Kitchen Tournament.

Here’s a quote from their Meetup group homepage: “Pickleball is FUN to play and EASY to learn. The game combines fitness with friendship. Humor and laughter are common. And the spirit of the game is positive and supportive. An average doubles game lasts about 15 minutes.”

Whoa! I can’t even dill with how fun that sounds.

Ok, no more pickle puns. I don’t want to be accused of dilling with this immaturely.

Runaround ping pong

Last but not least, I bring you this picture from my native New York City, of people running around a ping pong table.

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As the New York Runaround Ping Pong Meetup says, this sport is for:

  • Anyone who likes to laugh. In a group of strangers and friends.
  • Anyone who likes fresh air and parks.
  • Anyone who likes helping others.
  • Anyone who is a human and enjoys breathing

Alright, I admit: I added the last bullet point there, but you get the picture.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and play with your Meetups or invent a new one.

Wizards, the same applies for you.

Meetup’s Hidden Features

The Community Team fields feature suggestions from organizers regularly, but it’s not unusual to receive a feature request for a tool we already have on site.

Some features are less often utilized and therefore a little harder to find, or only available on certain platforms.

For example, did you know you can check members into your Meetups on the Android app and via Mobile Web? Now you can.

Read on to discover a few hidden organizer tools you’ll find on the desktop site, which are helpful when it comes to learning more about your members, sharing documents, and promoting your Meetups.

Polls 

Polls allow you to collect anonymous feedback to plan great Meetups and learn more about your members. Members can vote on the best weekend for a hiking trek, help you select reading material for a book club, choose between activities or even vote up the perfect venue for a party.

You can also ask high level questions for even more insight, like what makes your Meetups most valuable to your members.

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You’ll find the Polls feature under the More tab from your Meetup group’s homepage.

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File sharing

Let’s say you’re at a Cooking & Recipes Meetup when one thing leads to another and suddenly you’re claiming your grandmother’s banana bread is the best thing since sliced bread.

You can upload the recipe directly to your Meetup group so members can judge for themselves.

The Files page allows members to share documents and files with one another like music or even writing materials. Organizers can upload relevant membership documentation and send a link for each individual file to their members. They can also limit access to those files by making them only available to members of the Meetup group, or only to the leadership team.

Also located under More.

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