Organizer Spotlight: The Group that Shall Not be Named—NYC Harry Potter Meetup

Jon Rosenthal signed up for Meetup on June 18, 2002, when he read about it on Slashdot. It was four days after Meetup launched, and Jon was the 278th member to register in New York City. Fast forward twelve years, Meetup is 1,000,000 members strong in NYC, and Jon is the awesome Organizer behind The Group That Shall Not Be Named: The NYC Harry Potter Meetup. We caught up with Jon to learn some more about his Meetup journey through the years, and, of course, to ask him some hard hitting questions about Harry Potter.

When Jon first came across Meetup in June 2002, the brand new company caught his interest. “It was pretty intriguing,” he recalls, “to use the internet as a means of getting people off the internet. Online forums are one thing, but this was taking it to another level, in a totally different direction. It seemed like a good way to have an excuse to go somewhere, to get you up and going.” He got up and going to his very first Meetup, a gathering of Slashdot readers, just a few weeks later. Jon remembers the night well. “To be honest, it was a little awkward,” he says with a laugh. “People were mingling as best as geeks can mingle, which is to say, not well. But a lot of people showed up. I remember thinking that it looked successful in my eyes, just because people showed up for it.”

Jon continued to attend Meetups here and there over the next few years, and in 2006, he struck out in search of a group that really matched his interests. That’s when he came across The Group That Shall Not Be Named. The Meetup was just a few months old when Jon joined up. “I was a big Harry Potter fan, so I thought, ‘let’s give it a shot!’” The first Meetup he attended with the group was a karaoke night. “I’d never done karaoke before. I thought, ‘if I’m gonna try this, I might as well try it around a bunch of people who have no idea who I am.’ I immediately hit it off with the people in the group. Everyone was so welcoming, and no one mocked during karaoke. Everyone had an absolute blast.”

Before long, Jon had teamed up with the Organizer and other active members from The Group That Shall Not Be Named to form an organizational committee. “We formed the committee to develop ideas together, and to formally plan Meetups in advance—to make our Meetups bigger and better. It was the peak of Harry Potter, and over a year we grew the group dramatically.” When the original Organizer got a new job, he asked the committee to choose his replacement. Jon was voted in unanimously.

Over the past six years, The Group That Shall Not Be Named has thrived under Jon’s leadership. Today they’re over 1,600 members strong, and still growing. Jon believes in sourcing ideas from his members to keep things exciting. “Every year we have a Meetup specifically so members can brainstorm with us and give us ideas. The ideas people come up with are absolutely outstanding!” Finally, when it comes to success Jon believes variety is key. “We track how often we’ve done certain events. Certain favorites we’ll only do every other year, but some we do every year because they’re just that good.” For example? “We go ice-skating in costume literally every year.”

When asked about his favorite part of organizing, Jon is quick to reply: “the people that I meet. I always say that I’ll stop doing this when I stop meeting new, interesting people. People come and go over the years, things change, lives change, but we always have new members coming. They come from every walk of life, and it blows me away. Never in my life  did I think I’d know as many people as I do across the United States and the world, and it’s all through the Meetup.”

As the 278th New Yorker, Jon has been with Meetup since the beginning. Today, one in eight New Yorkers is a Meetup member, but Jon was one of the very first, and he also happens to be one of the most dedicated Organizers we’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. His Meetup motivation is some of the best we’ve ever heard: “The reason why we do what we do,” he explains, “is that the real world is tough. There’s no reason why you can’t have an escape or an outlet where you can take yourself less seriously. That’s why we have the Meetups—you’re entitled as a hard working adult to have something a little nonsensical.” Cheers to that.

So what about Harry Potter? Answering the questions we all want to know.

How many times have you read the books?

“I’ve only read them once—I’m too busy organizing a Meetup! But I’m finally rereading them because we’re doing re-read Meetups. I have to re-read them or I’ll look like a dope!”

What’s your favorite book?

“It’s a tie between between Goblet of Fire and Deathly Hallows.”

Who’s your favorite character?

“Hermione. She’s well read and researched. She never does anything without researching it first”

What house are you in?

“I self identify with Ravenclaw, but most of my members will say I’m a Slytherin, and Pottermore says I’m a Slytherin. I think part of me might agree.”

This coming Spring, Jon will be organizing MISTI-Con, a Harry Potter convention in New Hampshire. We encourage you to check it out!

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Katie Hawley

Katie loves storytelling and also happens to be terribly fond of local community. She’s psyched to combine those passions, by sharing and celebrating the stories of the millions of awesome Meetup members.