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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Meetup Spotlight: Curious Kat’s Adventure Club

curiouskatWe recently connected with Kat, who organizes Curious Kat’s Adventure Club, one of the most active and successful Adventure Meetups in London.

At last count, her Meetup has over 6,000 members and she’s hosted 391 Meetups in just three short years.

New organizers and old organizers alike can benefit from her simple but sage advice on creating compelling Meetups and how to keep things ‘curiouser and curiouser’.

Origins

Meetup: What prompted you to start this Meetup?

Kat: One weekend I really wanted to go hiking but was not able to get a place on the hiking events as they were all full. I rounded up a couple of friends and we went to the location together, without a proper map or any idea what we were doing. We found the way and had a great day. It made me realise that I am a natural at it and if I put a bit more effort I could actually run a group myself. As my interests are varied I slowly started expanding and adding different types of Meetups until I realised that the sky was the limit.

Curious Kat’s Adventure Club is a community of interesting and curious people who like to explore London, England, and – let’s think big – the world in general. We tell members: If you would like to live your life to the fullest, have fun, make new friends and meet like minded people, then this is the place for you.

Know your Members

Meetup: Your Meetup’s location is certainly helpful in finding unique activities and Meetup ideas. How would you advise an Organizer in a more remote or challenging location?

Kat: That’s a very difficult question as I haven’t got any experience with running a group in a remote location. But knowing your group members and understanding their needs is the key. So I would advise them to learn as much as possible about their community.

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Agent November – Spy Adventure

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Meetup Spotlight: South Jersey Writers’ Group

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Amy Hollinger has been running The South Jersey Writers’ Group since 2009. It’s a close knit Meetup of 97 writing enthusiasts in Bellmawr, New Jersey.

She was a seasoned Organizer when she took over the Meetup group, having already built and run Get Out Philly, one of the largest and most active outdoors and adventure Meetups in New Jersey.

Her experience running both Meetups taught her important lessons in how to build a leadership team and manage community effectively. We asked her a few key questions recently, to find out more about her team building strategy, structure, roles and responsibilities.

How is your Meetup group’s leadership team structured?

SJWG is a non-profit corporation, which came out of our need to have a designated space. We outgrew five coffee shops in four years. We started charging dues so we could rent a community center. It has been beyond successful, so we incorporated as a non-profit for accountability, to share the responsibility, and so the organization can continue without *me*. Our co-organizers are also members of the Board of Trustees.

The Leadership Team structure: 

President: me, the Organizer

Vice President: who also handles programs and plans our main meeting every month

Membership Director: who approves new members, records dues paid in person, and handles questions from non-members about how to join

Treasurer: who co-manages the WePay account

Community Outreach Trustee: who helps to increase our audience in the area, planning workshops and programs for non-members (and is an Assistant Organizer)

Communications Trustee: who compiles newsletters and press releases

Event Hosts: who are volunteers, generally focused on one particular topic each month

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Using Meetup data to explore the UK digital tech landscape

Reblogged with permission from Juan Mateos-Garcia, whose team at Nesta studies innovation in creative and digital industries. His team is interested in tracking the emergence of new technologies, and communities of innovators. This blog presents what they found using the data available from our API. The article was originally published on Nesta.

Juan is also a member of the Data Visualisation Brighton Meetup, and Big Data Debate in London.  

 

Tech meet-ups have become an important feature of the digital innovation landscape. In these events, coders, designers, hackers and entrepreneurs (among others) come together to learn from each other and network. Meetups can help participants keep their technology skills fresh in fields that move too fast for universities and training providers, and facilitate collaboration and job mobility, increasing the connectivity and efficiency of local innovation ecosystems.

Websites like Meetup and EventBrite have emerged to make it easier for people to create and manage meet-ups.[i] The data generated by these platforms could help us understand when and where new technology communities emerge and evolve, and how they are connected to each other. It could also tell us something about the rise of new technologies. These are questions of obvious interest for policymakers, entrepreneurs, businesses and investors who want to identify the right communities of innovators to work with, and the right technologies to target.

In this blog, we undertake a preliminary exploration of UK tech meet-ups from Meetup to assess its potential as a source of information about the structure, geography and evolution of digital tech in the UK.

About the data

Meetup was created in 2002 to help people connect with others in their community. It currently has over 20 million users in 192,000 groups in 181 countries. When registering, users express interest on particular topics (e.g. “data science” or “online marketing”), and are shown information about groups near to them that focus on those topics (or similar ones).[ii] Users can join those groups to receive updates about forthcoming events. Meetup charges group organisers a monthly subscription fee.

To get the data, we query the Meetup API for groups in the “Tech” category in UK cities (based on this Wikipedia list). This returns 3,707 groups as of 2nd April 2015. After removing duplicates, we are left with 1391 groups for which we have information on location, membership, starting date, description and topics for the group.[iii]

These 1,391 groups are based in 160 unique locations in the UK, and have a gross total of 434,826 members.[iv] 71% have been created since 2013, consistent with the idea (though not necessarily proof of) of increasing levels of meet-up activity in recent times.

A graph of the tech landscape

In aggregate terms, the groups in our list focus on 2,569 topics. We want to arrange these topics into a smaller set of “tech fields” containing inter-related topics. To do this, we follow a ‘data-driven’ approach based on scientometrics principles (the quantitative analysis of science and technology metrics e.g. academic papers and patents).

The basic idea is that topics in the same tech field will often be mentioned by the same Meetup groups.[v] For example, if the business challenge of creating value from big data requires the combination of database technologies, analytics methods and parallel processing frameworks, these topics are likely to be of interest to the same practitioners. As a consequence, we would expect to find them mentioned by the same groups, in a way that defines a ‘data’ technology field and its community of practitioners.

We visualise these associations in a “topic network”  where topics that are often mentioned together are linked and “pulled together” (see graph below).[vi] After constructing that network, we use community detection algorithms to look for densely connected “clusters” of topics inside them.[vii]  This results in the identification of six tech fields:

  • Application: includes topics representing industries and domains where digital technologies are being applied, such as startups and entrepreneurialism, social media, digital marketing, educational technology, and mobile and web design.
  • Data: includes topics related to data and analytics, such as big data, data science, predictive analytics, machine learning, open data or data mining.
  • IT systems: The topics here represent IT engineering and systems administration activities.
  • Hardware: Its topics relate to technologies and skills with a hardware component, such as 3D printing, Internet of Things or Robotics, as well as Maker communities.
  • Python: Interestingly, the community detection algorithm does not allocate the programming language Python to any of the tech fields above. This could be explained by the fact that Python is a general programming language in its own right (it has many links to topics in the Application and Software fields), but at the same time is gaining increasing popularity among data analysts and data scientists (in the Data field).
  • Software: includes topics related to general-purpose software programming languages (e.g. JavaScript) and development methodologies (e.g. agile). It also contains some generic terms like “coding” and “computer programming.”

Graph

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A Momster takeover, on Mother’s Day

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Some Meetup stories just plain write themselves, like Jenny Beene Skuban’s story. She’s the Organizer of A Momster takeover: a group for Awkward Moms in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Jenny is a native Cincinnatian. Before she found Meetup, she was comfortably surrounded by a support system that included a best friend who had children of the same age at the same time as her. They were inseparable, until a job relocation forced their family to move cross country, leaving Jenny feeling isolated and alone for the first time in her life.

They kept in touch, but Jenny continued to bemoan the situation until tough love took over. Her best friend told her to “suck it up and find some friends.” Her friend did some googling, found Momsters, and sent the link to Jenny.

Jenny was an early member and she loved it from the beginning. She watched the Meetup grow from 10 to nearly 120 members within two years. In July 2014, she stepped up to take over the Meetup from the woman who founded it, but she refuses to be called ‘Organizer.’

“I don’t do anything more than anyone else. The members make this Meetup. We do it for each other.” She quickly qualified that by saying, “honestly I don’t know how we do it,” with a self-deprecating laugh.

The Meetup group is a support system to help parents come out of their shells. She says, “It reminds you of who you really are, with people involved in the same kinds of struggles. We love each other for it. It’s not about hulking around on the internet. We want you there. We want to actually know you.”

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Meetup Spotlight: I wanted to do that…Just not alone

justnotaloneI recently caught up with Shawn from the “I wanted to do that…Just not alone” Meetup in New York City, to find out how he keeps over 14,000 members happy after 4 years. His secret: “the key to keeping members active and engaged is consistency”.

To Shawn, being consistent means being attuned to your membership and understanding trends in your Meetup group.

Here are the three key attributes that make it work for his members:

Be welcoming: “People know when they come to our Meetups, they are going to find a friendly and engaging group of people. We work hard to create that atmosphere. Going to an unfamiliar place to meet new people can be intimidating. It’s easier when you trust that the organizer will be actively working to make sure people feel welcome.”

Keep your calendar busy: “There’s always something happening. People join Meetup because they want to do something!”

Leverage popular Meetups: “We have events that we’ve been running for years that you can expect to see twice a month, or more. Sometimes people find the thing they like, and they want to keep doing it, so we make sure it’s available for them. We actually have quite a few popular events, mostly because we run them consistently and make sure people know they can expect a good time”.

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Celebrating opportunity at the first-ever Tech Meetup at the White House

Adapted from Scott Heiferman’s introduction at the Tech Meetup at the White House on Friday, April 17, 2015 #WHMeetup

We are invited to the White House today because the people in this room are forging the future in a non-obvious way.  People here are opening doors for people who are opening doors for each other.  (I stole that line from Seth Godin, and I love it.)

And speaking of doors, Megan, thank you for opening the doors to the White House to us today, and for seeing the potential in people. You, your team, and the President are making a difference by hosting us today.

We are here to talk about opportunity. To see and imagine how Tech Meetups will create more opportunities for more people.

There are 30,000 Tech Meetup organizers in this country and we’ve gathered 50 of the best here today.  These Meetups help people get training, get jobs, get funding, launch businesses, and help companies take off. They inspire and change lives.

I became a Tech Meetup organizer a couple years after we started Meetup, the platform. (Meetup was used by people like Illinois State Senator Barack Obama in his run for the U.S. Senate. Whatever happened to that guy?)  Meetups were booming, but there weren’t many Tech Meetups.

I was inspired to start the NY Tech Meetup having heard that Steve Wozniak (Steve Jobs’ co-founder) said that if there were no Homebrew Computer Club, there’d be no Apple.  Homebrew was a community where you could demo technology. It gave them opportunity. Maybe Silicon Valley wouldn’t be what it is today without that community back then.

So I started the NY Tech Meetup, and at our first Meetup, only one person showed up. I asked her to be my co-organizer.  Her name was Dawn Barber, and she helped it grow in its early days to where it is today, with over 40,000 members.

Dawn is here today. Dawn, you created opportunity for people.

Now there are Tech Meetups everywhere, and I’m so excited to see you all here, from Alabama to Alaska—poised to grow your local tech economies. I’m excited to see all of you.

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Girl Develop It—don’t be shy, develop it!

“In 2010 we felt like there was way more talk about the gender gap in technology than there was action,” recalls Girl Develop It Co-Founder Vanessa Hurst. “We thought, ‘can I personally help one other woman feel comfortable learning technology?’ And the answer is yes.”

In 2010, Hurst co-founded the first Girl Develop It Meetup in New York City. “We decided it was time to provide a place where all questions are okay, and everyone can learn in a supportive environment.” Today that Meetup is over 7,500 members strong, and Girl Develop It Meetups have spread to 50+ cities around the country. Over 41,000 people belong to a local Girl Develop It Meetup, and the GDI community is growing faster than ever. “It’s an incredible thing to be celebrating five years of Girl Develop It this summer,” says GDI Executive Director Corinne Warnshuis. “What started as a single Meetup in NYC has become a nationwide movement. The strength and growth of our communities highlights how powerful and important it is to bring people together under a common purpose.”

This fall, Girl Develop It hosted their first summit in New York City, and we jumped at the chance to meet a handful of their extraordinary leaders and capture their stories on film.

 

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The St. Louis Board Game Meetup celebrates ten years of gaming

On Thursday, February 26th, the St. Louis Board Game Meetup will get together at local hobby shop Game Nite for an evening of games. The Meetup heads to Game Nite every Thursday after work for games and conversation, but this Thursday is different—this is their ten year anniversary. The St. Louis Board Game Meetup is made up of over 2,000 members who get together more than fifteen times a month to play games. Today, it’s one of the most active communities in St. Louis, but organizer Timothy remembers scheduling their first Meetup, exactly ten years ago.

Timothy is a self-described avid gamer. “Gaming is in my blood,” he says. “I’ve been a gamer all my life, pretty much. My father had been interested in board games since before I was born, and our family summer vacations would always include the new game that dad had bought and kept secret until our arrival.” When Timothy moved from the U.K. to Saint Louis in December 2000, he quickly set out to find local gamers. He connected with a handful of locals online, but was discouraged to find that the group rarely got together. In 2005, Timothy resolved to give it another shot and RSVPed for a Meetup with the St. Louis Board Gamers. “I went,” he recalls, “and brought a small box of games with me so I could easily be identified. But no one but me turned up.” Shortly thereafter, the organizer stepped down, leaving the Meetup leaderless. “I decided that I could make it work,” says Timothy. On January 29, 2005 he stepped up as organizer, and scheduled his first Meetup. “I was more excited than anything.”

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