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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One man, one thousand Meetups

Eugene Coneglan joined Wellington, New Zealand’s Adventure Wellington Meetup on July 4, 2011. Since then, the group has held a whopping 3,900 Meetups, activities ranging from climbing, to swimming, to laser tag—anything, according to their motto, that “gets your body moving”. Of those 3,900 Meetups, Eugene has attended over 1,000. On average, Eugene attends fifteen Meetups with Adventure Wellington each week, more often than not hosting them himself. Talking to Eugene, it’s hard to imagine a time when the Meetup group didn’t dominate his social life—but he remembers his first Meetup like it was yesterday.

Shortly after coming across Adventure Wellington through a Google search, Eugene RSVPed for his first Meetup, a monthly get together at a local pub. “I remember quite vividly walking up to the venue, all guns blazing, thinking: ‘I’m going to make a multitude of friends,’” he recalls with a laugh. When he arrived to find over 100 members already in attendance, however, his confidence plummeted. “They were intermingling with each other like they’d known each other all their lives. I thought, ‘there’s no way I can go in there. Nobody will want to talk to me.’ Somehow though, I mustered up the courage to walk in.” He was greeted warmly by the host for the evening, who introduced him to a handful of members. “The rest is history,” he reports. “I think I might have been the last one to leave that night.”

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Tech Meetups on the rise across America

When you think about tech in America, two cities tend to come to mind: San Francisco and New York. No doubt these cities boast thriving tech communities, but lately, tech Meetups have started changing the game—popping up like crazy in places you might not expect. Fort Collins, Colorado, for example, experienced a 500% increase in tech Meetups between 2013 and 2014. In Boise, Idaho today, you’ll find 14 distinct tech Meetups (compared to just 3 last year).

These Meetups are playing important roles in the cities that build them, cities where access to tech may otherwise be limited. Tech Meetups have the power to open big doors—to help people learn new skills, find potential colleagues, and unlock new career paths.

Tech Meetups across America, 2015

techmapLet’s take a look at the numbers:

  • There are over 22,000 tech Meetups around the world—that’s 12% of Meetups everywhere.
  • In the U.S. alone, there are more than 10,600 tech Meetups, with over 3 million members—31% more than last year.
  • 1,100 towns and cities in the U.S. have at least one tech Meetup.
  • And 130 U.S. cities have more than ten tech Meetups.
  • Towns including Spokane, Washington, Vienna, Virginia, Provo, Utah, and Charleston, South Carolina experienced an increase of over 200% in tech Meetups between 2013 and 2014.

An RJ Metrics report from April 2014 posits tech Meetups as the currency with which to measure the human capital of a city: “Meetups are where people in tech get together to network, talk shop, and learn from each other. Meetups are human capital factories. If you want to measure the human capital of a startup city, you measure its meetup activity.” We couldn’t agree more—and we can’t wait to see what these factories dream up next.