I don't remember the last time I was excited about any meetup. Do you?
In theory: since the pandemic started, everything went online, so the geo borders have disappeared - you can (virtually) attend any meeting you fancy. Initially, I was very enthusiastic about that. But it turned out very different than expected - I've pretty much stopped attending meetups completely.
It's not that I'm not interested in tech talks anymore. I haven't dealt that much with bleeding-edge engineering as I do recently for years - and my appetite seems as insatiable as ever. The real cause of the problem lies elsewhere.
Let's analyze what has changed for meetups within the last 12 months:
- The social aspect is gone, so the potential gain is about knowledge; this is not only about meeting folks you know - if you leave after 5 minutes, you don't look like a jerk anymore (as no one will notice).
- There's no point in consuming meetup content live (synchronously) - you can do it later; there are numerous advantages (of watching asynchronously): you can skim through boring parts or increase the playback speed to save time.
- Once meetings were happening every month or so, I appreciated them more (the effect of scarcity); once everything is available just one click away (low access threshold), it's hard to get rid of the feeling that the vast majority of meetup content is ... low quality.
And on top of these 'new' reasons is the brutal 'old' truth: people who have the most exciting stuff to show off are probably the busiest ones (who don't have time to attend meetups, not even mentioning presenting) - good execution always creates demand for even more good execution :)
That obviously doesn't mean that the idea of a technical community meeting is doomed to die. It needs fixing - or just adapting to the new reality. What are the 'fixing' goals (IMHO)?
- Make 'LIVE' great again.
- Bring back meaningful (social, synchronous) interactions.
- Lower down the prep bar / required investment for meetup prep.
That's how I imagine that in practice:
- LIVE sessions - only audio (Twitter Spaces? Clubhouse? Spotify Greenroom?)
- curated/moderated, with a few named (invited) panelists and audience who can actively participate if interested
- happen regularly - e.g., every n-th Fooday of the month
- not recorded, maybe just summarized (sort of 'meeting minutes': references, mentioned sources, inspirations)
- each meeting should have a clear topic - members (all? some?) would suggest topics and vote on what they like most
Yes, that form brings some risks (discussion derailed by people who suck at active listening, no visuals / live coding / live mapping / etc., active moderation can turn into a battle of egos, etc.), but in fact, I'm eager to try.
If you'd like to learn more about what precisely I have on my mind, ... stay tuned for more details :) In the meantime: all the comments, suggestions, recommendations are (as always) more than welcome.