Go to a Meetup… like yesterday!

The concept of a Meetup isn’t anything new.  It’s been around tech circles for a while in the form of a User Group.  But the term User Group suggested some amount of time invested into the technology or a certain level of expertise.  If I am completely new, what business do I have going to a User Group where people are actually… users!

Here are a couple things I’ve learned since I’ve started attending Meetups across the country, as I travel for work.

Go to Meetups to learn

Meetups have become much like the campfires of the Wild West.  Everyone comes to tell their stories and listen to everyone else’s stories.  You don’t need to be an expert to attend a Meetup.  Just have an interest and be willing to learn.

You like beer?  There’s a meetup for that.

You like food?  There’s a meetup for that.

You like to code?  There’s a meetup for that.

(Hint:  There’s generally going to be meetups that let you do all three at once)

There isn’t going to be a better experience for “learn by doing” than a Meetup for most technology today.

Attendance does not mean participation

Most of the Meetups I have attended over the past 18 months have had a pretty good distribution of “newbies” to “experienced users”.  It doesn’t hurt to start your meetup with some level setting information:

  • Sign up URLs
  • Getting started links
  • One-pager of terms
  • Recap of last meetup

As humans, we’re more likely to admit we didn’t know something after you tell us rather than speaking up before hand.

Just because someone is attending your Meetup, that does not mean they have registered for your service or product, let alone used it in any way.

The Death of Release Notes

As software is becoming more continuously delivered and more continuously released, it makes it more difficult to disseminate change information.  In the 5 years my product heavily depended on WebSphere Application Server, I can count the number of Release Notes documents I read on one finger.

As product updates are released, they should be accompanied with blogs and videos from the product teams.  

If you run Meetups, plan your weekly or regularly scheduled topics around your product releases to cover the updates.

Nothing is worse than exposing new users to mass confusion when experienced users don’t agree with breaking changes.

Going forward

Meetups are a great change to engaging a community previously left to Message Boards and Bug Trackers.  As new technologies pop up and persist, their associated Meetups will grow across the world as well.  It’s the rebirth of face to face communication, alongside not instead of technology.

Feel free to let me know of Meetups you’ve attended or plan to or would like to see.  I’ll be posting in the Meetups category as I attend more throughout the coming months.


On Podcasts

This post is tangentially related to technology, so I figured I would share it, even if it’s not going to be the main focus of my writing here.

I’ve been a big fan of podcasts since they became more consumable about 7 years back, right around the same time the first iPhone was released.  In any given week, I am either binge listening to music albums I forgot I had or catching up on multiple episodes of a handful of podcasts.  Being a music lover for as long as I can remember, my appreciation for the long form interview has grown very much in time with the popularity of podcasts.

There are many different types of podcasts out there, but my favorite genre tends to be comedy, usually with one or two hosts and different guests.  Anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple hours, each podcast episode can provide as much entertainment as a summer blockbuster, with a new one coming in just a couple days.  The two main podcasts I keep track of are Tell ‘Em Steve Dave and You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes.

Due to the frequency TESD publishes, I listen to their new weekly episode each and every week as soon as it is available.  With YMIW, I tend to let them queue up and listen to them in bunches (especially when traveling for work), as they are normally released a few times a week.  The most pleasant surprise has been conversations and guests that I would normally not care for and skip the episode, but giving it a shot anyway & coming away with an amazing and new appreciation for them.

Case in point, the recent episode of YMIW with Noel Gallagher.  I wasn’t sure how much I would be intrigued to keep listening, but I was going to be in the car, so I let it roll.  To say I felt ashamed for doubting Pete and/or Noel, would be a bit of an understatement.  This episode was mind-blowing on many levels, and this is on the back of some YMIW episodes in the past 6 months that will forever remain in my Podcasts app to come back to…

And these are just a few of the recent episodes that I can call out specifically.  Each and everyone has me laughing in stitches and thinking with a new perspective on many topics I previously didn’t really want to examine my own stance on.  Some of the older episodes also helped me to navigate my own thoughts and feelings when I needed something to bounce them off of.  Whatever was going on inside my head and I couldn’t identify it, listening to YMIW (often in backlog as I was coming in about 2 years late), I would find an episode and Pete & guest would knock it out of the park, nailing exactly what I was feeling on the head.  Some of these episodes were…

If you take nothing else away from this post, I would want it to be to not judge a book by it’s cover, or in this instance, a podcast episode on the guest.  Similar to when I can actually keep up with The Nerdist Podcast, as Chris Hardwick says, there’s a good reason the guest is on the show, so give them a shot and see what they have to say.

I just want to say thank you! to Pete and everyone at YMIW for the hours and hours of truly amazing content.  Keep up the great work.  I look forward to many more hours of free funny, as well as eye-opening and thought-provoking episodes that I can listen to, with tears of laughter rolling down my face, while anyone traveling with me thinks I am losing my mind.

Even with the random chance of not hitting next on the phone when I was in the car today, I’m left with a quote from Noel Gallagher that I can’t get out of my head and have the burning desire to get on a wall hanging of some sort…

“Life’s too short to worry about the answer”