Go to a Meetup - like yesterday!

Posted by Rick Osowski on June 29, 2015 in Technology

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.