2012 is going to be the year of the WordPress Meetup.
WordCamps are more or less running pretty well under the guidelines and policy changes of the past year. We have a few smaller pain points that we’re still working out like dealing with petty cash, some international shipping stuff, and the like, but by and large WordCamp Central is going great. But what about meetups? One of the adjustments to WC policy was the idea of a WC being tied to a local meetup or meetups — the pinnacle of the local community’s year, rather than a one-off event that is cool but doesn’t do much to build an ongoing community.
There are some great meetups out there, and obviously there are millions of WordPress users that are potential meetup participants all over the world, but how do you get one going? It can be intimidating, I know! To show that it can be done — that YOU can do it — I’m going to start two meetups this month and document the process of how I did it, which I can then turn into a Field Guide to Organizing a WordPress Meetup.
Meetup #1: I live in Tybee Island, a tiny little town on the ocean, about 20 blocks long and 5 blocks deep. There are 3 or 4 thousand residents, plus a booming summer tourist trade. There are no tech companies based here, there aren’t a bunch of other meetups, there’s not a great local community website… in short, this is a small town, where I’ll have to actively go out and find people to join this meetup, and there aren’t that many people to choose from. It will be work. It may not, er, work. But this situation is similar to that faced by people in other small towns, so it will be a good example.
Meetup #2: The nearest city is Savannah, GA, about 20 miles away. As it happens, I now belong to a co-working space there and I go work from there once or twice a week (to be around other people vs working from home, alone, 24/7). Savannah has a burgeoning tech community, a handful of freelancers building WordPress sites, a lively downtown, lots of meetups and a very social culture, and a population of just under 140,000 people. There are groovy coffeeshops with wifi, an art college (SCAD), and pretty much everyone has a website. Getting this meetup going will hopefully take a little less effort if I’m smart about where I do the early publicity.
At the same time I’m acting locally, I’ll be thinking globally. I’ve wanted to do more to encourage, support, and facilitate local WordPress meetups via the Foundation for a while, but until we had the WordCamp program running smoothly there just wasn’t time. We’re now looking into a number of options (talking to meetup.com, looking at rolling our own plugin, thinking about working with schools/universities, etc), and I’ll be reaching out to current WP meetup organizers over the coming weeks to find out their pain points and the things that have worked or not worked for them.
The goals is meetups, meetups, meetups. Whether you call it a meetup, a wordup, a hackfest, a dev day, whatever… if you’re bringing together local WordPress users and/or developers on a regular basis, we want to support that.
Wish me luck, and watch this space to see how it goes. I’m scheduling the first Tybee WordPress Meetup for next Wednesday — if I get even one other person to show up and work on their wp site, that means it’s working.
Chris Ross and I have been trying to do some in Fredericton as well. Issues like conflicts with other meetups of a similar nature, getting the word out, just FINDING people…
It’s almost to the point where I have to hunt people down and personally invite them. 😀 Which I have done.
Being involved with the WPToronto Meetup group since it’s inception two years ago, and living in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) I will definitely be interested in your follow-ups as I see there is easily potential for more than one WordPress group in this area … and I am certain some are just needing a bit of a nudge to get started.
I think smaller, more targeted meetup groups are the way to go in bigger cities: a dev group, a blogger group, new user support group, etc. and do periodic all-group gatherings now and then.
I’ve been attending WordCamp Victoria for a few years now (next one is next weekend!). There aren’t many meetups in the area that interest me, but WCV is one of them.
WordCamps are completely different from meetups. WordCamps happen once a year, last all day or a weekend, take months to plan, cost a chunk of money, etc. Meetups ore casual, free, require little to no planning, and happen on a regular basis (typically at least once per month).
Evidently I misunderstood your post…While the WordCamp event is happening next weekend, there is also a local WordPress meetup which meets about once a month. I’ve been following the group on meetup.com for some while, and have been meaning to attend.
Ah, gotcha. You only mentioned the WC, not the meetup, so I think I’m the one who misunderstood. 🙂
Looking forward to this. I’ve been wanting to start one in my fairly small town but haven’t been sure where to start. I also tend to take on more projects than I should and so I want to do it smart so it doesn’t become a chore.
Looking forward to the follow up.
Hi – Another woman and myself just started a WordPress meetup. We’ve had 2 meetings already and our third meeting is this Saturday. I guess we are pretty lucky since we are close to where all the WordPress action is; that is we are located in the Wine Country just north of San Francisco. Our only real painful situation was finding a place for cheap. If I can be of any help, please ask. And check us out at: http://www.meetup.com/Wine-Country-WordPress-Meetup/
As one of the organizers of WordCamp Toronto, I couldn’t agree with you more Jane about the idea of smaller WP meetup groups in large cities. In fact, as one of the organizers of both WC Toronto and the Toronto WordPress Meetup Group, my fellow organizers and I have been discussing ways to better serve the WP community locally as it was clear from the feedback both from the meetup group and WC Toronto, that one big group wasn’t doing the job anymore. It seemed that no matter what topic we covered, we were leaving a section of our membership out in the cold, so to speak, each month. Which is why, earlier today, I ” secured” ( Meetup.com’s words, not mine) the Toronto WordPress Developers group. I’m excited about the prospect of cultivating a new, more focused meetup group, that caters to the section of the community that seems to be most underserved right now.
Great that you are leading by example. I’ll definitely organise something here in Cork Ireland. I already organise tweetups and a good number of attendees are WordPress users, so should be good way to get my usual circle + others interested in WordPress. Will keep an eye on your progress.
Make sure you hook up with Donncha O’Caoimh, he’s in Cork as well.
Can’t wait to read more on this. I’ve been trying to build steam on WP meetups in upstate NY for several months now, and slowly making progress. Big shout out to Sheri Bigelow for helping and being the only one to attend the first two meetups.
Also, It would be cool to have a Meetup plugin, or WP config. Meetup.com is nice, but seems like WP should have all the ingredients to represent. We’be got a simple site going on WP with custom P2 theme: http://wp518.org
I would like to invite you to join us in Boise, Idaho sometime. I would love to grow our meetup and hopefully bring a WordCamp to Boise that would draw people from SLC, Portland, Seattle and Spokane. I got to attend WordCamp in Seattle in 2011 and that is what inspired me to start the Boise Meetup. Thanks!
I’m going to be following this to see how it pans out. I’ve been interested in trying to get something going. I live in Toledo OH< a decent sized town… close to Detroit, and some major Universities. I was kinda wondering how to get the ball rolling myself….
I hadn’t realized you lived so close. I host a wordpress meetup in Jackson Michigan. Perhaps we could talk you into coming and being a guest speaker sometime down the line.
Oh hey, that’s right up the road! I was wondering where I could fnd some local(ish) WP action. Very cool! I’d love to swing by when I can fit it between school and work!
Really? Where are you located?
We have some fantastic meetups going on in and around Atlanta. I know that there are people interested in doing more but the problem of a place to meet is always an issue. Coffee shops and the like are often crowded (and loud) and trying to get more that three people in a group with computers can be difficult. Also if people do not buy something then you start getting the evil eye from the owner. There is always the paid venue but then that expense discourages some from coming.
I would very much like to hear how others are managing the place to hold the meetup.
Hi Michael. The main Atlanta meetup is a strong one, held at the organizer’s B&B each month. They also do a dev group. You might want to check them out. These are also the people organizing WordCamp Atlanta that is coming up in February (I’ll be there).
Yes, I attend the Atlanta meetup at Judi’s. I am going to the Birmingham WordCamp on the 14th of Jan and I will be at the Atlanta WordCamp in Feb. The Savannah WordCamp about a year ago (my first) got me hooked.
I organized WC Savannah! Ha, success!
OK, now I know who to blame for my addiction!
Something I agree with and posted in my WordPress blog last summer after WC Chicago.
Looking forward to following along with you, Jane!
Having attended a few WordCamp and WordPress User Group meet ups, I thought my home town (Hobart, Tasmania, Australia) could really use one.
Our first meet up is on Wednesday 18th of this month. I’ve done a little promotion on Twitter, Facebook, and Meetup.com, so far having 32 members of the group and so far 12 “Yes” RSVPs for our first meet up.
Hopefully it goes well! Details are here: http://wptas.org/
Hi Jane, I’m a co-organizer of the Charleston WordPress User Group (http://wpchs.org) and we would love to see your notes and learn from your experience as well. Let us know when the meetup in SAV starts up and we’ll do our best to support as well.
I met Caila B at Geekend and she spoke highly of you.
Hello Jane, I help organize the WordPress meetup in Greenville, SC. We are using Meetup.com to coordinate the meetings. Will follow your progress with the groups to see what you find out and discover. Feel free to contact me for input on the group in Greenville. I’ll do what I can to help support WordPress meetups everywhere.
Hi Jane! The first meet up for WPTas is tonight, which is very exciting for me.
Something I was wondering and thought you might be able to answer is about WordPress swag. What’s the best way for meet up organisers to have some swag on-hand at meet ups for attendees to plaster all over the techy toys? 🙂
With zero advance notice? Take some masking tape and a sharpie…. Just kidding. Shoot me an email at jane at wordpress.org and I can send some stickers or buttons, depending on what we have around. Make sure to tell me how many people you expect to have.
Haha! Yes, I certainly realise that was very late notice if I’d wanted them tonight! Amongst organising the other stuff I didn’t think of swag til now.
The meet up went really well though. We had ~20 people turn up, so I was really happy with that.
I’ll email you about swag for next time 🙂
Hi Jane! Hopefully you got my email in response to this comment.
I’m really looking forward to our next meet up on February 8th. Looking like a good turn out so far too.