I truly believe that SO meetup day is a great idea and has much more potential then just grabbing a drink at the local watering hole. While it is great to learn from other people in your field, it is sometimes overlooked that those doing the teaching are learning themselves. Creating this community of mentoring and coaching is important to all of us. It is the basis for creating and propagating knowledge.
I wanted to share my experience organizing the meetup day at the University of Texas. I had hoped it would be an open forum for sharing ideas such as design patterns and coding conventions, as well as having project presentations and talks (with free food of course). Perhaps that is what it should have been, yet despite my efforts, it was hard to motivate people to go. Even though many in the area thought it was a great idea, it was very hard to get a firm commitment from anyone. I advertised the event not only on the campus, but in the professional community as well. The word got out -- but it was not acted upon. The turnout was small, and mostly consisted of people we already knew. We made the most out of it that we could.
My suggestion is three fold:
- We need to build a culture of learning through teaching -- Spread the importance of coaching and mentoring, and its impact on spreading knowledge. If we all feel like we are part of the betterment of our profession, perhaps we will be that much more motivated to meet others with a similar mindset.
- Perhaps add some kind of reward through the site (a badge perhaps) that shows others that they attended a meetup. Make it seem important and admirable to attend one of these events.
- An online space to hold the meetup would be nice for those who can't physically attend, but might want to join via their personal computer. Somewhere to stream a live feed of the event. I think this would be best for bigger events that have speakers and project presentations.
I plan on trying to organize another event again when the time comes. I hope others will join me and try to get the word out. I welcome any comments about my idea, and would hope that others might leave theirs here and maybe even some experiences at their respective meetups that might be good to hear about.