Meetups, Meetups, Meetups!

In this issue: current state of program, plan for program starting now, and Aaron Jorbin.

Current State of Program

We invited about 50 meetups that were already using (who had said they were interested in joining the central account paid by the Foundation) to join the program. About 20 accepted and completed the transfer. A handful changed their minds and decided to wait and see how it turned out before joining, and the rest seem to have not received the email from with the link to complete the transfer. Those groups are now being contacted again one by one to get them settled.

The initial contract has space for more groups, so new groups and/or groups that haven’t been using can get set up now on the central account. Every three months we’ll re-up the contract, and at that point can change the number of groups we pay for, and can roll in another set of existing groups. Rolling in existing groups is limited to being done when we re-do the contract every three months.

As of right now, we’re not doing anything with these meetups other than paying the dues. I intentionally tried to start the program with non-controversial groups that wouldn’t have complicated needs (taking $ via, organizers not willing to allow other community members to hold additional meetups within the group, organizers clearly violating the WP trademark or using the group as a business rather than a true community endeavor, etc.). As we get a team of volunteers working on building out the meetups program, we’ll gradually deal with the more complicated issues. For now, meetups are running just like they always have, but we’re paying the hosting/dues.

Plan for Program Starting Now

So many things we could do. So many things I’ve wanted to do. So many other things competing for time and resources. Harumph to time not being more wibbly-wobbly! Here’s what I’ve been planning:

  • Survey the meetups that have been rolled in so far to find out what expenses they have with the group. Use this info to put together some budget projections around providing additional meetup support.
  • Buy and send out things to groups that need it, like projectors and video cameras.
  • Create new meetup starter packs with things like flyers, table signs, buttons/stickers, a tshirt for the new organizer to wear to the first meetups, sign in sheets, etc.
  • Collect stats on all wp meetup groups on and assess the number of people attending meetups in ratio to total number of members. In many cities, there are hundreds of members, but only a dozen or so going to meetups.
  • Begin the sea change of how we think of meetup groups. Right now for the majority of groups, it’s one organizer who owns a group, and they are the event planner, period. The model we want to move toward is for “the group” to be the members, not something that is owned by anyone. In this new model, anyone can plan an event or event series, so where there might have been 3 different meetup groups in a town before (split based on dev/blogger/business, downtown/suburb/outskirts, a few organizers who justdon’t want to work together or share, whatever), there would now be one group, and within each group there would be multiple meetups per month to address the varied needs of the membership. This model makes it easiest for members to keep up with all the WordPress activity in their town, and encourages collaboration rather than competition.
  • Start a monthly email to groups with a topic for which we have some content they can use. This might be a recording from a WordCamp, it might be a core developer offering to talk to meetup groups via hangout or such, it might be a slide deck or demo site that a member of the local group could use to give a presentation on their own… there are so many possibilities. By helping suggest/provide content (not that they’d be required to use it if they have other stuff to do), we can keep the momentum going in meetups all over the world.
  • Trainings! In a combined effort between the Support and Community teams, we’ll be rolling out a variety of trainings. As we get these curriculums finalized and tested during the pilot program, we’ll make them available online, and will support meetup groups running “official” trainings using the approved curriculums. This is really exciting, especially as we can use it to bring professional WP education to a more diverse group people (like women, people of different races, lower-income kids, etc). This is one of those things that will cross multiple groups: Support will work on curriculum/content, Events will help with logistical support as the program grows, and Community will run the pilot program, do the outreach to get partners involved, and publicize it. The very first training will be in DC, hopefully the first weekend of March. Keep an eye on the community site if you’re interested or want to get involved.
  • Events page on site. Otto will be working soon on pulling in the data (they have a nice API) for the groups on our account (another reason for people to join) as well as WordCamp listings to display on a new page we’ll be making. This will help drive traffic to our events. If there’s a designer interested in helping with that page’s layout/styling, ping me.
  • Start getting meetup organizers to use their group tools to confirm who actually showed to each meetup event, so we can gather better stats on community participation.
  • And so much more, but my fingers are getting tired!

Aaron Jorbin

This is why it’s okay for me to stop typing. As of this week, Aaron Jorbin will be taking point on the meetups program. YAY, AARON!! Everyone give him a hand! I mean that both ways — applause and help. 🙂

I’ll be orienting him this week with the stuff, some infrastructure around meetups and correspondence, and doing a general braindump. Then it will be up to Aaron to collect an appropriate group of volunteers to help him oversee the meetups program. I would like this group to include a variety of backgrounds — existing users, people using Facebook or self-hosted sites (maybe with BuddyPress), US people, non-US people, you name it — so that we don’t develop any policies that favor a specific group’s habits.

Aaron and this group will make recommendations for any policies we need to develop around meetups, organizers, finances, etc. in accordance with the guidelines for team reps taking action (some things they can just do, some things they’ll bring to the other Team Reps and Matt for feedback before making a decision, and some things they’ll need to get permission to do).

Aaron is co-organizer of the popular DC WordPress meetup, and has also lived in a city with a less active meetup, so he has a great background for helping get meetups in gear. He will also be acting as the local facilitator for the first pilot training in DC, so he’ll be able to guide others doing this in the future.

Congrats to Aaron on the new responsibility, I can’t wait to see how it goes!