No revolution ever kicked off without a crowd of people gathering in a room before hand (…or in the French case a tennis court). Tech Meetups have become essential to the permanent revolution of information technology; the gift that keeps on giving to to the world.
It’s where coders and entrepreneurs come together on a regular basis to talk about topics or problems centred around the technology they work with daily.
There are many drivers behind tech meetups: for many participants the aim is to gain a deeper understanding of the technology under discussion, for others it’s to join a community centred around that technology in order to share ideas and experiences. Some see the ultimate aim of their meetup as a means to spark up the “Next Big Thing” in the tech industry.
One thing the organisers try to balance is the formal presentations by guest speakers and the Q&A on one hand, with the more informal networking afterwards.
Both elements are very important. The participants learn something new from the guest speakers and can gain a deeper knowledge by asking questions. But this has limited value unless the attendees can meet and speak to the presenters afterwards and make new contacts in the industry.
What the organisers have to do is to keep the meetup focused on the technology as opposed to letting it drift to other topics like business and marketing and also they need to convene a meetup that’ll attract people, after all they are event organisers: they need to keep it fresh, and interesting. There’s a market imperative to book speakers who are going to engage their audience.
Dublin Tech MeetUps
The biggest meetups in the world are in the US: the New York Tech Meetup has 36,000 members with, according to its organisers, 500 people joining every month.
Of course the Dublin Tech meetup scene is nowhere near as big but what it lacks in size it makes up for in vitality. Tech meetups in Dublin range from geek girls right across to 3D Printing. The format varies from a talk delivered by an expert on a tech topic, to a panel discussion and even a pitch by start-ups to potential investors for their new applications and business ideas.
Usually there’s a very distinctive socialising part of the meetup that can take place in the pub and attendees have a chance to continue the discussion or do some techie networking.
One example of a regular meetup in Dublin is IxDA or the Interaction Design Association. It was established in 2008 as a forum for design professionals and academics. It’s aim was to bring people working in the same field together to exchange ideas and build a sense of community. It’s meetups appear at a cursory glance to be a kind of open mike session. But the people taking to the stage are established experts talking about a topic usually at the nexus of design, business and technology as this video below shows.
So why have meetups? The people who organise them are usually doing it in their spare time; where does the value add come for organisers or attendees?
Despite the advance of social media and communications technology there’s a huge amount of economic value in people meeting face to face rather than simply being in contact online. More solutions are arrived at in the office by a quick desk-side chat than in a torturous e-mail thread that could go on for days.
Also, many meetup type events are used to pitch new business ideas to angel investors or VCs. Any investor is not going to invest a cent until he meets his new partners face to face and gets to know them as well as their ideas.
It’s also much more valuable to start-ups to make their funding pitches including demonstrating prototypes along with a parallel presentation. A live event allows critical sales qualities to be communicated like charisma and personality along with the marketing and technology smarts. TextRepublic put together an excellent Infographic of the startup events that take place across the country. (Click here for a larger version.)
It’s at gatherings and meetups that people from different companies, possibly working in different markets but using the same technologies, can discuss embryonic ideas and source highly skilled resources for upcoming projects. The demand for tech meetups has itself generated business start-ups.
TCube is a meetup and collaborative workspace for developers in Dublin city centre. The facility is owned by Purple Phoenix Media and is one of the premier meetup venues in Dublin as well as offering office space to new business that are just emerging from accelerators or incubators.
Engine Yard, based in Barrow Street, also organises tech meetup events on site and provides many of the features above, Engine Yard’s events provide information on technologies they use like Node.js but which are relatively new to the market and are a long way away from being mainstream.
Many coders without experience in these technologies can gain a lot from tutorial meetups, so there can be a proselyting and educational aspects to these events as well.
Meetups also distinguish t e current new wave of software companies from the pioneering firms that made the PC revolution happen: the emphasis now is on collaboration as opposed to competition.
The open source movement is testimony to this as is the absence of any overarching narrative of rivalry like the Gates vs Jobs story. And there are meetups in just about every big city in the industrialised world for every type of informatics technology.