Thoughts On Running a Successful Meetup From Jeremia Kimmelman of Mobile Mondays13 Oct 2012
As part of my research into how to create healthy developer communities, I've been spending time reaching out to organizers of developer meetups in different cities so I can get some insight into what it takes to successfully organize and run a developer meetup.
I recently spoke to Jeremia Kimelman (@jeremiak) of Tout, who runs Mobile Monday Developers. Jeremia took over the Mobile Monday Developers with the idea that he would create a meet up format where tech companies could reach out to developers in a non-spammy way. Companies could sponsor workshops and come in to deliver on topics like HTML5 or HTML5 vs Native Apps, and do it in a way that would add value to developers worlds.
This is a model that I'm sure many tech companies would drool over, and very often view meetups as a perfect medium for this type of sales pitch. As I reach out to meet up organizers I get the vibe that many of them already get solicited by companies in this fashion--either because they don't respond at all, or by being somewhat hostile to my questions about their meetup.
Jeremia was able to grow his meet ups from about 40 to 140 members with this model, but when I asked him if this was a model that could be replicated, he replied, "definitely not". It doesn't create value. It doesn't solve the problems developers face and ultimately will doom your meetup to failure.
As platform and API owners it's easy to drink our own kool-aid and think what we are offering is what developers want. Jeremia said it's easy to project your business understanding onto developers, and assume they are concerned with things like monetization and in-app payments, when in reality these things might be the furthest thing from their minds.
In an effort to truly deliver value to developers, Jeremia decided to pivot, working to better understand better how to make it a community owned event. By actually solving the problems developers face, making the event truly about learning and growth--not about what we perceive developers will need, and our products.
Not all developers are created equal. iPhone developers won't see things the same way as Android devs, and Windows mobile developers are going to have way different needs than others. "Don't try to be everything to everyone", said Jeremia.
To make it about developers and to introduce community into the meetup he is playing around with letting attendees share the problems they personally face as developers, letting the group openly discuss the problem, provide solutions and help each other learn and grow. This has the potential to bring value and community to the meetup in an organic way, not something that is imposed by him or a company.
As API or platform evangelists I think it's easy to be self-centered, making hackathons and meet ups all about us. When in reality we should be actively working to just support developers as they are. We need to work with them to understand the problems they face, and help them find solutions--even if the solutions are not our products and services.
In the end, if the developers are successful and we helped them get there. It will go a long way in building trust, something that can't be established when just evangelizing or selling our company to developers at meetups around the country.