Why meetups matter

Paul Boag

There is a lot of focus on the negative aspects of web design at the moment such as the debate about the role of accessibility. However, I believe web designers have a lot to be proud of and that other professionals (like website owners) have a lot to learn from them.

I went to my second Geek Dinner on Friday and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was superb to meet up with other people from my industry and talk about everything from personal blogging to emerging screen reader technologies.

It’s amazing when you think about it. The majority of people in that room are in direct competition with Headscape, and yet we freely discussed techniques and good practice that would normally be kept confidential in order to maintain a competitive edge.

I would argue that there are few professions outside of academia who so freely shares knowledge. What is more, I believe that the phenomenal evolution of the web can be partly attributed to this free exchange of ideas.

Personally I know I have learnt so much from the online and offline discussions I have had with other designers and I hope that in turn people have learnt from me.

If you are a web designer then I would really encourage you to take the time to attend some of these meetups. Unlike conferences, meetups tend to be free or at least very cheap and so there is little excuse not to go. The only problem I can see at the moment is that not much is happening outside London, which is frustrating. However, there is no reason why this is the case. If there isn’t a meetup in your area, organise one. Even if it is only four or five people, it is still a chance to swap war stories and have a drink while you’re at it.

However, what really saddens me is that this current enthusiasm for knowledge exchange seems to be limited to web designers and developers. What we really need to see is website owners sharing ideas in the same way. Although there is always the exception to every rule, it appears that most website owners are more reluctant to give away their competitive advantage. They are happy to attend conferences where they receive information but reluctant to attend meetups where they may be required to give out.

This attitude needs to change. There are important issues web site owners need to discuss. Things like marketing, fulfilment and customer retention (to name but three). From my perspective business strategy lags behind the technology and this is at least partly due to the communities’ hesitancy to share.

If you are interested in attending or organising a meetup then I suggest the best place to start is Upcoming.org. This site allows you to quickly and easily find events in your area as well as post your own.

Finally, if you are interested in a boagworld meetup then post a comment below. Also if you could add your location to our frappr map that would be useful too.