HowTo: Meetups in Berlin

2012-02-14 20:23
I get that question once in a while - and need the list below myself every now and then: How to actually setup a meetup in Germany. Essentially it all boils down to three questions: Which channels to use for PR? Where to do the meeting? What other benefits to offer to attendees?

When it comes to PR there are several options:

  • Announce the meetup on relevant mailing lists
  • Use social networking sites relevant to your project - in Germany Xing works best, Twitter, Facebook, Linked.In and Google+ are other options
  • Ask anyone you know personally for help with spreading the word
  • If you have one post information on your personal blog

Where to go for the meetup:

The venue usually is the biggest question mark. After deciding on how big you'd like to shoot for initially you can start looking for a location. For your first meetup don't rent a room - with a bit of creativity there are lots of options that are free of charge.

  • If you are a student or have active relations to any university going there usually is the cheapest and least complicated version.
  • Another option is to just book a table in a restaurant that has a reasonably large room. Simply choose your favourite one - knowing the owner helps in getting extra space.
  • Third option is to go to any co-working space that also has a meeting area. In general they are very open to hosting community events - co-up Berlin, Betahaus are just two options.
  • If you are planning a less formal event, your local hacker spaces might be an option: c-base Berlin, in Berlin e.V. are two Berlin examples. Hackers Dojo and Noisebridge are two Bay Area examples.
  • Last but not least look out for local startups that are currently hiring new people: They tend to be very open to hosting events. See Berlin Buzzwords Hackathon providers list for some examples.

What else?

  • Make sure attendees can register themselves - xing works for that, so do Google forms
  • Setup a mailing list or some other notification service to help people track future events (Google Groups works, so does a dedicated Twitter Account)
  • Provide some background online - works but does charge a small fee. Setting up a blog on wordpress or blogger works as well, though it is not quite as interactive as the site.
  • Get in touch with attendees and local companies - usually they are quite happy to provide some financial support to your meetup for free drinks or videos.
  • If you want videos: Recording audio is trivial, putting it online is extremely simple if you use soundcloud's app. Recording video also is rather simple but can be time consuming. Finding sponsors to pay for them if you offer to brand the videos is reasonably simple. For the Hadoop Get Together we usually hire Martin Schmidt. Sites to put videos online: Vimeo works but has rather low upload limits, is a bit better in this respect.
  • Sponsoring in general: Companies looking for developers related to the meetup's technology as well as those providing consulting for that technology tend to be open to supporting local events. What works best is to contact people you already know there - they will know best who to ask internally.

One final note: Being the organiser of such a meetup puts you at the center of a local community. Over time people will start remembering your face and name. Make sure you do the same - you should at least be able to remember faces, affiliations and names of your regular attendees.

Berlin Tech Meetups

2011-12-09 22:32
Berlin currently is of growing interest for software engineers, has a very active startup scene and as a result several community organised meetups. Listed below is a short, "highly objective" selection of local user groups - showing just the breadth of topics discussed.

If you want to discover new meetups: It helps attending one that is closest to your interest as usually people follow several user groups. In addition watching the scheduled event at co-working and hacker spaces like co-up Berlin, betahaus, c-base can help.

Scaling user groups

2010-05-26 19:32
A few hours ago, Jan Lehnardt posted a link on How to organise a nerd conference - joking that this is how we planned Berlin Buzzwords. Well, it is not exactly that easy - however the comic actually is not so far from the truth either:

About two years ago, after having started Apache Mahout together with Grant Ingersoll, Karl Wettin and others, several Apache Hadoop user groups, meetups and get togethers started to pop up all around the world. The one closest to me was the Hadoop user group UK. Back in 2008 I was pretty envious to all these user groups - being so distributed, there was no way I could ever attend all of them, though talks were certainly interesting. So the naive thought of a back then naive free software developer was: Let's have that in Berlin. To have initial talks I called Stefan Groschupf. His answer was very positive: Oh yeah, let's do this. I am in Germany for another two weeks, so it should be at about that timeframe. We agreed that if no-one showed up, we could still have some pizza together and share insights from our projects.

For the venue I knew from regular meetups of the Free Software Foundation Europe - read FSF*E* - that newthinking store was available for free for meetups for devs of free software. On I went, calling Martin from the store, booked the room. After that some mails went to the usual suspects, mailing lists and such. At the first meetup two years ago, more than 15 attendees - with two more people who had prepared slides. Pizzas obviously had to wait a little.

If you are wondering what that looked like back then - Thanks to Martin for taking the image back then and putting it online.

We (as in all attendees) decided to repeat the exercise three months later*, talks for the next time were proposed during that first session. Noone objected to having it in Berlin again - everyone knew this was the only way to avoid having to do the organization next time.

The meetup grew steadily in size, talks started being proposed three to six months in advance. I ended up creating not only a mailing list for the meetup but also a blog so I could publish news on Jan's CouchDB talk and Lars George's HBase talk back then. We got video sponsoring from Cloudera (Thanks Christophe), StudiVZ (Thanks Nils), and Nokia (Thanks Matt). Late last year I did the first European NoSQL meetup together with Jan Lehnardt - 80 attendees, lots of potential for more, the newthinking store obviously a bit too small for that :)

If you are wondering what NoSQL and Hadoop meetups looked like last time:

During that meetup the idea was born for a larger NoSQL conference in Berlin in 2010. First ideas were tossed around together with Jan and Simon Willnauer during Apache Con US in Oakland. The topic Hadoop got added there. In January 2010 finally Lucene was added to the mix. We contacted newthinking for support - got a very warm welcome.

Now - two years after the first Apache Hadoop Get Together Berlin we are proud to host Berlin Buzzwords - focussed on NoSQL, Apache Hadoop and search as in Apache Lucene.The conference is co-organised by newthinking communications, Simon Willnauer, Jan Lehnardt and myself. A big thanks to neofonie for supporting me by making it possible that I could do most of the organisation during my regular working hours.

The speaker lineup looks fantastic. Registration is going very well - exceeding expectations (did I mention that registration is still open, group and student tickets still available?).

I am really looking forward to an amazing conference on 7th and 8th of June. We will have a NoSQL barcamp in newthinking store Sunday evening before the conference. Keynote speaker packages have been sent out and were well received. Hotel rooms for speakers are booked. We are about to pull together the last loose ends in the coming days. Happy to have so many guys (and a few girls) interested in scalability topics here in town at the beginning of June. Looking forward to seeing you in Berlin.

* The second meetup turned out to be the first and so far only one that took place w/o the organiser - I broke my leg on my way to newthinking by getting hit by a BMW X5... *sigh* Note for other meetup organizers: Always have a backup moderator - in may case that was my neofonie manager Holger Düwiger who happened to attend that meetup for the first time back then.

Hadoop Get Together Berlin @ Apache Con US Barcamp

2009-11-03 21:05
This is my first real day at ApacheCon US 2009. I arrived yesterday afternoon, was kept awake by three Lucene committers until midnight: "Otherwise you will have a very bad jetlag"... Admittedly it did work out: I slept like a baby until about 08:00a.m. the next morning and am not that tired today.

Today Hackthon, Trainings and barcamp Apache happen in parallel. Ross Gardler tricked me into doing a presentation on my experiences on doing local user meetups. I put the slides online.

The general consent was, that it is actually not that hard to do such a meetup - at least if you are have someone locally to help organizing or do it in a town you know very well. There are ways to get support from the ASF for doing such meetups - people help you get speakers, talk to potential sponsors or find a location. In my experience if doing the event in your hometown, finding a location is not that hard: Either you are lucky having someone like newthinking store around. Or you can contact you local university or even your employer to find some conference room that you can use for free.

Getting the first two to three meetups up and running - especially finding speakers - is hard. However you should be able to benefit from being part of an Apache project already and probably know your community and know who would be willing to speak at one of those meetups. Once the meetup is well established, it should be possible to find sponsors to pay for video taping, free beer and pizza.

Keep in mind that having a fixed schedule ready in advance helps to attract people - it's always good to know why one should travel to the meetup by train or plane. Don't forget to plan for time for socializing after the event - having some beer and maybe food together makes it easy for people to connect after the meetup.