comment by Elo ·
2015-03-31T08:20:52.578Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
(I run the Sydney group with @Taryneast)
We seemed to uncover our own version of dunbar's number with groupsize.
in trying to hold a group discussion with more than about 11 people. very quickly we break off into two smaller groups. At first it was annoying because we lost focus and then we decided it was better and ended up being good discussions in two groups as long as we compared notes after between the groups.
We have 4 types of meetups; pub-social-type, dojo-focus-type, active-healthy-fun-social-type, indoors-home-online-type. These allow for a lot of variety and we seem to have 2-3 each month.
We (the organisers) had a genuine problem when after 6 months of good meetups we asked ourselves - how do we know we are being effective at our goals? (being something along the lines of; social, improve effectiveness of the people who attend, improve the lives of the people who attend)
Where its easy to be doing well at "social" its not so easy to work out if we were doing well at improving the lives of our constituents. We came up with one idea and that was to survey people; did it once. Did not yield valuable information (although we had doubts about self-reporting anyway). Would love to know how other meetups have worked out if they were being effective at what they are trying to do. Also what are the goals/purposes of your meetups?
We have a commitment ritual where in our dojo-serious meetup people can choose to commit to a task to be done by next month. tasks people have committed to include; tidying the back room, losing 1kg, mowing the lawn, one chapter of physics, read one book by next month, do a coze activity, set up a system to listen to music while running, spend 10 hours working on a programming project. Although anything could be a set-able task. We always make sure to ask for a concrete goal - one where you will know if you succeeded or failed. and make sure to get them all recorded, and check up one month later. We have a whole set of information about goals and goal-setting which we have run more than once (similar to the CFAR stuff because we have alumnis) which I am happy to write down if there is interest.
Lesswrong is less work than other things I have organised, and people are thrilled to attend, where in other groups I have felt burdened to be the one organising, as well as like it was hard work to do. people just seem to turn up. in other groups we seemed to be missing something in the "motivate attendees" equation. Also in other groups there have been fights to reach the top, and to be the leader or coordinator. I would happily give up my position of "the one who organises things" if anyone asked, but so far no one has.
We used to set topics for our pub-friendly-meetup, Usually following on from the conversation of the last meetup. Once the conversation was heavily about finance so we set the next meetup about finance and got a poor attendance. Shortly after (and now) we have been topic-less during the pub meetup and let the conversation flow. Anyone can ask a question to the group, and anyone can contribute. At the time of running the finance meetup it seemed like a really valuable topic to talk about, (following on from health management, organising life) and the discussion topic from the meetup before, I am still unsure why we didn't have piles of attendees.
I received a few piece of feedback that people felt "this topic is not my interest" and excused themselves from the meetup because of it, even though most of the meetup was free discussion followed by sharing ideas on the topic. This is why the pub meetup is now topic-less and will probably stay that way to encourage visitors from new people.
I recently had a battle with myself over encouraging attendees VS being content with as many as we have; on the one hand - growth is good, on the other - reaching out too far and we collect people who are not as interested and not ready to delve in. I have personally slowwed down to let people naturally find us.
Our core is around 10 people, of which 5-7 usually attend events, we have 3 organisers, we have a mix of age, profession, education, background, genders (basically everything). At most meetups our core will equal the number of new attendees (never before attended).
So far we have done no outreach rationality, we probably will not do any for a while.
the only really measureable outcome we have right now is that - yes we are being social.
The only systems we have in place to cutoff bad topics are knowingly placing eye contact between the 3 organisers to try to direct opinions as to whether to cut someone off or let them keep going. its a super secret that no one knows, we didn't even try to make it happen, we just do it. So far it hasn't been bad enough for any major action, only mildly bad for short periods of time.
Replies from: Gunnar_Zarncke, Kaj_Sotala, luminosity
↑ comment by Kaj_Sotala ·
2015-04-09T13:51:01.806Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
At first it was annoying because we lost focus and then we decided it was better and ended up being good discussions in two groups as long as we compared notes after between the groups.
Helsinki meetups have had a habit of explicitly breaking people into small groups (of about three people), letting them discuss the current topic for a while, and then breaking up and re-forming new groups so that everyone ends up talking to people they didn't talk with in the previous round. Repeat this until out of time.
Seems to work okay and is also useful in making sure that the quieter/less assertive people also have a chance to speak. I like to imagine it also helps reduce groupthink, if we ever were in a situation where that was relevant, because a person who proposes an idea in one group won't get to spread their idea to other groups until before the people in the other groups have already considered different ideas.
↑ comment by luminosity ·
2015-04-09T11:11:54.428Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
One extra note I'd add. We've had a few events where another group, or a fraction thereof, and our group combined for the event. I'd recommend strongly against these unless you think there is significant demographic overlap, as I felt it strongly diluted the event, both in terms of group feel and also in terms of group focus.
Replies from: taryneast
↑ comment by taryneast ·
2015-04-11T13:15:30.869Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
HPMOR wrap-party being a good example of an exception where it worked fairly well...
but I'd be curious about your experience with examples that didn't work.