Often the best part of a conference is talking to other people in the hallway. The best part of many user group meetings, um, I mean, meet ups, is going for a beer afterwards. Talking to the other people in your “tribe” is a lot of fun. It helps to hear about other people having similar challenges and how they overcome them. Sometimes it is nice to tell a story and see other heads nodding along.
What if you could have that experience without having to have a meetup or conference? Sure, there are happy hours with your co-workers, but it’s not the same. You work with these people daily so the conversation degrades to complaining about the trivial things at work.
I am not sure exactly how we started. I think it started as a Software Craftsmanship group (anybody still have one of those?). It started before I got involved, but a friend invited me along one time. We met in a bar and did lightning talks about things. Over time the prepared talks went away. Now we just hang out and talk about life. Much of the conversation is about technology, but we talk about all kinds of things.
The membership has changed over time. The friend that brought me in no longer attends. Most of us have never worked with each other, but we all know some people in common. We’ve mixed up the activities, too. We started a year or two ago going for long walks along the Montour Trail. We started that out with lightning talks, too – one every two miles. But the talks fell away and now its just random.
I don’t have any great advice for how to get started. Don’t overthink it. Maybe just try posting something to twitter and see who responds. The important part is that you keep doing it. Over time these people have become good friends of mine. I look forward to hanging out with them every month or so.