Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Blogathon anyone?

Recently, I've had a small influx of new members to the two blogging Meetup groups I organize, and there's always curiosity as to why these meetings seem to flounder from lack of interest. One new member has suggested a "blogathon" type meet up (eg. attendees bring laptops, 3G or iBurst and blog for an hour or two one morning or evening), and following it up with subsequent meetings and blog-ins.

There are two Sydney-based groups over on the Meetup site for bloggers who live in Sydney. A quick pocket history:

While the first few meetings in early 2007 were fizzers, the Sydney Webloggers Meetup took off quite nicely under Sara, aka The Bargain Queen, and by scheduling several Meetups in 2007 as unofficial after-parties to big web conventions in the CBD (and publicising them through her very successful blog) attendances were at the 20 to 30+ mark. A very healthy Data Miners group broke away (so they could sit chatting about all that mathematical stuff) and formed their own Meetup group but - I dunno... maybe most other attendees were coming to find out how Sara (and friends) were suddenly starting to make an income out of blogging on the side?

Sara was suddenly unable to run meetings, and no one else on the site was vetting and approving messages to their bulletin board, or even answering emails. In 2008, in frustration, I started up a separate Bloggers of Sydney Meetup group (focusing on hobby blogging, so as not to step on toes) and I politely spammed quite a few on the old site to tell them about it. Then, about three days later, the owner of Sydney Webloggers emailed me to say he'd made me an assistant organizer of his group - and thus I ended up running two groups. (Sara and her husband went off to New York, to start her US career as a pro blogger, I hear.)

Strangely, in the five Meetups I've run in 2008, nobody from Sydney Webloggers has ever attended a meeting who wasn't already also in my Bloggers of Sydney group. Numbers are currently at 103 for Sydney Webloggers and 33 for the group I started. A few crossovers. Obviously, no one in Sydney Webloggers is much interested in hobby blogging, but their complete silence on what they would like is deafening. (Even though I now use blogs in my professional life as a primary school teacher-librarian, it's obviously not what they wish to hear about.)

I've tried weeknight and weekend meetings. Not much difference. Coffee shops, pubs, restaurants. Not much difference. The last successful Meetup (in a restaurant at Albion Park) had eight people (two drove from Canberra), but only two (plus one guest) were actually from my Meetup. The rest were from Aussie Bloggers' Forum bbs!

I don't own a laptop or 3G or iBurst, so I wouldn't have a clue who'd respond to such an idea. I keep hoping enough people will come to a meeting and we can discuss it. Looking forward to working out more ideas.

Anyway, this may be my Meetup swan song...

Announcing a new Meetup for The Sydney Weblogger and Bloggers of Sydney Meetup Groups!
When: Thursday, September 11, 2008 7:00 PM
Where: Click the link below to find out!
Meetup Description: It's been a while since I scheduled a meeting. I guess people reckon it's been too cold to venture out on a school night? I'm happy to design meetings around your preferences, and invite special guests but I need to hear about them first. Come and meet fellow bloggers of Sydney, don't just sit at home blogging about coming along one day!

Learn more here:


Peter said...

**Sorry I tried to write this comment from work earlier but the browser crashed. Please delete if this is a duplicate.**

In my on again off again experiences with blogging I find there are relatively few stayers in this game. People start up a blog hopeful of posting exciting content and maybe making some dosh, but 2 months down the line their blogs lie derelict. I'm curious as to how many of the 103 Sydney Webloggers members are still active bloggers, if they have blogs at all?

I notice some have been in the group since 2006, that's a long time in the online realm, many have probably forgotten they are in the group. Even your newer Bloggers of Sydney group has been on the scene a wee while now, how many of the older members are still blogging? Bloggers are a fickle lot, they come and go like bus boys through a restaurant, as they say.

My point being that of the what 130 odd members combined, maybe 20% at most are still active to some degree. Getting 4 or 5 bods attending a meet from the active bloggers pool, especially in a place like Sydney, isn't too bad when looked at that way.

In my, I confess, limited experience of Meet up groups I find many people join the groups for the social aspect. The 'general interest' groups such as walking, wine appreciation, movie going, coffee clubs, attract a lot of interest because it's easy to say 'yes, I'm into wine, or I'm into movies, if I join I might find a new friend, or partner'. 'Hobby blogging' would similarly fit into the general interest category.

I suspect you have a number of members not really that interested in blogging, but instead looking simply to meet new people. How many attendees say something like 'I don't have a blog right now, but hope to start one, one day'? How many of those people come to the next meet?

If the last organizer arranged meet ups on the tail of conventions why don't you? If people think a meet up is going to be big and exciting, they'll come out no matter what the weather. You've been blogging a couple of years of now, and organize two blog groups, you must know the scene and what's happening.

I feel if you're going to be a meet up organizer you have to be prepared to lead from the front and also realize you can't please everyone. Those big meet ups you mentioned happened in bars. If people don't like beer or wine they can drink juice or water. But it's no good blaming yourself or others for poor attendances. Be positive and objective. If one idea didn't pan out, work out why, or try something else, but don't mope.

I have spent some time just now looking at the message board for both groups and your frustration at the poor progress of the groups is more than obvious. I can understand your disappointment to a degree but I must admit I find it a little off putting, and I would think twice about joining if I felt I was going to be 'reprimanded' for not showing up at every meet or failing to make crowd pulling suggestions.

I also looked at the data miners group, it's not my cup of tea personally, but they are pulling the people in. 53 at the last meet! Why do they succeed? They are focused, positive, and trying out different ideas. I know nothing about data mining but I'm tempted to go and see what the fuss is about now.

If the group organizer is being pessimistic no wonder attendances are poor. Be positive! Set up a party meet up, a 'forget blogging, let's just have fun' meet. Email people directly and invite them. Be bold, ask a few blog 'celebs', old timers, and stayers along. Post it on forums, everywhere. Generate excitement!

I truly hope I haven't been to harsh. You seem passionate about getting bloggers together, and I hope you succeed in this endeavour!

John Lampard said...

I'm not sure if I've said it to you before or not Ian, but running two groups with very similar goals must be challenging.

If it were down to me (and I know there is a history here), I'd invite the members from the smaller group not already in the bigger group to join it, and then dissolve the smaller group.

I'm neither hobby blogger nor pro-blogger, but find the copy of The Sydney Weblogger group reasonably all-encompassing: "Meet other Sydney-based bloggers, put faces to blogs and catch up on the goings-on in the local blogosphere."

Possibly I'd add "All bloggers whether professional or hobby are welcome". I think that gives the group a wide focus and still makes everyone feel part of it.

I like Peter's idea of holding a party like together sometime. I'm on a few local forums and whenever a bar night is suggested the idea is usually well received.

Perhaps something along the lines of a blogger's "office drinks" night could work. Many bloggers work alone and I for one would like the chance to unwind over a beer, at an event that was part social, part networking.

Some of the events Sarah arranged were quite lively in that regard and I think they were a lot of fun. I liked the Arthouse because we weren't all just sitting down at tables, but also mingling in an open area.

I think an open, stand up, area to mix and chat in is essential for any networking or social event, particularly where people don't know each other.

Also as pointed out, bloggers do come and go, so I think you'd have to get used to seeing the faces change over a pretty short period of time, rather than seeing a regular group, or at least a large one, develop.

Anyway just my (rather long) two-cents worth, hope it's helpful. :)

Therin of Andor said...

Thanks guys. I was reluctant to close the smaller group since I had little/no control over the operation of the bigger, older group. It's owned by someone else and he could choose to delete it at any time.

This week, due to my continuing disappointment in the membership of the Sydney Webloggers' Meetup Group, I've stepped down, without nominating a successor.

Although the group still supposedly has over 100 members, and about 80 on an automated mailing list, only twelve people have even visited the Meetup site in recent months. Since I started as Assistant Organiser last February, not one member (who wasn't also a member of my other Bloggers' Meetup) has attended a meeting of this group. Attendances of myself, my guests, and members of the other group, have been:

six, two, five, four, eight (five of whom were friends from outside both groups), one, zero (ie. cancelled due to lack of interest)... and, on Thursday night: two.

What these figures don't show are the number of people who RSVPed but failed to show. The lack of support for bloggers' meetings, beyond the simple act of joining up, has been bizarre.

Maybe someone else out there will express interest to the list owner, and try to kick start the group again? It used to be so much fun when Sara was coordinating it, and it seems I've failed utterly to spark so much as a glimmer of interest.

I've also stepped down from Bloggers of Sydney. Maybe someone else can make it work. Essentially, I'm totally out of the loop of the corporate online industry; the only bloggers I meet in my daily work are other teachers using blogs with children and colleagues. So I guess I'll just crawl back into that hole. ;)

Therin of Andor said...

By the way, John, I loved the ArtHouse as a CBD venue. I should point out that the ArtHouse night I tried to arrange got eight enthusiastic "Yes" RSVPs - and then I sat there alone, nursing my drink for an hour.

Eventually one other blogger turned up; he'd originally RSVPed "No" because of a work meeting, but he dropped by just in case. (If he hadn't come in through the back upstairs door, the bouncers wouldn't have permitted his dress code violation.)