(Outdoor, Careful) Meetups Everywhere 2021 - Seeking Organizers
Please volunteer to host a meetup in your city later this summer
There are ACX-affiliated meetup groups all over the world. Lots of people are vaguely interested, but don't try them out until I make a big deal about it on the blog. Since learning that, I've tried to make a big deal about it on the blog once annually, and it's that time of year again.
Given the COVID situation, I debated whether or not I should hold the meetups this year. I've decided yes, for a few reasons:
According to the recent surveys, 97% of ACX readers in the US are vaccinated. Other developed countries have roughly similar numbers (except for Australia, where I am recommending no meetups for now). I will request that only vaccinated people attend these meetups - but knowing that I can’t enforce this, it makes me reassured to learn that almost everyone is vaccinated anyway.
Everyone liked outdoor meetups better last time, so we can just hold the meetups outdoors. My state (California) currently says small to medium outdoor gatherings are okay, with light restrictions starting once they have 10,000 people.
Social consensus seems to be in favor of continuing to hold events for vaccinated people. For example, where I live you can attend baseball games in stadiums, go to rock concerts, et cetera.
MicroCovid.org says that 2-hour outdoor meetings of vaccinated people give between a 1/2500 to 1/5000 chance per person of getting COVID, depending on which vaccine people got and where they are. Since I expect between 500 and 1000 people around the world to participate, this event should cause fewer than one COVID case total. Note that MicroCovid still classifies this as “high-risk” per individual, based on a “risk budget” of 200 microcovids per week, and you will have to decide whether or not it’s worth it given your personal budget.
I would still urge people in specific risk categories (unvaccinated, immunocompromised, taking care of at-risk family members) to think carefully about whether they want to attend.
Otherwise, let’s do this. If you're willing to organize a meetup for your city, please fill in the organizer form.
The form will ask you to pick a location, time, and date, and to provide an email address where people can reach you for questions. I'll publicize your meetup on the blog, and people will either get in touch with you, or just show up at the relevant place/time. You should show up at the relevant place/time with a sign saying "ACX Meetup" or some other rallying flag, but you don't necessarily need to have any plans or discussion topics or ability to control the conversation. If you want to make the experience better for people, you can bring nice things like nametags/markers, food/drinks, or games, but I would warn against trying to have "set activities" (eg "now we're all going to sit together and play Monopoly"). You may also want to bring a sign-up sheet where people can add their names/emails to get information on future meetups.
Here’s a short FAQ for potential meetup organizers:
1. How do I know if I would be a good meetup organizer?
If you can put a name/time/date in a box on Google Forms and show up there, you have the minimum skill necessary to be a meetup organizer for your city, and I would recommend you sign up.
Don't worry, you signing up won't take the job away from someone more deserving. The form will ask people how excited/qualified they are about being an organizer, and if there are many options, I'll choose whoever says they're excited and qualified. But a lot of cities might not have an excited/qualified person, in which case I would rather the unexcited/unqualified people sign up, than have nobody available at all.
2. How will people hear about the meetup?
You give me the information, and on August 23 (or so), I post it all on my blog, including your meetup and its date and time. I'll also post some tips for how to organize meetups then.
3. When should I plan the meetup for?
Since I will post the list of meetup times and dates around August 23, please choose sometime after that. I recommend a weekend since it's when most people are available. Late August, September, or early October would all be fine - some people have mentioned the weather doesn’t get bearable in their city until October, so they might want to hold off until then. If you're in the US, be careful around Labor Day weekend since a lot of people will be away. If you’re in a college town, maybe wait until school starts.
4. How many people should I expect?
The last time we tried this, meetups ranged from 1 person (Medellin, Columbia) to 140 people (Boston, MA). Meetups in big US cities (especially ones with universities or tech hubs) had the most people; meetups in non-English-speaking countries had the fewest. You can see a list of every city and how many people it got last time here. Plan accordingly.
5. Where should I hold the meetup?
I would prefer meetups be outdoors this year. I recommend a quiet and centrally-located public park, university quad, or city square. You can hold it at your house if you have a big backyard, but remember that this will involve me posting your address on the Internet.
6. What if there's rain or more lockdowns or some other unexpected event?
I’m going to figure out some system that lets organizers communicate with potential attendees. Probably this will be a spreadsheet they can edit that I direct blog readers to. You can use this to change the location or reschedule in case of weather or changes in the COVID situation.
7. What if it’s too hot to hold an outdoor meetup where I live?
I would prefer you either schedule for the evening / night-time, or schedule for the next time when it’s not too hot, even if that’s a few months out. Sorry, I don’t have a great solution here.
7.1. What if I absolutely cannot hold an outdoor meetup for some reason?
Someone mentioned in the comments that outdoor meetups are banned in Hong Kong. If this is you, fine, hold an indoor meetup, and attendees can decide what level of risk they’re comfortable with.
8. What if my country has a worse COVID situation than the United States?
Please don't volunteer to host a meetup if it's illegal in your country, or a terrible idea. I’m going to try to go over the list of meetup cities and countries and delete ones where meeting is illegal or a terrible idea, but I don't know as much as people on the ground in those countries. and you’re responsible for double-checking the COVID situation in your area.
9. Is it okay if I already have an existing meetup group?
Yes. If you run an existing ACX meetup group, just choose one of your meetings which you'd like me to advertise on my blog as the official meetup for your city, and be prepared to have a larger-than-normal attendance who might want to do generic-new-people things that day.
If you're a LW, EA, or other affiliated community meetup group, consider carefully whether you want to be affiliated with ACX. If you decide yes, that's fine, but I might still choose an ACX-specific meetup over you, if I find one. I guess this would depend on whether you're primarily a social group (good for this purpose) vs. a practical group that does rationality/altruism/etc activism (good for you, but not really appropriate for what I'm trying to do here). I'll ask about this on the form.
10. If this works, am I committing to continuing to organize meetup groups forever for my city?
The short answer is no.
The long answer is no, but it seems like the sort of thing somebody should do. Many cities already have permanent meetup groups. For the others, I'll prioritize would-be organizers who are interested in starting one. If you end up organizing one meetup but not being interested in starting a longer-term group, see if you can find someone at the meetup who you can hand this responsibility off to.
I know it sounds weird, but due to the way human psychology works, once you're the meetup organizer people are going to respect you, coordinate around you, and be wary of doing anything on their own initiative lest they step on your toes. If you can just bang something loudly at the meetup, get everyone's attention, and say "HEY, ANYONE WANT TO BECOME A PERMANENT MEETUP ORGANIZER?", somebody might say yes, even if they would never dream of asking you on their own.
11. Are you (Scott) going to come to some of the meetups?
I did this in 2019 and it was a lot of fun. I'm hoping to do it again this year, but I still have to figure out my plans. For now, assume I'm not doing this, and if it turns out I am, then I'll get in touch with the people involved in those cities and sort it out, and give everyone an update around 8/23 when I post the final list of cities and people.
Again, you can find the meetup organizer volunteer form here. Everyone else, just wait until 8/23 and I'll give you more information on where to go then.