“Goodbye, Meetup”: Stepping down from my virtual coding Meetup of four years

A recap of topics, highlights, frustrations and self-reflection…and advice for the beginners who I may no longer have a chance to meet

On Jan. 18, 2017, I facilitated my first Meetup.

The group was called “Learn to Code JavaScript Charlotte”.

  • The event was held at Packard Place in Uptown Charlotte
  • Nearly 30 people RSVP’d, and almost all of them attended
  • It lasted around two hours with everyone participating throughout

To this day, it remains the best meetup event I ever facilitated, in my opinion.

Why was it the best?

  • Dozens of budding Software Developers
  • Together in one place — virtual or in-person
  • Focused on a single series of tasks
  • Collaborating in efforts to learn, share, inspire, teach and mentor

For a variety of reasons, no meetup since then has successfully met all four of those criteria.

I tried hard, though.

  • The three meetups after were in-person, with dwindling attendance
  • All meetups thereafter were virtual, but the ratio between the number of people who RSVP’d and who attended was most often 3:1, with fewer than a dozen people maximum regularly in attendance
  • Events lasted 40 minutes in order to capture attendees’ attention enough to stay focused
  • Topics intentionally catered to beginner Front-end Developers because there were already enough meetups for advanced folk

Speaking of topics…here were several:

  • String data types
  • ES6 variables and template literals
  • Document Object Model (DOM) creation and manipulation
  • Functional programming
  • Event listeners
  • Debugging using the Developer Tools
  • Understanding APIs
  • Free ways to learn JavaScript
  • 9 ways to write “Hello, world”
  • What is closure?
  • Solving FizzBuzz
  • CS 101: algorithms, recursion and loops
  • Intro to VueJS
  • Five ‘A-ha!’ moments, finally!
  • Lists (or Arrays) and tons you can do with them
  • Value, Reference and a concept called Mutability
  • Enough about JSON to get your started
  • Using Firebase
  • Test-driven development
  • Math and Date and tons you can do with them
  • The important parts of Objects
  • Promises and Asynchronous programming
  • Demystifying ‘Uncaught TypeError’
  • Intro to Node and npm
  • Build Rock-Paper-Scissors
  • Career advice for today’s job market
  • Build Madlibs
  • Build Mac’s calendar app icon
  • What to do after a bootcamp, Udemy or Youtube

I recorded some of the events

The playlist of videos can be found here

What went right?

  • Attendees seemed grateful for the knowledge transfer and guidance
  • Being virtual, anyone could technically attend…even if not in Charlotte
  • The need for new topics spurred me to learn more about JavaScript. Then learn it well enough to teach others. Then plan a way to teach it in 30 minutes or less.
  • I’ve since become a mentor to Junior Software Developers through a variety of other services
  • Facilitating virtual events since 2017 helped prepare me for the unavoidable pivot to remote working and meeting during COVID-19

What could I have done differently to attain the attendance and participation from that first event?

  • Market each event more often
  • Send reminders as the event approached…in addition to the ones Meetup sends
  • A/B test more days and times at which to hold events
  • Follow-up with each attendee: send messages thanking those you joined and asking those who didn’t what prevented them from joining
  • Elicit more critique and ideas from each member about the topics and content that would most incentivize them to attend

As I step down as Organizer for the 2nd time, here’s a message to other Organizers.

As frustrated as it is when 10 people RSVP and no one joins, I must remember how easy Meetup makes it to express commitment of joining (pressing a button), but how difficult it can actually be to join given all of life’s unknowability and the ease with which we all just forget.

No matter how many notifications I may attempt to send through meetup, there’s no guarantee they will be seen by the committed attendees: by way of their settings, their email client, or their attention span…most of what I try to communicate gets lost or miscommunicated.

Even though many expressed interest in meeting in person, I must go from what I observed: the Junior Developers who joined my Meetup were often shy, introverted, or not prone to fully utilize a forum in which the opportunity to network was clearly made available.

It saddened me repeatedly to learn from too many attendees how much they felt disappointed or unfulfilled academically from the bootcamp they paid thousands to attend — or the online course they wasted hundreds of hours watching — only to demonstrate a lack of acquired knowledge due perhaps to the speed of education, lack of enforced practice during and after, or non-existence of a dedicated mentor, tutor, partner or otherwise committed buddy at the same stage as them.

A problem and a curse

There are thousands of ways to learn Front-End Development today.

The most effective solution

Find a programmer to pair with, a tutor, and a mentor.

That’s three different people, not one or two.

Challenge yourself and your pair programmer using these free resources:

  • FreeCodeCamp.org
  • TheOdinProject.com
  • FrontEndMentor.io
  • JamstackAttack.com

Dedicate time each day.

Write notes in a journal about what you did, what you learned, what you practiced, and what you know you need to learn next or practice more.

Publish so that others can participate, contribute and guide you

  • Dev.to
  • Medium.com
  • Github.com
  • YouTube.com
  • Reddit.com

Start applying for jobs long before you feel ready

You’ll need all the practice you can get, so that you’ll feel super-comfortable by the time you interview for the job you really want.

Go learn. Find others. Hold one another accountable. Practice each day. Publish what you learn. Pay it forward.

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Designer, Developer, DataViz, Dad • rmion.com

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Robert Mion

Robert Mion

Designer, Developer, DataViz, Dad • rmion.com

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