North Shore Web Geek Meetup

Last night I attended the North Shore Web Geek Meetup, hosted by Joshua Porter of Bokardo.com. The venue was The Grog in Newburyport, a nice little bar and grille, where we had our own private room on the second floor. A little over 20 people showed up on the cold and wintry night.

I showed up at 6pm, the first person there other than Josh, and I left at 10pm (there was still a handful of people there). I might have stayed longer, but I did have a 40-minute drive home, and work the next day. I’ve been to a number of other meetups, and this is the first one where I’ve stayed more than an hour or two. I met some fantastic people, had some great discussions about technology, the web, the North Shore, and life in general, and enjoyed a bit of good food. The setting was very informal; people just stood around and drank and talked, and would order food whenever they felt like it. When my food arrived, I ate as quickly as I could so as not to miss too much time socializing (and because I was hungry).

Some observations from the evening:

  • Roughly half of the people at the meetup appeared to be in their mid-twenties and under (I didn’t take a survey). The <=25 crowd and the >25 crowds seemed to naturally band together, perhaps because of similar temperments and life experiences. This was kind of an eye-opener for me, as I’ve always felt like part of the younger crowd. But last night it hit me as I found myself sitting at a table with a bunch of guys who were married with kids and had spent more than five years in their respective fields. I’m 29 years old, I’ve been married for five years, have an almost-two-year-old, own a house, and have been working for the same company for almost eight years now. I don’t feel like that makes me an old guy, but in fact that’s about all it takes to cross the bridge. What is more surprising to me is that I’m okay with it. I enjoyed hanging out with these people, had a lot in common with them, and felt very comfortable. So here’s to my “old”ness. (Not that there’s anything wrong with the younger folk – the ones I talked to were very nice people in their own right, but in terms of interests, life outlook, and work experience, I really hit it off more with the “older” crowd.)
  • Most of the people that I met were from Newburyport, or from fairly close by. Thus, the meetup might more accurately be named the Merrimac Valley Web Geeks Meetup. In fact, Newburyport is only part of the North Shore in the broadest definitions of the term. On the other hand, having “North Shore” in the name was a selling point for me, as I identify strongly with the North Shore. So I might not have been as interested if the meetup was more “accurately” named. :-)
  • All of the people I talked to came from one of two different job types: employees at small design/development/consulting firms, or individual freelancers/consultants. These types of people work in small teams for a variety of clients, in contrast to my work which is steady, permanent work for a single client. From what I recall, nobody I talked to has been in their current position as long as I have, and I’m not sure that even the older guys I talked to had worked for any one company for a long period of time. So for me, it was interesting to talk to these types of people to see what their work is like, and I hope that it was somewhat enlightening for them to hear from a long-time corporate developer type.
  • Something I’ve observed at other meetups, and seemed to hold true at this one as well: People generally don’t like going to meetups far from home. At the meetups I’ve attended in the cities of Boston or Cambridge, people generally balk at the idea of traveling to the hinterlands of the North Shore, while at the NSWG meetup, I heard people talking about not being able to / not being interested in attending meetings in Boston. Personally, I’m up for traveling just about anywhere as long as I’ve got the time. It took me about 40 minutes to drive to Newburyport, but I’ve driven twice as far for lesser events. Maybe it stems from the fact that I’m originally from a small town in the Midwest, and we had to drive far to get everywhere. Or maybe it’s just my temperment. Or maybe the reason I drive so far to attend these types of things is that I haven’t found many geeky meetups in my immediate vicinity. There’s the North Shore Computer Society, which holds meetings in Peabody, but they’re a bit more formal and old-school than I’m interested in. If there were a bunch of great meetups being held in Danvers or Peabody, I probably wouldn’t feel the need to drive so far to attend other ones. Hmm.

To wrap up, I’ve got a gallery of photos from the North Shore Web Geek Meetup, and I’ve been using del.icio.us to tag the people I met with nswgm. Check out those links and my commentary. Hopefully Josh will be planning more of these events in the future. Overall I had a great experience at this one, and came away feeling very excited and affirmed.

See you at the next one!

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