Local WordPress Meetups

As I write this (May 2021), the majority of WordPress meetups are meeting online due to Covid with only a handful of groups having resumed in-person meetups. Local WordPress meetups are foundational to the WordPress ecosystem. There is nothing quite like going to a small group of local, free, or low-cost events with other folks in the same field as yourself. Competitors freely share what they’ve learned which helps everyone to grow. The openness of WordPress is it’s superpower. Seeing as many folks haven’t been to a local meetup this past year, be reminded to never take those opportunities for granted!

Anchor Hosting would not exist without the WordPress Lancaster meetup.

Huge shoutout to George Stephanis, an Automattic employee, who started WordPress Lancaster back in 2012. I just happened to see the group being advertised on Meetup.com and went to the inaugural meetup located at a co-working space in downtown Lancaster, PA. In a single night I was overwhelmed with new connections and my eyes opened to the previous unknown local WordPress businesses. Up until that point I had been building WordPress sites in isolation for two years. There is nothing quite like being surrounded by others who have been in it longer than myself.

Shortly after that I ended up joining the coworking space on a part-time basis and began helping out at the monthly meetups. A meetup, in and of itself, is nothing that special. It’s just a gathering a people. The real value of the meetup comes from the folks that show up and share their knowledge.

Running a WordPress 101 meetup with Dustin Leer back in 2012 at the original Candy Factory coworking location.

Helping others attracts new opportunities.

I ended up providing WordPress development consulting services with many businesses and agencies working out at the Candy Factory and also in the local area. Providing web hosting was a built in requirement for anything I worked on. It was the best way I knew to ensure that the WordPress sites remained healthy. That ultimately lead me to start Anchor Hosting to focus solely on web hosting.

Running a meetup at the Candy Factory in 2019

The return of local meetups will happen.

Zoom and Google Hangouts are great options when you can’t meet in person. However there is something truly unique about going somewhere and actually hanging out with folks. As health restrictions are lifted, the return of the local meetup group is inevitable. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

For WordPress Lancaster I decided not to move things online and rather wait it out till we’re safe to meet again in person. For a small group of around 10 to 20 folks, I didn’t want any extra stress to attend yet another Zoom meeting. We have enough of those already!

Unpopular opinion, meet in person if you can.

WordPress has health guidelines for when official meetups can meet. That’s more restrictive than local and state restrictions. Here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania there are no rules against small groups meeting up, just some guidelines for how to do it. WordPress as an organization has full rights to implement whatever health restrictions they wish for their official WordPress meetups.

I wish WordPress would defer to local and region restrictions rather then applying a blanket restriction for how all WordPress meetups need to handled. Leave the folks that wish to meet in person to do so. Based on the comments for the community proposal, I know I’m in the minority.

If you can meet and are following local and state rules, then you should. That has lead me to break off as an unofficial WordPress meetup and step away from meetup.com. Introducing the Lancaster WordPress Community. We currently meet on the third Tuesday of the month at Candy Factory. If you’re in the Lancaster, PA area then be sure to sign up to receive notices about future meetups.

Build a Meetup.com clone in a week? Why not!

If you know me at all then it shouldn’t be any surprise that I’m always working on a side project. I just can’t stop myself from pursuing some crazy idea like Calculate ARR, CaptainCore, Minimalist whois, WP Freighter and Vuetifused to name a few. So when a friend of mine was recently pitching me an idea to create something that would allow for groups of self organize meetings, I took it upon myself to build an open source Meetup.com clone. Besides just for the challenge and fun of it, there are some very real reasons why this should exist.

  • Own your data. Meetup.com owns members data.
  • Alternatives are bad, broken or overly complex.
  • WordPress itself uses a closed platform.

An organizer of a WordPress Meetup has no ability to export email addresses of its members. I don’t even think that is available to the WordPress organization as Meetup.com owns that information. It seems silly that WordPress would use a close platform for meetups. Sounds like an opportunity for a WordPress focused meetup solution to be created like it already is for WordCamps.

Introducing LocalMeet

So did I succeed at building a Meetup.com clone in a week? Well no. Haha that would be impossible. However I did make something functional enough to run a meetup so I would call it a success.

LocalMeet is a very quick and dirty development experiment. It’s built using as a single page Vue.js custom template, and hijacked to be delivered as a WordPress plugin. Be warned, do not install LocalMeet on an existing WordPress site as it will takeover the entire front end. That’s probably not something you want to do :). Instead feel free try it out at https://localmeet.io or hack around with the code: https://github.com/austinginder/LocalMeet. At this point I plan to add features as I personally need them as I run Lancaster WordPress Community. Here’s a few screenshots showing LocalMeet in action.

Main group page. Anyone can join the group
Individual meetup page
Summary and comments section
Meetup announcement email