Our meetup last weekend was at the downtown Ann Arbor Public Library. There were several comments, requests, and discussion items. This discussion topic goes out to attendees, people who might have wanted to attend but didn't, and members of other meetup groups who have suggestions.

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2. Some people felt intimidated about attending. Prominent community members include programmers, physicists, psychiatrists, philosophy professors, Ph.D.s, and other impressive folks who do not start with P like fanfiction writers. Will I be laughed out of the room if I have not read all the Sequences?

No. Not only is there no minimum requirement to attend, as a group, we are *very excited* about explaining things to people. Our writing can be informationally dense, but our habit of linking to long essays is (often) meant to provide context, not to say, "You must read all the dependencies before you are allowed to talk."

And frankly, we are not that intimidating. Being really impressive makes it easy to become prominent, which via availability bias makes us all look impressive, but our average is way lower than that. And the really impressive people will welcome you to the discussion.

So how can we express this in meetup announcements? I promised to draft a phrasing. Please critique and edit in comments.

Everyone is welcome. There is no minimum in terms of age, education, or reading history. There is no minimum contribution to the community nor requirement to speak. You need not be this tall to ride. If you can read this and are interested in the meetup, we want you to come to the meetup.

3. As part of signalling "be comfortable, you are welcome here," I bought some stim toys from Stimtastic and put them out for whoever might need them. They seemed popular. Comforting, distracting, how did that go for folks? They seemed good for some folks who wanted to do something with their hands, but I was worried that we had a bit much "play" at some points.

Your recommendations on accommodating access needs are welcome. (But I'm not buying chewable stim toys to share; you get to bring your own on those.)

4. The location was sub-optimal. It is a fine meeting space, but the library is under construction, has poor parking options, and does not allow food or drink. Attendees requested somewhere more comfortable, with snacking options. Our previous meeting was at a restaurant, which offers much of that but has more background noise and seemed less socially optimal in terms of coordinating discussion. Prior to that, Michigan meetups had been at Yvain's home.

We moved to Ann Arbor from Livonia because (1) Yvain had been hosting and moved to Ann Arbor, (2) half the Livonia attendees seemed to be Ann Arbor-area folks, and (3) I knew the library had a free meeting room.

Recommendations and volunteers for a meeting site in the area are welcome. I'm in Lansing and not well set up for a group of our size.

5. We had 17 people, although not all at once. It was suggested that we break up into two or more groups for part of the discussion. This is probably a good idea, and it would give more people a chance to participate.

6. Many groups have pre-defined topics or projects. No one leaped at that idea, but we can discuss on here.

7. Rationalist game night game night was another suggestion. I like it. Again, volunteers for hosts are welcome. Many public locations like restaurants are problematic for game nights.

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3 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 7:53 PM

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Thanks for organizing, Zubon. About points 5 and 6, combined: how about floating some topics or projects during the organizing posts announcing the meetup? If there are two or more proposals that have some popularity, we could have pre-defined subgroups. For example, AI and AI risk is a topic that a few people seemed especially interested in, and I would be interested in (though I have weak AI background knowledge).

Me, I'm comfortable having somewhat meandering discussions. One of our meetup best practices suggests that groups have more success (measured in terms of interest and retention) with a project or something specific to do rather than socialization. Maybe we cut in the middle of that with a discussion group rather than resembling a cocktail party. I am also concerned that having something that looks like a homework assignment would cut against our "all are welcome" goal.

So perhaps I could rephrase it as "what do you (general you) want from a meetup?" The link has some ideas that have worked nicely elsewhere.