Summary: Sometimes, your regular organizer catches the pandemic, or moves to the bay, or has a newborn, or does a bunch of sketchy stuff, or just doesn’t have time anymore. If the usual organizers suddenly weren’t around, would your community be able to keep going?
Purpose: This is a test run at organizing your local community if for some reason the usual organizers aren’t available, and it should both test that the community can continue and also level up some attendees into organizers.
Materials: This test is open book, open notes, and open internet. Bring whatever you want.
Announcement Text: “Lets find out if this community would keep running if the usual organizers stepped away from it.
There’s a concept in business called “Bus Factor.” It describes how many people are crucial to your organization, such that if you lose them (say, if they were hit by a bus tomorrow) your business would be in trouble. Well, we’re going to have the people who organize things sit in a room available to answer questions as someone new sets up a meetup. If it works, then there’s at least one more person who can run things. If it doesn’t work, then we will have learned something.
If you’ve ever wondered how the sausage gets made, or if you’ve had an idea for a meetup but haven’t run one before, come on in!"
Description: Oops It’s Time To Overthrow the Organizer Day has, at its core, only two rules.
1. You must schedule and run a meetup.
2. Nobody who has already run a meetup is allowed to do it.
There is one extra rule used purely for score keeping.
3. Your score is the number of attendees attending the next meetup minus the number of times the usual organizers answered questions.
All other rules and instructions are secondary. More than anything, you must be thinking of carrying your movement through to running a good meetup.
With that in mind, here is the suggested format for Oops It’s Time To Overthrow the Organizer Day!
However many usual organizers are available sit together in the centre of the room. They should make themselves comfortable, and bring something to entertain themselves that can easily be paused or put down. Everyone else sits around them with whatever notes, documents, or communication devices they want.
We’ll call the usual organizers “The Establishment” and everyone else “The Usurpers.” (You don’t have to call them that, but it makes it easier to refer to. Also, these titles amuse me.) Anyone who has run a meetup in the last year counts as The Establishment.
The Establishment, in particular whoever organized this meetup, should explain the rules and goals of Oops Its Time To Overthrow the Organizer Day! Then they should sit down and stop helping. From here on, it’s The Usurpers’ job to organize themselves. They are trying to set up the next meetup of your group. They can ask The Establishment questions but The Establishment should not directly do anything. They cannot rely on The Establishment's resources; if your group typically meets in one of The Establishment's apartments or The Establishment generally brings most of the board games, those aren't available.
Establishment, you should feel comfortable stating that some questions will cost extra points. In particular, questions that attempt to circumvent the part about you not doing things should be penalized or refused, for example “What words would you write in the announcement text, verbatim?” I would advise outright refusing giving specific knowledge such as “What is the password to the admin account for the email list?” but it might be worth you taking notes on what information would be needed in the event you left and to set up distribution or dead-man's switches after. It’s up to you how helpful or difficult to be.
Usurpers, you should avail yourself of existing resources. Kaj’s How To Run A Successful Less Wrong Meetup, the Meetups In A Box sequence, and other such documents don’t cost points to use. You should also feel perfectly free to copy previous meetups The Establishment has run. If you copy their announcement text, announce in the same places they did, and get the same number of attendees, you should consider that a victory.
Oops It's Time To Overthrow The Organizer Day doesn't need to take any longer than the Usurpers feel that it has to. More than usual, you all should feel free to spend time socializing or to run another impromptu meetup while you're already all here.
Notes: I recommend this not be one of the first events a new founded group runs, but it might be interesting for a visiting organizer to try this in a city without regular events. Under most circumstances, I believe every group should run some variation on this event at least once a year.
A better scoring system might use attendance for the next two meetups. If the Usurpers run a terrible meetup, they might get good attendance from people used to The Establishment meetups, and then the meetup after that drops in attendance as people realize it’s not as good. In practice I don’t think you need to take the scoring system that seriously, as attendance itself is more of a proxy for harder to measure quality anyway.
There are a few dials you can turn to make things easier or harder. You can do this with zero Establishment input. You can do this assuming that all infrastructure (any email lists, meetup groups, or even LessWrong itself) are down. You could also relax who counts as Establishment: it might be easier to only count people who ran a meetup within the last six months, or three months, or even one month. You can allow people from outside your local community, such as asking someone from New York for advice if you live in Boston.
If nobody who hasn’t already run a meetup shows up to this event and you only have a couple of organizers, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your community is doomed if the existing organizers burned out or left but it’s not a good sign. If you get a decent crowd of people but everyone has run a meetup, I salute your community. You have achieved the goal of this event.
Lastly, one might point out that The Establishment is hardly "overthrown" just because different people ran one meetup. Most groups I'm aware of don't have that much formal structure. If you do have bylaws or a governance structure, this can be an excellent time to make a new draft or version, and also an excellent time to evaluate whether you actually need one.
Credits: This is a synthesis of Eleizer Yudkowsky’s “Oops It’s Time To Overthrow The Government day” holiday from dath ilan and Raemon’s “Melting Gold” post.