How to Run a Successful Less Wrong Meetup

by Kaj_Sotala1 min read12th Jun 201236 comments

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Meetups (topic)
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Always wanted to run a Less Wrong meetup, but been unsure of how? The How to Run a Successful Less Wrong Meetup booklet is here to help you!

The 33-page document draws from consultations with more than a dozen Less Wrong meetup group organizers. Stanislaw Boboryk created the document design. Luke provided direction, feedback, and initial research, and I did almost all the writing.

The booklet starts by providing some motivational suggestions on why you'd want to create a meetup in the first place, and then moves on to the subject of organizing your first one. Basics such as choosing a venue, making an announcement, and finding something to talk about once at the meetup, are all covered. This section also discusses pioneering meetups in foreign cities and restarting inactive meetup groups.

For those who have already established a meetup group, the booklet offers suggestions on things such as attracting new members, maintaining a pleasant atmosphere, and dealing with conflicts within the group. The "How to Build Your Team of Heroes" section explains the roles that are useful for a meetup group to fill, ranging from visionaries to organizers.

If you're unsure of what exactly to do at meetups, the guide describes many options, from different types of discussions to nearly 20 different games and exercises. All the talk and philosophizing in the world won't do much good if you don't actually do things, so the booklet also discusses long-term projects that you can undertake. Some people attend meetups to just have fun and to be social, and others to improve themselves and the world. The booklet has been written to be useful for both kinds of people.

In order to inspire you and let you see what others have done, the booklet also has brief case studies and examples from real meetup groups around the world. You can find these sprinkled throughout the guide.

This is just the first version of the guide. We will continue working on it. If you find mistakes, or think that something is unclear, or would like to see some part expanded, or if you've got good advice you think should be included... please let me know! You can contact me at kaj.sotala@intelligence.org.

A large number of people have helped in various ways, and I hope that I've remembered to mention most of them in the acknowledgements. If you've contributed to the document but don't see your name mentioned, please send me a message and I'll have that fixed!

The booklet has been illustrated with pictures from various meetup groups. Meetup organizers sent me the pictures for this use, and I explicitly asked them to make sure that everyone in the photos was fine with it. Regardless, if there's a picture that you find objectionable, please contact me and I'll have it replaced with something else.

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38 comments, sorted by Highlighting new comments since Today at 5:36 PM
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I have a blog I really want to post, but I just created my profile on LW and don't have any karma yet. Can you please up vote this comment so that I can post? I'm a long time community member, just new to the blog.

Warmly, Shannon

Shannon really is a long-time and hugely contributive rationalist, hosting a ton of meetups in a great space and making a lot of other contributions as well. Thumbs up.

[-][anonymous]8y 1

Thanks Frank! And thanks everyone who up voted my comment! :)

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[-][anonymous]8y 4

Have you posted on the welcome thread?

Interesting strategy.

Definitely, I wish I had thought of that excuse.

It's still an option! Just create a new account. Not too soon, though, it'd be suspicious.

It's still an option! Just create a new account. Not too soon, though, it'd be suspicious.

And hard to keep track of. Clippy already has three accounts that I am aware of.

[-][anonymous]8y 21

I'm really glad you took the time to make the design work well. Great design is sorely underestimated - this is one of the best-looking products to have come out of Less Wrong. Awesome job.

Just out of curiosity, have there been any efforts to test what effects meetups have on happiness or instrumental rationality?

aaaargh, PDF! Any chance of an ePub or Mobi version? I have looked into creating these things, I can create them for you from the sources if you like. Cheers!

I could make the most recent Google Docs version public, but I'm not sure if there were any changes introduced in the conversion from Docs to PDF that I should update in the document first. I'll ask Luke.

Thanks. As it happens my employers have products for converting Google Docs into high-quality PDFs and eBooks - I could use those!

Alright, here's the link to the updated Google Docs version.

Did you make the eBook version? Want to share it with us? :-)

(Luke prefers to have people looking at the PDF rather than the GDocs version, so he set it back to private - but we would like to have an eBook version available.)

No not yet. Need a moment of calm at work!

Which products, out of interest?

[-][anonymous]8y 1

Stan said that he would update the GDoc with the changes soon, I'll publish it when he's done that.

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Great document! Were there any major changes from the last version on google docs?

Some comments:

The "Add new meetup" button described in "Making the announcement" only appears if you have more than two points of karma. While most organizers probably meet that requirement, I thought I simply hadn't found the right place and had to ask someone. I'd prefer if the button showed, but was disabled and had a "need two karma for that" tooltip for people with <2 karma over adding the information to the document.

In the section on Liar's dice:

See Wikipedia for a number of variants, as well as detailed information about the bidding systems.

Unfortunately the descriptions of the various bidding systems were recently removed from Wikipedia. This is the last revision that has them.

This 2 karma restriction creates inconvenience when an organizer wants to delegate the posting about meetup to another person who have to create new account. If it's an anti-spam measure, maybe it can be done in better way, such as optional phone number sms confirmation that will remove karma restriction from announce posting.

Thanks for your feedback!

Were there any major changes from the last version on google docs?

Probably some, but we didn't keep a changelog, so I don't remember what they were.

The "Add new meetup" button described in "Making the announcement" only appears if you have more than two points of karma. While most organizers probably meet that requirement, I thought I simply hadn't found the right place and had to ask someone. I'd prefer if the button showed, but was disabled and had a "need two karma for that" tooltip for people with <2 karma over adding the information to the document.

I guess all the people working on the guide had enough karma to be ignorant about that. :-) I'll add a mention of it. Your suggestion is good too, hopefully some site developer will implement it.

Unfortunately the descriptions of the various bidding systems were recently removed from Wikipedia. This is the last revision that has them.

Argh, that's the problem with referencing Wikipedia. I guess I'll change the link to point to the archived revision.

This document is awesome.

Tiny bit of feedback on Fermi scoring. The Science Olympiad rules appear to get logarithmic rounding wrong.

Generally, fives can round either way, depending on if you think your answer is high or low.

When dealing with orders of magnitude, the centerpoint for rounding should be halfway between the two values, except in this case the value is the exponent, not the mantissa/coefficient. This means that halfway is sqrt(10) = 3.16

So in general, values of 3 or lower should be rounded down and values much higher than 3 (even 3.4) should be rounded up.

3.68 x 10^3 ~= 10^4

Oops. That reminds me, I was supposed to send more pictures... O:-)

Ok, Photos from 2012 Rationality Minicamp, the 2011 and 2012 NYC meetups, and a random Cambridge meetup are here - Photos They should be up for at least a few months, at which point I'll probably pull them down to save me space.

Just out of curiosity, have there been any efforts to test what effects meetups have on happiness or instrumental rationality?

I think the closest thing we have to this are various LessWrong, EA and SlatestarCodex surveys, which include questions like "do you attend meetups", as well as some questions aiming to tease out wellbeing and rationality stuff.

Is this on the wiki yet?

Not yet; feel free to create a page for it!

This seems like a generic meetup guide for people who only know each other online. Maybe it can be renamed "How to Run a Successful Online Forum Meetup" and circulated more widely (say, linked on reddit), possibly after being stripped of personally identifiable info.

Or you could link to the current version, thus advertising Less Wrong at the same time as you help people in other communities create meetups.

Fantastic guide, a small note: the various status cues on page 28 is a dead link

Edit: Note to future readers: dead links can generally be traversed using the internet archive to find the cached site from when it was up.