Venues are definitely a problem -- we're lucky enough to have a relatively central humanist group who let us hire out their meeting space once a month, but occasionally it has been difficult to scramble to find an alternative.
I wonder if there'd be some value in having a list of suggested ways to find a venue for people organising meetup groups.
Did you get people that did crossover from these meetups to the others? It seems like a more lightweight / fun topic like this might be good for letting people get involved more easily?
How did you go about finding people to come to your meetups? Pre-existing friends? LW site postings? Something else?
When you say most of the original people moved away, do you mean the group stopped meeting, or its meetings acquired new members and a different focus?
Do you track where new people come from? I'm wondering about what channels it makes sense to focus on maintaining a presence in. (Hadn't thought of doing it on r/ssc)
Shortly after we started back up, we ran intermittent social meetups, such as a night out at laser tag, or a walk over the Sydney harbour bridge, followed by a picnic. These were pretty enjoyable, but organisation fell through and these lapsed. We're currently thinking about how we want to start these back up.
We have a monthly meetup at an RSL in Sydney -- we've found this is a good venue, as people who want to can get food and drinks, but not everyone needs to. At a cafe there is more pressure to have to make purchases over time if you're taking up their floor space.
This was the first meetup we ran when the Less Wrong Sydney group resumed meeting -- at first we ran them with a focus on group discussions, and talking about a particular topic, but we found that often a topic was more of a reason for people to stay away, than for people to come. With the advent of the dojos, there wasn't as much pressure for this to deliver on applied rationality, and so it has turned into more of a group discussion space.
We're currently in the middle of an experiment of trying to drive people to these meetups from a meetup.com group -- if people seem interested, we can then invite them to come along to the dojos also.
We started these off using material taken from CFAR workshops -- gradually over time related topics such as Kegan's Immunity to Change have been introduced.
We started off running these as one two hour session, all given by the same person, but after a year we switched to a new format, where we break off into two - three segments run by different people. This keeps people's attention better, reduces the amount of work individual presenters do, and allows us to experiment with new material without having to worry that if it doesn't work out the whole session will be rendered pointless.
There's a strong focus in the dojos of doing work on real problems people have -- we want to avoid sessions where people give talks, everyone feels enlightened, but people then don't go ahead and use the new knowledge. We also take advantage of the monthly timing to allow people to lay down goals for the next month that they'll be made accountable for at the next meetup.
Note that the address has been updated due to an unfortunate double booking.