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June 6th, 2004


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12:37 am - Meetup!
(Last weekend was fantastic and the last couple of days have had their moments, too; more later. Happy birthday to tartpants!)

Interesting BBC News article about the popularity of meetup.com as an activism tool in the post-Howard-Dean era</a>. You all know meetup.com, right? It's a get-people-together social software web site that is to Evite as USENET is to LiveJournal, being focused around specific topics rather than specific members of the public. There are somewhat over 4,000 topics, so browsing the list of topics about which Meetups are held is akin to reading the old alt.* hierarchy group listings. I didn't know such a thing as breatharianism existed (like vegetarianism, except with breath instead of vegetables) until I saw word of its existence on Meetup. There ain't a lot of breatharians about, and I am having to restrain myself from adding a snarky and intolerant comment such as ", strangely enough".

LiveJournal folks will likely be familiar with meetup.com; if you have sufficient interest in social software to run a LiveJournal, you might well be as interested to meet people because of entries on their interests list in real life as well as on LiveJournal. In addition, the LiveJournal Meetup (that is, a meeting intended to be of people whose common factor is that they keep a LiveJournal) is the ninth most popular of the four thousand at press time. Admittedly, Brad gave it a dumpload o' publicity back in the day, probably on news, which helped considerably. It's a neat facility, and it benefits (as does the world at large) from not having any direct competitors.

I hadn't looked at Meetup for a while; it was interesting to see some slight changes. There are now fifteen cities in the UK with Meetups; recent introductions include Nottingham, Derby and Falkirk. It seems slightly wasteful to me to have separate Nottingham and Derby Meetups - perhaps they could have a joint "deciding what the East Midlands Airport should be named" Meetup - but, hey, that's the free market economy for you. Besides, there are separate Liverpool and Manchester Meetups rather than having the two constituencies both commute half-way to Warrington, a trick used back in the day to find somewhere local to both metropoles. It's all one big conurbation anyway, really.

This is not directly of use to me; despite the fact that Middlesbrough is bigger than Falkirk, our nearest Meetup locations are Newcastle, 35 miles to the north, and Leeds, 55 miles to the south; sadly, both are slightly too far away to have good public transport connections home after the time that a Meetup would end. Nevertheless, if there is to be another Meetup between the two, somewhere on Teesside would be appropriate. I think that Meetups are really most likely to work on a conurbation-by-conurbation basis; surely many Newcastle meetup visitors travel from Gateshead or Sunderland, there's no need for Wolverhampton or perhaps even Coventry to meetup separately from Birmingham, and so on. It would be interesting to compare the success of the single Meetup zone of New York City with the many small county-by-county Meetup zones of Greater Los Angeles.

OK, this is technical stuff, but it's a practical application of Metcalfe's Law; the value of a network is proportional to the number of connections it makes, so proportional to the square of the number of users that it connects. This is why a Teesside meetup would be considerably more useful than a Middlesbrough one or a Stockton one (let alone a Hartlepool one or a Darlington one) and why it would really be useful to get the whole of the Tees Valley to get behind a (sub-)regional identity, whichever one is chosen. It's also the reason why you ought to stick with LiveJournal instead of jumping to GreatestJournal or Journalfen or somesuch, but that's another point.

The practical consequence of this is that not a lot of Meetups really do happen; potentially all the intersections of 4,000+ topics times 650+ cities could happen every month, the real-world number of ones that make it to fruition is probably in four figures monthly. Using Meetup to find another Breatharian in Falkirk seems unlikely, alas; unless the number of 1.2 million registered users swells by an order of magnitude or two over the years, then you will still need to live in one of the bigger Meetup areas or to be interested in one of the most popular Meetup topics in order to have a good chance of attending a Meetup that actually takes place in practice rather than in theory. (Bonus points for not being the only person to turn up, obviously.) This is why the stats lists of most popular cities and topics are important. Incidentally, it would be interesting to know whether popular topics and popular cities follow a Zipf distribution, or at least a close-to-power-of--1 power law.

But that's being geeky. Being practical, I looked to see which Meetups were most popular in Newcastle, as it would be quite nice to go to Newcastle and meet more interesting people. Now obviously you wouldn't expect the Meetups dedicated to American politics to be popular in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, so it's not too surprising to note that Newcastle's two most popular topics are "Witches" and "Bookcrossing" (the latter referring to the BookCrossing pay-it-forward book-recycling scheme) these being the two most popular Meetups worldwide excluding the Dean, Kerry and Democratic Party ones. What's Newcastle's #3 topic?

Teen Vampires.

Rrrrriiight.

"Meetup with other Vamps, ages 16-19. There are no posers or role players allowed. THIS IS FOR REAL TEEN VAMPIRES."

I'm scared. But not quite in the way they intended. (Their capitalisation, by the way.)

Now, let's be fair. Newcastle's #1 and #2 topics are consistent with the global trend, as discussed. Am I hiding the fact that the Teen Vampires community have all jumped on Meetup? Looking further, it seems that the Teen Vampire community is #11 within Cultures & Community with 2600+ vamplets; Zipfing it up means that Teen Vampires is likely to be somewhere towards the lower reaches of the top hundred. Additionally, looking at the chart of where Teen Vampires hang out, the constituency does skew English. (But Sex In The City skews heavily Asian, which I really would never have guessed.) Outliers happen; realistically, this is an outlier that probably only approaches significance without actually reaching the outer few percent. Other popular Meetups in Newcastle include Ghost Tracking, Goth, age-inclusive Vampire, Anime, Emo (...Phillips? Hmm) and - er - Daniel Radcliffe.

Nevertheless, not quite my cup of tea, nor my neck's cup of tea, so I am not tempted to dive in - recognising, of course, this "looking and deciding not to play" is the attitude which will stop 1.2 million becoming 12 million and the thought of Teesside (or, for that matter, Oxford) getting its own meetings. It's a real shame that there don't seem to be many people who like Imaginitive Toys in Newcastle.
Current Mood: bitchygeeky and strangely snarky
Current Music: "CD for my love #1" - mixed by dezzikitty, yay!

(18 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:mhw
Date:June 5th, 2004 06:05 pm (UTC)
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Wolverhampton or perhaps even Coventry to meetup separately from Birmingham

But we could have our own LJ meetup in Cov anyway, in effect, just from a bunch of friends who turn up for coffee/lunch on Saturdays at Browns and who happen to have LJs: me, stgpcm, sobrique, mrbear, misstemperance, juudes, zarbi, mistdog, lostdreamer666, _gh0st_, bopeepsheep, cyberinsekt, mrph... and that's without trying!

Anyway, we're sick of having to go to Birmingham to do things. Creeping metropolitanization sucks.
From:daweaver
Date:June 6th, 2004 02:26 am (UTC)
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From the other side of the M42, mhw has a very valid point. It's a pain in the backside for Coventryites to get to Birmingham, especially if they're coming from one of the fringes off the route.

Equally, it's a bit of a pain for people in Birmingham to get to Coventry; slightly less of a pain to get to Wolverhampton, but still enough of an irritant to make the job tricky.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:June 6th, 2004 09:25 pm (UTC)
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What is travel between Coventry and Birmingham like in general? One would have hoped that the two towns are both big enough to have substantially better links than, say, Newcastle and Middlesbrough - or, for a closer and so more accurate comparison, Newcastle and Hartlepool.

I find it difficult to buy complaints about accesibility from Wolverhampton due to the existence of the Midland Metro, even though I know it's meant to be crap qua tram systems. :-) Most Meetups should finish by 10 or 10:30, so you should be able to get back to Wolverhampton in time for one of the last local services of the night to take you to where you need to go within Wolverhampton.

Admittedly none of the West Midlands transport plans I saw extended much further south-east than BHX, and even BHX was an aspiration for several years in the future, so a better Coventry link may well not be on the cards. Fingers crossed that the Brum trams eventually do get to New Street first, then we can start thinking about adventurous things like Coventry. :-)
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:June 6th, 2004 09:18 pm (UTC)
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Sounds like an excellent starting-point!

Who knows how many miscellaneous West Midlanders there could be interested in meeting up for topic-focused social discussions (grief, that sounds buzzwordy) that don't have LiveJournals, though?

I recognise at least one of those names as an Oxford type travelling up the line. I can never work out what part of the country Oxford thinks it's in; no, "Oxfordshire" and "the Home Counties" aren't really satisfactory answers for my purposes. Is it Midlands? Is it West? (I think it is, but then, I'm biased.) Is it all really part of the great extended South-East?
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From:addedentry
Date:June 7th, 2004 02:07 am (UTC)

ROSE = Rest Of the South East

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You know this: Oxford is in Greater London.

(It's not, otherwise, one of the Home Counties.)
[User Picture]
From:ringbark
Date:June 5th, 2004 06:13 pm (UTC)

Scousers v Mancs

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The idea of Liverpool and Manchester meeting up together is almost unthinkable. The two cities scarcely do anything co-operatively, even though they are only about 50 miles apart.
I lived a fairly active social life in my early days, but can only think of a handful of occasions I ever went to Manchester. The TUC centenary celebrations, a BBC microcomputer exhibition, a concert by After The Fire. Nobody much goes to Manchester from Liverpool regularly, and vice versa. Suggesting regular "meetups" as co-operatives is to deny a great deal of the difference between these two cities.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:June 6th, 2004 09:35 pm (UTC)

Re: Scousers v Mancs

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It would seem sad to me that the two towns' inhabitants would deny themselves the advantages of another continental class local city simply on the basis of an extended football rivalry.

Back in the day - about ten whole years ago, can you imagine it? - when Internet Service Providers used to have rooms filled with lots of computers, real modems and phone lines, having a phone number that you could ring at a local rate to get onto the Internet was crucial. This too was before the days of fake generic local codes - all the phone codes really were geographic. (It was horrible!) Accordingly, at least my ISP and who knows how many protozoic others based a room in Warrington, a town with no advantages other than it was a local call to people in both 051-land and 061-land, as they were. Ah, Phoneday.
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From:ringbark
Date:June 7th, 2004 01:18 am (UTC)

Re: Scousers v Mancs

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But I never mentioned football. There is no need to visit another city to engage in football rivalry. Liverpool and Everton are both in Liverpool. Manchester City and the SCUM are both in Manchester.

I think the differences between the two cities are more fundamental than that: Liverpool is a long-established port, Manchester is a recent industrial centre. Both treat the other with suspicion and mistrust. I can't explain it: you can't blame me, for I am just a child of my own heritage.

However, to ascribe it just to football isn't the whole story. Fights between two other cities are widespread worldwide. In New Zealand, you'll find squabbles between Napier and Hastings, elsewhere in the world you'll find cities near to each other squabbling. I'm sure there are many other examples, which don't need me to point them out.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:June 8th, 2004 10:01 pm (UTC)

Re: Scousers v Mancs

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True; I made the jump (in jest!) to football rivalries. Another proud Scouser once told me that the rivalry between Liverpool and Everton is broadly as friendly as the rivalry between Liverpool and Man U is heated. Personally I think the SCUM is a movable nickname. Can't the rest of the league vote on who the SCUM are this year and have official nationwide scum? I would vote Chelsea for SCUM this year, even though Arsenal probably will beat them again this year. (I hope.)

Para two: excellent point.
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From:bateleur
Date:June 6th, 2004 03:13 am (UTC)

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so browsing the list of topics about which Meetups are held is akin to reading the old alt.* hierarchy

You mean there's an alt.binaries.erotica.hamsters.duct-tape meetup ? How disturbing !

age-inclusive Vampire

<much sniggering> Of course since vampires don't age these are in no way the same people as the teen vampire crowd five years on. They just take on the National Insurance numbers of the teen vampires they've SLAIN IN COMBAT[1]. Or something.



[1] I'm only guessing that age includive vampires still type in ALL CAPS - correct me if I'm wrong.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:June 6th, 2004 09:42 pm (UTC)
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Well, an oddity about Meetup (not that odd, really, I guess) is that there are subjects that they don't touch: sex, drugs and rock'n'roll hate - though, as addedentry points out, Meetups could well be targeted by hate groups because they are more public than other private meetings.

Accordingly there are no overtly sexual Meetup themes. I'm sure this is a deliberate decision, though I can't help feeling that they could make $lots by having www.adultmeetup.com using the same software and tons of disclaimers saying "Warning: if you're the sort of person who needs to use this site, then for your own safety you shouldn't be using it", and so on.

I'm sure Vampire combat is done by the old system whereby when a 4-er beats a 2-er, the result is a 7-er (four plus two, plus one for the kill). It's just like Conkers. Or am I thinking of Pokemon?

OK, now I've managed to offend everygeek...
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From:sophie10
Date:June 6th, 2004 05:25 am (UTC)
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To be honest I am am not at all surprised by wicthes and teen vampires being popular in Newcastle. There are many many wannabe Goths. Strange children that they are.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:June 6th, 2004 09:58 pm (UTC)
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The question remains, though: why - what is the link between teenage vampirism (including related miscellaneous juvenile Gotherosity) and Newcastle? Certainly the Teen Vampire category skews British English, but Teen Vampire is only #32 most popular Meetup in London, #17 in Manchester and #16 in Birmingham, none of which quite compares with #3 in Newcastle. #3 out of 4,000+ is, well, anomalous. Are there subliminal messages played on the Tyne and Wear Metro? Were there Teen Vampires in Byker Grove? Is that how Sir Bobby is continuing to get the best out of Alan Shearer? (Or is there simply nothing else to do in the likes of Cullercoats and Percy Main?)

OK, when the raw number of Newcastle Teen Vampires is just 22, this isn't all that big an outlier, I must keep telling myself that. Nevertheless, there may be commercial implications; would it be viable to charter an airplane and put on a trip between Newcastle and Transylvania? If not, would a less ambitious start like using the Tuxedo Princess to ferry people between Whitley Bay and Whitby during the latter's Goth Weekend be possible?

Part of me wants a journalist to go undercover and find out what the fascination is, what the local connection is, and also what these REAL TEEN VAMPIRES do if there are no posers or role-players (...hmm...) allowed at the meetings. It's a questionable call about at what (st)age people start to show the level of maturity required for the bloodplay implied. Then again, nobody wants another "web site drags impressionable young geeks into pervert danger" story, especially when the geekery in question is a benign one and not a million miles away from branches of geekery that I would wholeheartedly endorse. See, all the branches of the Geek Hierarchy are coming out to bitch against each other now. Must dash, 7 of 9 is coming around to play with my tail.

I should point out that the last time I went to a museum in Newcastle (the Hancock, near the University) the scheduled exhibition was on the subject of...

...bats.
[User Picture]
From:sophie10
Date:June 8th, 2004 09:03 am (UTC)
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Newcastle has a small population so a group of 22 makes up a bigger percentage? That could explain why it's so high on the list.

I don't get why we have so many goths as we do, there is certainly less in Newcastle to be angry/disaffected about than there was even 10 years ago. I think it's just a fashion thing.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:June 8th, 2004 09:59 pm (UTC)
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Para one: yep, that's true. There are 689 people registered for Newcastle Meetups, so it's one of the smaller ones. Admittedly Newcastle Meetups are pretty new compared to the original six, but one might hope a proportionate number of signups compared to other cities (say, 1-in-600 of the population?) which it does not have yet. Let's assume that the Newcastle catchment area has population of 1.1 million, then Newcastle might get to close to 2,000 Meetup registrations before long. Of course, perhaps towns have different levels of Meetup involvement, and London might have 1-in-600, eventually growing to (say) 1-in-100, whereas Newcastle might have 1-in-1600, eventually growing to (say) 1-in-400.

Para two: interesting, though, innit? (Perhaps it's the black clothes and white powdered faces, another Magpie thing...)
[User Picture]
From:sophie10
Date:June 13th, 2004 03:41 am (UTC)
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Naw, goths don't follow football. In fact if they could they would deny that it even existed, too much like popular culture for them.
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From:addedentry
Date:June 6th, 2004 09:27 am (UTC)
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Presumably the teen vampire meet is just a ruse for vampire hunters to, er, stake them out.

Some breatharians cheat. Others don't.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:June 6th, 2004 10:00 pm (UTC)
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I wonder if the London Teen Vampires meet at Garlic and Shots?

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