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SlateStarCodex Meetups Everywhere: Analysis

11 mingyuan 13 May 2017 12:29AM

The first round of SlateStarCodex meetups took place from April 4th through May 20th, 2017 in 65 cities, in 16 countries around the world. Of the 69 cities originally listed as having 10 or more people interested, 9 did not hold meetups, and 5 cities that were not on the original list did hold meetups.

We collected information from 43 of these events. Since we are missing data for 1/3 of the cities, there is probably some selection bias in the statistics; I would speculate that we are less likely to have data from less successful meetups.

Of the 43 cities, 25 have at least tentative plans for future meetups. Information about these events will be posted at the SSC Meetups GitHub.

 

Turnout

Attendance ranged from 3 to approximately 50 people, with a mean of 16.7. Turnout averaged about 50% of those who expressed interest on the survey (range: 12% to 100%), twice what Scott expected. This average does not appear to have been skewed by high turnout at a few events – mean: 48%, median: 45%, mode: 53%.

On average, gender ratio seemed to be roughly representative of SSC readership overall, ranging from 78% to 100% male (for the 5 meetups that provided gender data). The majority of attendees were approximately 20-35 years old, consistent with the survey mean age of 30.6.

 

Existing vs new meetups

Approximately one fifth of the SSC meetups were hosted by existing rationality or LessWrong groups. Some of these got up to 20 new attendees from the SSC announcement, while others saw no new faces at all. The two established meetups that included data about follow-up meetings reported that retention rates for new members were very low, at best 17% for the next meeting.

Here, it seems important to make a distinction between the needs of SSC meetups specifically and rationality meetups more generally. On the 2017 survey, 50% of readers explicitly did not identify with LW and 54% explicitly did not identify with EA. In addition, one organizer expressed the concern that, “Going forward, I think there is a concern of “rationalists” with a shared background outnumbering the non-lesswrong group, and dominating the SSC conversation, making new SSC fans less likely to engage.”

This raises the question of whether SSC groups should try to exist separately from local EA/LW/rationalist/skeptic groups – this is of particular concern in locations where the community is small and it’s difficult for any of these groups to function on their own due to low membership.

Along the same lines, one organizer wondered how often it made sense to hold events, since “If meetups happen very frequently, they will be attended mostly by hardcore fans (and a certain type of person), while if they are scheduled less frequently, they are likely to be attended by a larger, more diverse group. My fear is the hardcore fans who go bi-weekly will build a shared community that is less welcoming/appealing to outsiders/less involved people, and these people will be less willing to get involved going forward.”

Suggestions on how to address these concerns are welcome.

 

Advice for initial meetings

Bring name tags, and collect everyone’s email addresses. It’s best to do this on a computer or tablet, since some people have illegible handwriting, and you don’t want their orthographic deficiencies to mean you lose contact with them forever.

Don’t try to impose too much structure on the initial meeting, since people will mostly just want to get to know each other and talk about shared interests. If possible, it’s also good to not have a hard time limit - meetups in this round lasted between 1.5 and 6 hours, and you don’t want to have to make people leave before they’re ready. However, both structure and time limits are things you will most likely want if you have regularly recurring meetups.

 

Content

Most meetups consisted of unstructured discussion in smallish groups (~7 people). At least one organizer had people pair up and ask each other scripted questions, while another used lightning talks as an ice-breaker. Other activities included origami, Rationality Cardinality, and playing with magnadoodles and diffraction glasses, but mostly people just wanted to talk.

Topics, predictably, mostly centered around shared interests, and included: SSC and other rationalist blogs, rationalist fiction, the rationality community, AI, existential risk, politics and meta-politics, book recommendations, and programming (according to the survey, 30% of readers are programmers), as well as normal small talk and getting-to-know-each-other topics.

Common ice-breakers included first SSC post read, how people found SSC, favorite SSC post, and SSC vs LessWrong (aka, is Eliezer or Scott the rightful caliph).

Though a few meetups had a little difficulty getting conversation started and relied on ice-breakers and other predetermined topics, no organizer reported prolonged awkwardness; people had a lot to talk about and conversation flowed quite easily for the most part.

One area where several organizers encountered difficulties was large discrepancies in knowledge of rationalist-sphere topics among attendees, since some people had only recently discovered SSC or were even non-readers brought along by friends, while many others were long-time members of the community. Suggestions for quickly and painlessly bridging inferential gaps on central concepts in the community would be appreciated.

 

Locations 

Meetups occurred in diverse locations, including restaurants, cafés, pubs/bars, private residences, parks, and meeting rooms in coworking spaces or on university campuses.

Considerations for choosing a venue:

  • Capacity – Some meetups found that their original venues couldn’t accommodate the number of people who attended. This happened at a private residence and at a restaurant. Be flexible about moving locations if necessary.
  • Arrangement – For social meetups, you will probably want a more flexible format. For this purpose, it’s best to have the run of the space, which you have in private residences, parks, meeting rooms, and bars and restaurants if you reserve a whole room or floor.
  • Noise – Since the main activity is talking, this is an important consideration. An ideal venue is quiet enough that you can all hear each other, but (if public) not so quiet that you will be disrupting others with your conversation.
  • Visibility – If meeting in a public place, have a somewhat large sign that says ‘SSC’ on it, placed somewhere easily visible. If the location is large or hard to find, consider including your specific location (e.g. ‘we’re at the big table in the northwest corner’) or GPS coordinates in the meetup information.
  • Permission – Check with the manager first if you plan to hold a large meetup in a private building, such as a mall, market, or café. Also consider whether you’ll be disturbing other patrons.
  • Time restrictions – If you are reserving a space, or if you are meeting somewhere that has a closing time, be aware that people may want to continue their discussions for longer than the space is available. Have a contingency plan for this, a second location to move to in case you run overtime.
  • Availability of food – Some meetups lasted as long as six hours, so it’s good to either bring food, meet somewhere with easy access to food, or be prepared to go to a restaurant.
  • Privacy – People at some meetups were understandably hesitant to have controversial / culture war discussions in public. If you anticipate this being a problem, you should try to find a more private venue, or a more secluded area.

Conclusion

Overall most meetups went smoothly, and many had unexpectedly high turnout. Almost every single organizer, even for the tiny meetups, reported that attendees showed interest in future meetings, but few had concrete plans.

These events have been an important first step, but it remains to be seen whether they will lead to lasting local communities. The answer is largely up to you.

If you attended a meetup, seek out the people you had a good time talking to, and make sure you don’t lose contact with them. If you want there to be more events, just set a time and place and tell people. You can share details on local Facebook groups, Google groups, and email lists, and on LessWrong and the SSC meetups repository. If you feel nervous about organizing a meetup, don’t worry, there are plenty of resources just for that. And if you think you couldn’t possibly be an organizer because you’re somehow ‘not qualified’ or something, well, I once felt that way too. In Scott’s words, “it would be dumb if nobody got to go to meetups because everyone felt too awkward and low-status to volunteer.”

Finally, we’d like to thank Scott for making all of this possible. One of the most difficult things about organizing meetups is that it’s hard to know where to look for members, even if you know there must be dozens of interested people in your area. This was an invaluable opportunity to overcome that initial hurdle, and we hope that you all make the most of it.

 

Thanks to deluks917 for providing feedback on drafts of this report, and for having the idea to collect data in the first place :)

Meetup Discussion

7 luminosity 08 January 2017 05:14AM

One of the most valuable services the Less Wrong community has to offer are the meetup groups. However, it strikes me that there isn't a lot of knowledge sharing between different meetup groups. Presumably there's a lot that the different groups could learn from each other -- things that can be done, experiments that have or haven't worked out, procedural and organisational tips. Hence this post. Please go ahead and write a summary about your local less wrong meetup below:

  • What meetups do you run?
  • What's worked?
  • What hasn't?
  • How is the group organised?

 

Parsimony as a side dish - a game to play on meetups?

1 [deleted] 03 January 2015 09:29AM

Tl;dr: we seem to (naively?) compound parsimony with other heuristics.

There was a quote from R. Burton, provided by JQuinton, offering an amusing exercise. The reader had to guess if an excerpt of text was nonsense or merely a rambling presentation of something, and what that could be. Upon learning a single word of explanation, it became difficult to read it as anything than the object's description, even if the reader was told there were other possible answers (beyond 'ridiculous.')

Here's an example:

> Reconstruction probably won't even account for all that escaped the initial search. Of course it doesn't have as much lead as the stained variety. Please don't follow 'old traditions' again, it's a cultural thing anyway. The little ones are easily lost in water. The dog won't know how to find them, but the problem is rather that it won't know how to avoid them. The high singing note I will miss. Be careful not to step on it. It was to harmony what it is to ruin. A different brand is used in electron microscopy, to make 'em smooth and even. There's plenty under the bench in the park. I had cherished it since my wedding.

(I'm not a writer, so that was rather clumsy. Please post better examples in comments.)

But what if we are offered to brainstorm before answering, and to try viewing the excerpt as a collection of true facts, just not necessarily a coherent story? Here are some of our possible approaches (heuristics):

- it's a picture;

- it's an instruction;

-it's paraphyletic (e.g., it is about a single thing which has more than one cause);

- it's alive!

- it's dangerous! 

- it's an advertisement;

- it's a single thing better described by more than one word, though still recognizable from the best match;

- it's a compilation of distant phenomena related to whatsitname, the everyday thing;

- it's all true, BUT there are qualifiers (which could make it more plausible-sounding);

- it's just not a physical body;

- it's an extreme case etc.

...and then we try to guess again.

The number of hypotheses now should be more than one, but why? What changed?

I think we start out with expectations nearest to 'picture' and most removed from 'qualifiers', and maybe it was useful in ancestral environment, but I would not expect them to be most fruitful. Maybe if enough people played such scenarios out, we would experimentally obtain a set of more useful ones?

Is there a way to prove that one and only one interpretation is true (allows for all statements to be true)? What would you expect such excerpts (sets?) have in common?

 

 


 

 

And more importantly: is there any way to weaken priming's hold on us?

 

(I am not a native speaker, so if there are any mistakes, please point them out to me. Thank you.)

Any LessWrong readers at the University of Michigan?

6 Asymmetric 16 September 2014 01:39PM

I'm interested in gauging interest in a LessWrong group at UM -- probably a Facebook group, as opposed to an official University club.

Gauging interest for a Tokyo area meetup group

8 lirene 23 July 2014 11:55AM

I'd like to gauge interest in an (english-language) Tokyo area meetup - given Tokyo's size, if a couple people are interested, it would be good to pick a location/day that's convenient for everybody. Otherwise I will announce a date and time and wait in a cafe with a book hoping that somebody will turn up.

 

I have been to several LW gatherings and have met consistently awesome and nice people, so if any Tokyo lurkers are reading this, I can assure you it's totally worth it to come! Please make yourself heard in the comments if you are interested.

Community overview and resources for modern Less Wrong meetup organisers

16 BraydenM 04 April 2014 08:53PM

I've been travelling around the US for the past month since arriving from Australia, and have had the chance to see how a number of different Less Wrong communities operate. As a departing organiser for the Melbourne Less Wrong community, it has been interesting to make comparisons between the different Less Wrong groups all over the US, and I suspect sharing the lessons learned by different communities will benefit the global movement.

For aspiring organisers, or leaders looking at making further improvements to their community, there already exists an excellent meetup organisers handbook, list of meetups, and NYC case study. I'd also recommend one super useful ability: rapid experimentation. This is a relatively low cost way to find out exactly what format of events attracts the most people and are the most beneficial. Once you know how to win, spam it! This ability is sometimes even better than just asking people what they want out of the community, but you should probably do both.

I'll summarise a few types of meetup that I have seen here. Please feel free to help out by adding descriptions of other types of events you have seen, or variations on the ones already posted if you think there is something other communities could learn. 

Public Practical Rationality Meetups (Melbourne)

Held monthly on a Friday in Matthew Fallshaw's offices at TrikeApps. Advertised on Facebook, LessWrong, and the Melbourne LW Mailing List. About 25-40 attendees. Until January, were also advertised publicly on meetup.com, but since then the format has changed significantly. Audience was 50% Less Wrongers, and 50% newcomers, so this served as our outreach event. 

6:30pm-7:30pm Doors open, usually most people arrive around 7:15pm

7:30pm sharp-9:00pm: Content introduced. Usually around 3 topics have been prepared by 3 separate Less Wrongers, for discussion in groups of about 10 people each. After 30 minutes the groups rotate, so the presenters present the same thing multiple times. Topics have included: effective communication, giving and receiving feedback, sequence summaries, cryonics, habit formation, etc.

9:00pm - Late: Unstructured socialising, with occasional 'rationality therapy' where a few friends get together to think about a particular issue in someone's life in detail. Midnight souvlaki runs are a tradition.

Monthly Social Games Meetup (Melbourne)

Held in a private residence on a Friday, close to central city public transport. Advertised on Facebook, LessWrong, and the Melbourne LW Mailing List. About 15-25 attendees. Snacks provided by the host.

6:30pm - Late: People show up whenever and there are lots of great conversations. Mafia, (science themed) Zendo, and a variety of board games are popular, but the majority of the night is usually spent talking about what people have learned or read recently. There are enough discussions happening that it is usually easy to find an interesting group to join. Delivery dinner is often ordered, and many people stay quite late.

Large public salons (from Rafael Cosman, Stanford University)

Held on campus in a venue provided by the university. Advertised on a custom mailing list, and presumably facebook/word of mouth. Audience is mostly unfamiliar with Less Wrong Material, and this event is has not yet officially become associated with Less Wrong, but Rafael is in the process of getting a spin-off LW specific meetup happening.

7pm-7:30pm: Guests trickle in. Light background music helps inform the first arrivals that they are indeed at the right place.

7:30pm-7:45pm: Introductions, covering 1. Who you are 2. One thing that people should talk to you about (e.g. "You should talk to me about Conway's Game of Life" 3. One thing that people could come and do with you sometime (e.g. "Come and join me for yoga on Sunday mornings"

7:45pm-9:30pm: Short talks on a variety of topics. At the end of a presentation, instead of tossing it open for questions, everyone comes up to give the speaker a high-five, and then the group immediately enters unstructured discussion for 5-10 minutes. This allows people with pressing questions to go up and ask the speaker, but also allows everyone else to break out to mingle rather than being passive.

Still to come: New York, Austin, and the SF East and South Bay meetup formats.

Buffalo Meetup: Survey of Interest

1 StonesOnCanvas 12 December 2012 03:19AM

I'd like to start a LW meetup group in Buffalo, NY and would like to get an idea of how many people may be interested in attending. I'm hoping to get meetups started sometime in January. If you're interested, email me at BuffaloLW@gmail.com (and comment below). Anyone who sends me an email will receive a link to the event on Doodle.com to try and work out a time and day of the week that works for most people. 

 

Also, where would you like the first meeting to be held? 

   1. Private Residence (my house, or you can offer yours if you like)

   2. Public Space (like Spot Coffee?)

   3. Don't Care

 

Edit: I realized based on Alicorn's interest that there may be decent amount of people traveling to the area for the holidays who are interested in meeting during the holiday break. If you are one of these people, comment below because I would love to host you. 

Werewolf, Cambridge UK Less Wrong Meetup April 1st 2012

4 Clarity1992 02 April 2012 11:46AM

There is already a post related to this meetup but it concerns a discussion which took place after I had left so I will write about the games of Werewolf. Please post your thoughts too and correct any inaccuracies.

Thoughts:

  • Most people said that this was very good fun and I suspect those that didn't still really enjoyed it.

  • Each game lasted about 20 minutes.

  • I was late and observed the first game. I remember Ai was given a werewolf card but she didn't realise so the game was played with her as a villager.

  • When Douglas suggested people give reasons for lynching Thomas one that stood out was "he talks too much". This seems to go with Douglas' later observation that the game is all about information, whether that is obtained by careful choice of sheriff/lynching to maximise what is learned next round or by picking up on what people have said, how they have said it, and how much they have said. Personally I played it very much on instinct and watching for tells, letting others do the logical reasoning (!).

  • Jon left after game one. There was some discussion about whether he was coming back. "His body language seemed dismissive like 'nah, I'm not into this'", "Really? I didn't get that impression!", "I disagree with your analysis. Past evidence of Jon leaving suggests he will return", "I think he would have said goodbye if he wasn't coming back. Since he didn't I assume he is returning". I found it interesting how we applied rationality principles to this.

  • Generally the sheriff/lynching discussions would begin with sincere considerations of outcome trees then as soon as anyone said "but that's what you'd say if you were a werewolf!" or "she seemed a little quick to agree with that!" or "he's swallowing a lot while talking!" it switched to accusations and double bluffs.

  • There were quite a few pieces of reasoning relating to proximity to people. e.g. "I'm sure I heard movement next to me 'last night'". My immediate instinct was that this is outside of the rules and unsporting, but obviously that isn't the case with this game!

  • Something I found especially inspired was Alexey (as a werewolf) in game two claiming to be the seer after Thomas (the actual seer) had already told everyone that he himself was. Alexey argued that he had withheld the information to see who would try to pretend to be the seer and then he would know who one of the werewolves was. Most people weren't convinced but it was very entertaining.

  • We decided, on Alexey's suggestion, that a coin toss is acceptable to decide a tied vote. Jonathan remarked that British coins land on heads 53 times out of 100. Does anyone have a link for that?

  • Douglas did a great job giving the game some life with the storytelling style of delivery. I don't know what the proper term for this is, or whether you're traditionally supposed to play werewolves that way (I suspect you are), but it was cool. As was Thomas' replication of it when he was GM.

  • Ramana spent the most time dead and made the point that it's very different watching from the outside compared to playing. He said you can perceive much better what people are trying to do and who is gullible.

  • Douglas explained that for the villagers it is always best to lynch someone because otherwise the next day you'll just be in the exact same position with one less villagers' vote against the same number of werewolves' votes. This seems definitely true, but oddly counter-intuitive given that you're more likely to lynch a villager by mistake, the more of them you have.

  • Between games three and four there was a false start because someone had forgotten they had a werewolf card and then suddenly and noisily realised they were supposed to have their eyes open. Oops!

  • I hadn't played before but was familiar with the concept and had been meaning to try it with friends for a long time. If you're in a similar position, then bump it up your priority list. It's awesome!

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continue reading »

Send me your photos of LessWrongers having fun!

9 lukeprog 20 March 2012 07:37AM

The Singularity Institute is preparing a booklet for LessWrong meetup organizers called How to Run a Successful Less Wrong Meetup Group.

Right now what we need are your photos of LessWrongers doing things and having fun! If you have photos you don't mind us potentially using in How to Run a Successful Less Wrong Meetup Group, please email them to luke@intelligence.org.

Thanks!

Less Wrong Couchsurfing Network

46 loxfordian 31 October 2011 02:46AM

One of my favorite aspects of Less Wrong is that every time I go to a new city (Oxford, Boston, Philadelphia and New York soon!), I know there’s a group of people who will be happy to discuss rationality and welcome me into their community.

It would be really cool if more Less Wrongers could have these experiences by traveling cheaply from city to city, meeting up with other smart, interesting people to have fantastic conversations, go to meetups/conferences/summits in new cities, and make friends in real life!

Unfortunately, while traveling to different meetups (and conferences/summits) is intellectually and emotionally rewarding, hotels can be prohibitively expensive. In order to make traveling more affordable, the Less Wrong community could implement a system where community members can stay at each others houses (in guest rooms, on sofas, or on floors) for free/extremely affordable rates.

Benefits of this system:
1) The traveler gets a free/affordable place to stay.
2) The host gets guaranteed company and (hopefully) some great conversation.
3) Less Wrong community bonds will be strengthened through real life interactions between members.
4) The value of meetups, which largely derives from the chance to meet other LWers, will increase as the pool of people attending grows.
5) People can be friends in real life!
6) Implementing this system is super easy. We just add a google maps page to Less Wrong.

Logistics:
1) LW could create a google map where people interested in hosting put down a place marker in their general location (no need to list their actual address) and tag it with their username.
2) In their LW profiles, hosts could write a short description of what kind of accommodations they'll be providing (room/sofa/floor), what kind of guest they want to host (eg., male vs. female, people who are willing to talk a lot, etc.), how they want to be compensated by their traveler (e.g., conversation, a meal, a chore, a small monetary gift, etc.) and usernames of at least two other Less Wrong members who would be willing to serve as "references" to the host's non-creepiness.
3) Likewise, travelers should have a section in their LW profile that list at least two other Less Wrong members who are willing to serve as references as well as how they're willing to compensate their hosts.
4) A potential traveler would look at the map, find a suitable location, and then send a potential host a message asking if they can come over.
5) The host could then look at the traveler's posts to see how long they've been a member and read their posts (a fantastic measure of how interesting or obnoxious the potential traveler may be).

How to encourage people to host:
While the benefits are obvious for the travelers, benefits for hosts are slightly less tangible. Here are some ways to incentivize hosting.
1) Traveling etiquette states that the traveler offers their host a gift. (E.g., buys or cooks the host a meal, does a house chore, goes to a museum with their host, etc.).
2) Much like how LW keeps track of number of posts, up votes and down votes, there will also be a scoreboard for how many travelers people have hosted. Hopefully, this will make being a popular host a badge of pride.

First LW-Meetup in Germany

5 wallowinmaya 10 July 2011 08:13AM

The surveys from my [first post](http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/5rz/lesswrongers_from_the_germanspeaking_world_unite/) indicate that

1. the favorite city is Munich,

2. around 3-10 people would attend, (?)

3. the favorite month is August.

Ok, ignoring [the usual advice](http://lesswrong.com/lw/ka/hold_off_on_proposing_solutions/), to get the ball rolling, here is my proposal:

(Let's meet in Munich in August 5th, maybe at a restaurant or a pub.)

ETA: Um, I changed my mind: Munich is still the place to be, but let's meet some time in September!

But if you disagree, please voice your opinion! I'm open to suggestions.

I will add surveys in the comment-section.

Oh, and everyone, including ultimate newbies, is welcome. Yes, *YOU* too!

 

ETA: [Here you can tell us your favorite date.](http://www.doodle.com/u49xxi6z4zqbihqa)

Reminder: London meetup, Sunday 5th June 2pm, Cargo Shoreditch

1 taryneast 02 June 2011 09:48PM

Next non-official London meetup is scheduled for this Sunday at Cargo:

83 Rivington Street,
Shoreditch,
London,
EC2A 3AY

http://www.cargo-london.com/

http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/clubs/cargo-review-14298.html

Google map

As always, we'll have a picture of an extra-swirly paperclip on the table so you can find us.

See you there :)

Traveling to Europe

1 magfrump 18 May 2011 10:48PM

Over this summer, I will be going to Europe to attend a pair of mathematics conferences.  Because they are close together, I'm planning to spend the intervening time (most of the month of July) in Europe.

It is my first time going to Europe.  I am very excited.  I am certain that I will have fun.

I am equally certain that I will have more fun if I consciously attempt to maximize the amount of fun I will have.

However I know absolutely nothing about Europe; I have never been, I have few if any friends or family there.

So my question is, what should I do in order to have the best possible time in Europe?

I appreciate information that is useful for me specifically, as an American graduate student who has never been to Europe, who will be in Rome in early July and need to be in Barcelona by the end of July; the best ways to get around, benefits to being a student, events happening in July, visas that I might need.  I intend to look for Less Wrong meetups occurring during my stay.

I would also appreciate general Europe information, such as excellent sight-seeing locations, the best way to buy food (I hear buying groceries in France is cheap and restaurants are very expensive), how difficult it is to move between different countries, the advantage to staying in one place for some time versus taking more of a tour of the continent.

There are certain types of information that I am not particularly interested in, but that I think would be appropriate to discuss in the same context.  For example, what is the best way to find the cheapest flights or choose when to go on vacation (my flights are reimbursed and my timing is determined); what would make Europe an ideal vacation location, as opposed to Australia, Asia, South America, etc.

If people are interested in more details of my specific situation, I am happy to give them in the comments or private messages.

Add "Meetups" to top navigation bar?

2 saliency 06 May 2011 08:03PM

I think the impulse to promote all meetups was a good idea but now adding to much noise to the "PROMOTED" feed. Of the 10 "PROMOTED" feeds 8 are adverts for meetups.

I propose adding Meetups to the navigation bar and only adding them to "PROMOTED" when they are especially significant; for example have a special speaker and might draw attention from people who are out of town.