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    Meetup groups are popping up all over the place. Should City Hall host a Meetup?

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    By Margaret Lindsay Holton

    BURLINGTON, ON  November 22, 2012 Earlier this year I wrote about the BusinessInBurlington MeetUp organized by social media entrepreneur James Burchill.   Since that time I’ve been intrigued by the continued proliferation of other Meetup groups in the area. There’s a group now for just about every interest imaginable: books, games, movies, health, pets, meditation, drumming, careers and even odd-ball hobbies. Seek and ye shall find.

    Not quite a WANTED poster at the Post Office but a good representation of the kind of people who show up at meetings of the Burlington in Business MeetUp.  Attendance roared up to 300 plus – which is pretty close to the capacity of the Beaver and the Bullfrog  pub at the Waterfront Hotel.

    For those unsure of what ‘MeetUp’ is all about: the idea was started by two New York City techie entrepreneurs, Scott Heiferman and Brendan McGovern. The attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, was pivotal to the formation of their ‘meet-in-person’ concept. Meetup co-founder Scott Heiferman says that the manner in which people came together in the aftermath of that traumatic event inspired him to use the internet to make it easier for people to connect with strangers in their community. These young gents launched their ‘interactive’ website in New York in 2001. Now, eleven years later, there are over 11 million registered Meetup users and over 110,000 groups world-wide. In Burlington and the Region of Halton, there are reputed to be over 513 groups. Personally, I found about 40 Meetups catering to a diversity of interests in the area.

    Meetups are all about people and the way they choose to spend their time.  In this montage photographer Margaret Lindsay Holton has caught the feel of a Burlington in Business MeetUp organized by James Burchill.

    It’s easy to start a specific Meetup forum, (a monthly fee of less then $30 gets your group up and running), and easy too to join any other Meetup group for free. Add your personal tastes and preferences during sign up, then off you go. At all times the option to attend any Meetup is entirely voluntary. The point of all this ‘meeting up’ is to find friends and/or associates who share your interests, and then, basically, enjoy yourselves. One of the perks of this kind of ‘focused’ meeting is that a lot of preliminary ‘social sorting’ doesn’t have to occur. All attending know that all attending are there for the same reason, whatever that might be.

    A sample of Burlington and regional Meetup groups follows. Once on the group page of any Meetup group, click on the Home Page to find an overview of what that group offers.

    FTDTW or ‘Friends to Do Things With’ is a relatively new addition to the Meetup community having formed in January of this year. Yet obviously they’ve hit a nerve, because 87 events later, they now have over 500 members, 30 years of age and up. What do they do? Meet at bars, clubs, the Ribfest, restaurants, movie theatres and cafes.

    Sassy Bookworms have been around a bit longer, and have a very loyal following. Started in July 2010, with now over 200 members. Sassy Bookworm Meetups usually occur in members’ residences and are limited to 30 or so sassy bookworms per event. They get together to discuss a new title by a different author once per month.  (You’re going to love their Marilyn Monroe-with-a-book logo!)

    The Burlington Photography Meetup Group  was founded in April, 2010, and now has just under 200 members. Designed for both amateur and professional photographers, the Meetups are social photographic outings in the region.

    Looking for alternate cuisine ideas? Try vegetarian with a friendly vegan groups  – The Burloak-Vegetarian Meetup Group or Danielle Roche’s inspired Eat Local Burlington group.

    Details Happy Veggie Heads

    As Eat Local Meetup organizer Danielle says, “After reading the ‘100-Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating’, I am inspired to eat more organic foods grown within 250 km of Burlington. It has been an amazing experience visiting farms, markets and meeting other local food enthusiasts.” Since August 2010, over 240 locavores have signed up with this Burlington-based Meetup group. There have been over 120 ‘local’ foodie events organized by Danielle. Now that’s commitment!

    Interested in Salsa dancing? You’d be surprised the number of Meetup groups within a 250 km radius who have, or are preparing, Salsa dance events. Check out the very popular 400 plus members of the Llamas Meetup group of Mississauga:  or, in Oakville, the smaller group – Salsa Night/Noche de Salsa – Don’t want to dance, but want to drum? The 500 strong Burlington-based Naked Beat Drum Meetup hosts frequent events.

    Tin ear, no twinkle toes? Never fear. The Halton-Peel Social Group (over 400 members) is hosting a ‘big screen’ event of The 100th Grey Cup - between the Toronto Argonauts & the Calgary Stampeders at Philthy McNasty’s (Oakville location) on Sunday from 4 to 10 pm. A small $2 cover with RSVP is requested. Bar, big screen, beer, passionate fans: what more could you want?

     

    Middle Content

    Too much noise ? Ok. Try urban buddism’, or meditation, with the Centre for Compassion and Wisdom, founded in October, 2011. This group now has 57 members located in Burlington: Don’t like that group? Try Burlington Meditation: OR, join the Quick Brown Fox Meetup group on Novermber 24th at the Appleby United Church on Spruce Ave for a workshop on ‘How to write a Page-Turner’ Workshop leader Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing teacher for more than 25 years. He teaches at Ryerson University and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo. His proudest boast is that he has helped many of his students get published. The workshop runs 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fee: $44 paid in advance or $48 at the door.

    If over 50, single, and just want to ‘mingle’ for a bit, try the very popular 500 member strong Singles Mosaic -  Founded in 2009 by social director, Diona Szcerbak, she too charges a small cover fee for organizing these socials-for-active-seniors events. Small price to pay, really, to make new old friends.

     One of Burlington’s newest Meetup groups, Mommy Connections, just started up on November 1st, 2012. There are only four members. Hard to know whether they’ll be a success or not, because unlike many of the other Meetup groups that charge, if at all, a small ‘admin/entrance’ fee, this group is hoping to have new mums fork out $120 for an 8 week class.

    Contrasting that group with the explosive growth in popularity of the Burlington’s ‘League of Extraordinary Ladies – (founded in January 2012, with now over 140 members), it would seem that Mommy Connections is off to a rocky start.

    Still, that’s the fun of these Meetups.  Some ‘click’, while others don’t.  Like-minded gravitate towards like-minded. It’s up to YOU how engaged you want to be.

    A member of the League of Extraordinary Ladies

    A lot of the success of a Meetup group comes down to the personality, passion and administrative attention of the principal organizer. Jessica Dennis of ‘Extraordinary Ladies’ is passionate about “bringing women together for the benefit of gathering ideas, bridging business cultures and changing lives! This group is intended for women from all walks of life.”

    Whatever your passion or interest, you’ll find like-minded people on Meetup.com.

    Still not sure? Consider this ‘what’s it like’ video.

    Some Meetup groups can become victims of their own success. The Business In Burlington (BiB) Meetup frequently has a waiting list now for its monthly get-togethers at the Beaver & Bulldog on the Lakeshore. On average, 120 people get together monthly. Very popular with the small business, IT and entrepreneurial crowd, BiBers are working this social network to ‘get connected’ and ‘get ahead’. So, if you are interested, be sure to RSVP your attendance early.

    One additional small note: once you do  ‘join’ Meetup, make sure you set your ‘group alerts’ for once a week, or once a month depending, again, on your level of interest, otherwise, you will be bombarded by incoming Meetup mail. This has been a growing problem with the Business in Burlington group. With well over 700 members and an active ‘on-line’ forum, email is frequently clogged with their updates and self-promoting announcements. Still, all said and done, it remains an interesting bunch determined to make their Burlington a better place to live, work and play.

    James, the BiB organizer, is such an accomplished enabler, perhaps he could mesh a few other local Meetup groups in the region to generate a ‘living picture’ of the DREAM that is Burlington for Mayor Goldring?  There certainly seems a proliferation of paid consultants and INSPIRE events coming from City Hall that are working very hard to determine what Burlington is and should be all about. Maybe it would just be easier (and cheaper) if City hosted a monthly ‘Meetup’ at City Hall.

    Sign up with Meetup here.

    Margaret Lindsay Holton is both an environmentalist and a community activist.  She is an artist of some renown and the designer of a typeface.  She is also a photographer and the holder of opinions, which are her own, that she will share with you in an instant.   She appears as an Our Burlington columnist every two weeks. All photographs are by MLH unless otherwise indicated.

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    1. Margaret Lindsay Holton says:

      Hi Pepper, please provide my supplied captions for the photos above that have your ‘details’ (or ‘dwetails’)word in the copy place … Thanks. Otherwise, all’s good. :) Cheers, mlh

    2. And please re-insert the prgh you seemingly accidentally dropped about the athletic options: the cycling group & the dragon boat racers … If not, please delete the now non-sequitor ‘cycling group’ header image that’s just floating around now in the story …. thanks.