Press the Issue a MasterWP Podcast

Virtual Meetups – Are They Here to Stay?

Press the Issue
Press the Issue
Virtual Meetups - Are They Here to Stay?
/

As the pandemic moved in, in-person events moved out. As a result, WordPress meetups became 100% virtual, for better or for worse. As things go back to normal, are virtual meetups here to stay? Today Teron Bullock and Nyasha Green are here to figure it out.

This podcast was sponsored by LearnDash. Your expertise makes you money doing what you do. Now let it make you money teaching what you do. Create a course with LearnDash. Visit LearnDash.com.

Press the Issue is a production of MasterWP. It was produced by Allie Nimmons. It was hosted and edited by Monet Davenport and mixed and mastered by Teron Bullock. Please visit masterwp.com/presstheissue to find more episodes. Subscribe to our newsletter for more WordPress news at masterwp.com.

Episode Transcript:

Monet Davenport:
Welcome to Press The Issue, a podcast for MasterWP, your source for industry insights for WordPress professionals. Get show notes, transcripts, and more information about the show at masterwp.com/presstheissue.

Monet Davenport:
As the pandemic moved, in person events moved out. As a result, WordPress meetups became 100% virtual, for better or for worse. As things go back to normal are virtual meetups here stay? Today Teron Bullock and Nyasha Green are here to figure it out.

Teron Bullock:
So how are you doing today Nyasha?

Nyasha Green:
I’m doing well, Teron. How are you?

Teron Bullock:
I’m awesome. I know today we have an exciting episode. We’re going speak to meetups and how do we feel the future of meetups will be? And I just think it’ll be an exciting conversation to have.

Nyasha Green:
Yeah, I’m very excited.

Teron Bullock:
So let’s jump right into it. With the world getting into post pandemic phase, at least we hope. I’m pretty sure however the CDC and the world decides to handle COVID, it might be something that is here to stay, but we also have to figure out a way to continue to live life around it. And one of those things that we have to also think about is meetups. And during the pandemic meetups switched from being in person to being virtual. And now that we’re in this era of figuring out how to live with the world being different now, how do we handle conferences going forward? Will the virtual conference be here to stay, or will we transition back into in person meetups?

Nyasha Green:
I think that’s going to have a two part answer for me. Because I want to say, just answering that question is, should we go back to completely in person events? I think at some point, yes. But I think there always should be the option to have a virtual component of it. And the reason I think that is because COVID is a very unfortunate thing that’s happened to the world, just the devastation, the loss. It’s been a lot on everyone all over the world. One of the things it’s brought out though is how much more accessible things are when we can do them virtually, whether that be tech conferences, working from home, meetups. So will companies want to go back to in person? I think of course they will. Will all lot do that? I think so as well. Should everybody go back and it just be no virtual conferences and just a hundred percent meetups? No, I don’t think so. But I think that virtual conferences and meetups have worked so well that I think they’re always going to be an option now, just seeing the sheer success of them. I think companies have noticed that and that they’re going to work hard to make sure there’s some type of virtual component to it going forward.

Teron Bullock:
And I happen to agree. I think that the virtual component to a meetup is very beneficial. Going to meetups in person, while I think that’s also very beneficial, seeing somebody in person you can never replace that in person feeling. But I also think that, like you said, accessibility regardless of if it’s financial or maybe it’s location based. I just think that the virtual component is very necessary and it’s definitely something that should continue moving forward. I think we need to figure out a way to host it both in person and still include that virtual side of things.

Nyasha Green:
Mm-hmm.

Teron Bullock:
So I know that there were a lot of newbies who entered into this space as well during the pandemic. Like somebody in New York who’s a newbie and really is excited about a meetup that’s happening in LA, they wouldn’t be able to benefit from that meetup or that information if we didn’t include and keep these particular components. So I know that you deal with new people that’s entering the tech space, and thinking about a meetup can be a daunting task for somebody who may be an introvert into a public space and meet with different people. They could benefit also from the virtual side of these meetups. And I was wondering if you could speak to some of the benefits that a person like that can gain from these type of meetups.

Nyasha Green:
Yeah. So a few things that newbies can definitely get from these meetups. One, networking. They have a chance to actually meet people who are in the field and possibly in the specific field that they want to go into in tech. So that’s just right there a way to get more information on your potential future job. And also maybe to actually get into a networking relationship where you can actually maybe get an interview somewhere, have a reference, maybe get an internship or find some freelance work. Also the tech world can be a little overwhelming at times, and having someone who’s in there who’s already been through what you’ve pretty much gone through, that helps give newbies focus. So instead of today saying I want to learn the newest JavaScript framework, and then the next day saying they want to learn Scrum, and then the next day saying they want to learn Salesforce, they can have someone to kind of guide them. That’s been a lot of what I’ve been doing meeting up with these newbies. Like, “Hey don’t get stuck in tutorial hill. You need a solid roadmap”. And they can find that in people at these conferences, it’s just a whole host of opportunities for newbies in tech and I think they benefit the most. Of course we, as existing developers, we benefit from these conferences, but I just think that the newbies benefit the most.

Teron Bullock:
That reminds me of an experience that I’ve had. I’ve only been to one meetup, which we’ll speak about, but I’ve been joining a lot of these Twitter Spaces. Which I guess you could look at as virtual meetups themselves. And while I feel like the newbies definitely benefited from that Twitter Space, I walked away feeling like I’ve benefited as well. So the situation was a gentleman was just really stuck, like you said, he was going through these tutorials. And as long as he was dealing with the tutorial he was fine, as most of us are. Tutorials are pretty much on-rails learning. You can’t really go wrong as long as you follow them because they’re taking care of this one use case and they’ve already given you all the answers. So things seem wonderful while you’re on the tutorial. But then once he stepped away from the tutorial and said, “Hey, I want to build a project”. He just got stuck in thinking about how hard it was to get to the next step. Like, “Okay. I know what I want to build, but I don’t know where to go from here”. And so he would just stop. And having heard that I thought about some of the lessons that I had learned when I first started.

Teron Bullock:
And one of the biggest things that I benefited from was I was told, “Just write out the comments”. And so anytime I start a task, even if I’m not sure of everything, I started with “Step one: what do you do?”. And I’ll write it in the comments. And literally with number one, step two, step three. And I told them if you could write out steps, then you can just fill in the blank. Right? I may not know how to do step four, but if I could do step one and step two, that’s already a bit of code that’s already there. I could do step five, now just got to step back and figure out how to do three and four. And it seems like I could literally see the light bulb go off while we were on the virtual page, because he was like, “Oh wow!”. And immediately he just started thinking about how he can handle that process. I walked away feeling great about that experience because I was able to help somebody break through something. I know he may have benefited the most, but I also benefited from that experience.

Nyasha Green:
Yeah. And that’s a great feeling. There’s a lot of people like us. We just naturally, when we know we’ve gotten through to someone or helped someone, you can see it on us as well. The happiness and just the “wow”, the good feeling. So that’s another very, very important benefit.

Teron Bullock:
Absolutely. Absolutely. So why do you think that people who are new to the space avoid going to meetups?

Nyasha Green:
I think the big boogieman right now with people avoiding spaces is COVID right now. We’re pretty much ignoring COVID at the moment, even though it’s still here. But I mean to a lot of people, myself included, I’ve not been to any in person meetups since before COVID. We still take it very seriously. We don’t want to get sick. I am frequently visiting my family who are older members and we just had a newborn baby. And it’s just people I don’t want to risk giving COVID to. So COVID is a big one right now. And with that, the second biggest one to me would be accessibility. We’ve talked a little bit about that, about how much more accessible these conferences and meetups have been since they’ve been virtually, because you can basically participate from wherever you’re at.

Nyasha Green:
And that leads into other things like finances. Some of these conferences are really expensive, and even if they’re free or not as expensive they may be miles and miles away from where we are. I don’t live in a tech city. I have to go an hour and a half or two to three hours to another city just to participate in big tech meetups. We have local events, but they’re not on the scale of others. So there’s finances, there’s distance, there’s COVID, there’s accessibility.

Nyasha Green:
And then there’s going to conferences or meetups and then there’s just not that acceptance to newbies. We talked a little bit about Decode and how they really were accepting to newbies, and they explained everything in a way that even experienced developers could relate to, comprehend, and digest. And you just don’t see that at a lot of meetups these days. Even if the focus is on we want more people to meet up with us, we want newer people, we want new faces. But when you get there it’s the opposite. Or in your experience, if you want to talk a little bit about it? I know that you went to your meet up and they had to kind of talk to you about it because they had questionable people trying to enter in. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?

Teron Bullock:
Absolutely. I will not mention any names. So I went to my first meetup and it was an interesting experience in the beginning because the first question I got was, “Are you a troll?”. And I was thinking, “Is this how all meetups are handled?”. And they explained to me that for some reason that there were a lot of people who were joining the meetup just to troll. And I couldn’t figure it out. I said, “Really? You’re going to join the tech meetup just to troll?’. But I guess to each their own. I don’t get it, but what I will say is that once that initial response was given they were wonderful. I enjoyed [inaudible 00:12:32]. The funny thing is that I literally joined a meetup about a topic that… I mean it was WordPress, but I was unaware of what the actual meetup would’ve been about. I just said, “I want to jump into the water. I don’t want to dip a toe in there, I just want to jump right in”. So I just found the first meetup and I said, “I’m going. I’m going to meet people who are in this space. And I’m just going to put myself out there”. And like I said, they were really wonderful. And just to speak to networking, a lot of the people that I met at that meetup our company wound up having connections with, we wound up building connections with afterwards.

Teron Bullock:
So it was just so interesting how that works. And it wasn’t planned or anything, it just happened organically. I just think that my experience I hope is not as uncommon as it sounds. Since I’ve only been to one, I’ve had that feeling like you said where you go there and you feel kind of excluded. I felt very included. So I will be going to more, and I just hope that I gain that same feeling I had from the first one.

Nyasha Green:
Yeah. And I’m so glad you had that great experience and just built not only wonderful personal connections, but company connections as well. I think that has been so awesome. I think with conversations like this that we’re starting, I think that people are going to be a little bit more aware of how more accepting they can be. Because sometimes, to be honest, it’s not intentional. It’s just the way things are, and it’s just the way that people are. Sometimes they just need a little push in the right direction, or they need something that gives them self reflection. And I think these conversations are going to be something that starts that, because someone might listen to this and say, “Hey, you know what I have been doing that. I’ve been starting these meetups and it’s just been the guys from work and people they know. What can I do to go out into the community and get some of this new blood into these meetups? How can we be more diverse? How can we just make this bigger for our community?”. So I’m optimistic.

Monet Davenport:
Thank you for listening up to this point. Press The Issue by MasterWP is sponsored by LearnDash. Your expertise makes you money doing what you do, now let it make you money teaching what you do. To create a course with LearnDash visit learndash.com. Now back to the podcast.

Teron Bullock:
I like the approach of, like I said, the Twitter Space as a meetup. I think that would lean towards more acceptance and inclusiveness as well, just by sheer nature of it being on Twitter. It’s a lot easier to invite other people. Or even when you jump onto Twitter at the very top, the way they did it’s like, “Hey, a lot of people that I’m following are in this particular Twitter Space. Let me go see what they’re listening to”. It creates a more social environment and I’m glad that they added that feature. I think it’s awesome. I think it will help the tech scene. Because like I said, I’ve only been to one actual meetup, but I’ve been to several tech Twitter Spaces. And it seems to be all the rage. I think every week I’ve been to one or two, at least. And everybody, maybe just because they’re new developers, but it seems like everybody is willing to share. Everybody is accepting of one another. And maybe it doesn’t hurt the fact that you have to ask to speak, you know?

Nyasha Green:
Yeah.

Teron Bullock:
So I’m not sure, but I just think it’s a good format and I hope that more people decide to use that avenue as well.

Nyasha Green:
I agree.

Teron Bullock:
My first Twitter Space was your Twitter Space.

Nyasha Green:
Oh really? Yeah.

Teron Bullock:
And I’ll admit I’m not on Twitter that much. And I happened to just jump on it. I think probably I jumped on because Rob had said, “MasterWP is live” or something like that. And I was like, “Oh, I got to go tweet about it”. And when I jumped on, I saw you at the top of my screen in a Twitter Space. And I was like, “What’s that?”. And so I was like, “All right, this is cool”. Because you think Instagram is just really pictures or video. Facebook, whatever that’s become, because I’m not on Facebook anymore. And Twitter was always just a place where you got your, what is it 128 characters or whatever it is now? And that’s it. But I’m hearing audio, people are interacting. I’m like, “Wait a minute. This is my space right here. I could do this”.

Nyasha Green:
Oh Myspace.

Teron Bullock:
Well, that’s funny you said that.

Nyasha Green:
Oh, my space. Not myspace.com. Gosh. I was like, “Oh yeah, I love myspace.com”.

Teron Bullock:
Yeah. So like I said, once I saw that… And then the funny thing is, I think I told you this, but I was in a noisy area. Like I said, I just jumped on just to retweet something real quick and I got hooked in. I’m like, “All right. Now I got to listen”. And when you was like, “Hey, join and talk”. I was like, “This is not going to happen right now”.

Nyasha Green:
Yeah. I absolutely loved. And that’s the only one I’ve done. I’ll appear on the other Spaces every week. I get begged every week to do one. I want to do a recurring one, but my life outside of work it changes week to week. Like I have a strict work schedule, but my life I like to be as carefree and flexible as possible. So I just can’t get on the schedule where I can do it weekly, but that’s something I’m working on in the future. I think Twitter Spaces are amazing. Even though that’s my professional account, I can kind of just be more raw and unfiltered as I was in mine. And I really like that as well, because when I talk to my newbies I am raw and unfiltered and I tell them what they need to know. And I think I don’t water down anything. And if they ask me something, if I know it I will tell them the answer. I don’t hold back. And I think Twitter Spaces gives us an opportunity to do that because a lot of us need that.

Nyasha Green:
And a lot of us come from different places where… Not different places, but some of us are culturally different and there’s nothing wrong with that. And sometimes it feels good to talk to someone else who’s like you, in that culture, to help you adapt to tech. Because we talk about how tech is mostly white male, upper class, and it’s a circle and it’s an echo chamber. And there are things that I might need to talk to other black women about or black men about that they probably won’t be able to hear in those echo chambers because it’s culturally different. And that’s another issue, diversity problems in the pipeline and echo chambers and gatekeeping. So those are all separate issues that we could talk about separately. But I think Twitter Spaces, like you said, it’s a way where everybody can come. I talk to people all over the world and we can all talk and listen to each other, raise our hands to speak. And it is just wonderful. And I really, really, really, really wish more platforms would adopt that. We could do so much with that technology.

Teron Bullock:
Absolutely. And to piggyback off what you just said, I think that, at least in my mind, I feel like that’s old tech. You know how they say old money and new money?

Nyasha Green:
Mm-hmm.

Teron Bullock:
That’s old tech. And I feel like the new wave of tech, especially with the conversations that we have here on the podcast as well as MasterWP, I just feel like we’re opening up the door for that new tech. Where everybody has a voice, everybody’s able to hear one another. And we can have a difference of opinion and still have a conversation. I think some of the best conversations is where we don’t agree, but we have enough respect for one another that we’re willing to listen. And I think in this day and age, not to get so political, but I think one of the bigger problems that we have is that we’ve all shut down our ability to listen. We all want to talk, nobody wants to listen. And I think that, like I said, with our conversations that we’re opening up, we’re willing to listen. There are plenty of articles that went out and people have had a difference of opinion and they made it loud and clear, and we’ve listened to each and every one of them.

Nyasha Green:
Yeah.

Teron Bullock:
So I just think that leaving that room open we’re ushering the new wave of tech, new tech. Because Twitter Spaces or meetups, like you said, the importance of having a culture that you can identify with is important in all aspects, not just tech. I think that culture that we’re creating is the culture of tech. We have this one thing that we’re all passionate about and we may just be passionate about it in different ways, or have different upbringings, or different values, but we all agree that WordPress is awesome. So I just think it’s a good start. And I enjoyed this conversation, which like I said is ushering… I’m just going to keep using that word until it rings in. I don’t know if I’m branding or what, but I think this new tech is going to be a philosophy that we all can kind of get behind.

Teron Bullock:
What was your first meetup, if you remember, and what was your experience like?

Nyasha Green:
My first meetup was a Google developer conference that was local to where I’m located. And there was a hackathon where these people were creating an app, it was a dating app, and it would make you compatible with others based on your food type. So they were doing that, and while they were I got to go around and talk to different people about different things in tech, like accessibility, security, just a little bit of WordPress. And it was wonderful. It was actually where I met my first mentor, Kenneth Elliot. And we were just talking because I was at the sticker table just taking all the free merch. I think I was taking so much and he was just kind of looking at me like, “What is she doing?”. And I’m like, “Oh, I love stickers”. And we just busted out laughing and we just started talking and we are close to this day. He mentored me, he helped me get into WordPress, he helped me get my first internship in WordPress, and we talk every week. So it was just a great, great, great experience. I met so many people that I still talk to, and it just opened my eyes to conferences. And up until COVID I went to every one I could. Every one.

Teron Bullock:
So I have to ask you, why was it a dating app? Who came up with that idea and why?

Nyasha Green:
Oh, I have no idea. I don’t know why, but it was pretty hilarious. And I had heard of hackathons, because this was when I was still learning how to code, but I had no idea what they were. So just having that silly concept and just seeing these people just sit there and work at it, and then seeing the finished. It made me so much more invested in tech. I wish more people would go to these while they’re learning, because to me it’s more motivation to learn. You actually can see what you’re doing or what you will be able to do with those skills. So mine just solidified in my mind that I knew I was on the right path, and once I was able to get those skills that I knew I was going to be able to succeed. Even if I wanted to do a dating app based on food. That was just the best. That was so hilarious to me. But yeah, it’s just such a good motivation and you meet so many good people. And you never know, that opportunity changed my life. So you never know what opportunity is waiting for you at these meetups as well.

Teron Bullock:
It’s been great having a conversation with you about meetups and the different type of meetups and what we can look forward to in the future. So thank you for joining me and I can’t wait to talk to you about other topics.

Monet Davenport:
Thank you for listening to this episode. Press The Issue is a production of MasterWP. It was produced by Allie Nimmons, hosted and mixed by Monét Davenport, and mastered by Teron Bullock. Please visit masterwp.com/presstheissue to find more episodes. Subscribe to our newsletter for more WordPress news at masterwp.com.