In his recent article HackerNest builds tech communities, one beer at a time, Anthony Reinhart mentioned that HackerNest events "...enable the kind of messy, spontaneous relationship-building that underpins great startup communities". I couldn't agree more; informal meetups play an important role in building a supportive tech community, but it's hard to describe exactly why. So, what makes events like HackerNest successful? How are supportive tech communities really put together "at ground level"? I've been helping organize events for about a year now and there's a couple things we've found out along the way.
Strangers are Awesome
Instrumental to the core of HackerNest is bringing strangers together over common ground. Having a group of friends or peers to discuss your ideas with is great, but feedback from strangers is incredibly powerful, and shouldn't be overlooked. At HackerNest, we create a friendly, welcoming environment so you can meet some strangers and start hatching schemes. Or just discuss the last movie you saw. Great tech communities are more than just a network of closely connected friends, it's an environment of co-operation where everyone is helping each other, strangers or not.
Free Beer is a Great Excuse
It sounds silly, but a lot of people I know in the tech industry - and probably most industries, to be honest - feel socially discouraged from attending "social" events within their industry. There's somewhat of a stigma among developers that prevents a lot of us from feeling comfortable telling our colleagues we're going to the local Chamber of Commerce networking night, or attending a seminar on C++ Best Practices. HackerNest subverts this by providing the ultimate excuse to explain yourself to that pesky coworker: "I'm just here for the free beer".
Sure, our members typically average around a beer each, which means that's not really what's happening, but your coworker doesn't need to know that, do they?
Tech Communities are Everywhere
The truth is, there are fantastic tech companies in pretty much the every urban area worldwide - HackerNest itself is in 12 cities worldwide already. The growing power of remote work means telecommuting tech professionals are probably already living in your neighbourhood, and will only become more common going forward. I often say that today's technology is tomorrow's literacy, which means that more and more of the population will be participating in so-called "knowledge economy". Socials, hack nights, developer meetups, tech talks, dinner series... events like these simply give these existing communities a place to get together, share their experiences, and support each other. We are constantly getting requests to start HackerNest groups in cities around the world, so we're working on ways to enable that. Want to become a local organizer? Email us, and let's get something going.