Last summer, I spent a few months in London and once happened to go along to a small event for techies called the "Hacker Meetup". It was hosted by Ian Hogarth from Songkick (a London based startup) at their office. A bunch of tech startups and freelance developers came along and chatted, demo'd their projects and then we went for dinner. While this sounds very simple, I was amazed at how productive this time was – I made some really good connections and found everyone around me doing the same. The atmosphere was relaxed, people found themselves to be related through their work and could discuss the topics that interested them. I found myself comparing this to the entrepreneurial events I have attended: finger food, napkins, name badges and how you in the name of pudding you can achieve the viral marketing that your company's life depends on. They are filled with people who have ideas and opinions but very few people who know how to implement and build them. I rarely met a hacker at one of these.

So I came back to Edinburgh and we founded The Tech Meetup. No name badges, no interrogation about business models, just the growth of our eco-system and the advance of our tech – be it web apps, software, mobile apps, hardware, games - anything involving technology. There's always an overlap across many of these and it's always interesting to hear what people are hacking together, know about or have worked on in the past. We took it upon ourselves to give Yadster a break for a few hours a month and organise something that the tech community could enjoy and benefit from.

We have now organised three meetups of this kind, and the response has been overwhelming. The third Tech Meetup was a few days ago and it seems to be really helping people out, so we're delighted to continue. So far, we've had a variety of people present at the Tech Meetups – while we all eat pizza and drink beer, we've listened to Yann Seznec make electronic music with his Wii Loop Machine, Gordon Guthrie explain to us why we should all be exploring the power of Erlang, and Dan Shearer discuss how we can time travel using Virtualisation, which I'm still thinking about.

This is an evening where we can hear about all the newest projects around us, find out what people are working on, and find cool new projects to join. This is the purpose of building an eco-system, which appears to be painfully absent in this country and even Europe. The time will inevitably come where our community will want more – exploring the design and front end of the core tech, really what a business model is, what makes sense for each startup, and how to virally market something. This we hope to introduce further down the line, but not by just inviting everyone and merging into a big messy audience but by creating new events where we can do so. If you're a techie and you want to know what's new and what's happening around you, come along and meet everyone. Think garage style meetups for techies, with 40" screens to play with.

We quickly and surprisingly stumbled across scaling issues with this meetup, and it became quite obvious that in order to maximise the benefit from this community, we needed a pretty comprehensive website to do so. This is underway, kindly supported by the community, and we have a quick sample up right now at www.techmeetup.co.uk so that we could get some feedback from people at the last Tech Meetup. This site will be developed over the coming months and will offer all the functionality you guys want to really benefit from the wealth of tech talent around us. If you don't believe we can achieve that, it's built on the open source Elgg platform so you can build your own features if you wish!

So come along and let's brew something really good.

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Tags: beer, edinburgh, startup, tech, tech meetup, yadster

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Comment by Darryl Collins on November 26, 2008 at 16:20
@Sam Only Open Turkey on Friday night this week! :-) There's talk of a web design event in April next year. Plus the normal fortnightly/monthly meets (a bit haphazard on the dates so far, but that's getting sorted). Belfast Open Coffee If you come over, let me know in advance - happy to show you around.
Comment by Sam Collins on November 26, 2008 at 14:55
@Darryl I must get over and see what you guys are doing - anything going on over the xmas, new year break?

@Fraser next one is Dec 10th 6.30 pm Floor 8 Appleton Tower, Tech Meetup GoogleGroup here and you can get notifications. We're now doing them on the second Wednesday of every month.

@Graeme you should come along and see, some of the presentations can be quite in-depth but every is from such a mixed background I'm sure you'll benefit from the chatting.
Comment by Graeme McGowan on November 26, 2008 at 14:19
Hello - sound like a good idea guys and also like it's been a great success so well done. Is attendance restricted to Techies? I work as part of a creative team and we're always interested in tech development and meeting good tech people so sounds as if it might be worthwhile coming along sometime - although wouldn't want to be out of my depth :-)
Comment by Fraser Edwards on November 26, 2008 at 14:02
Sounds like a great event and I'll be looking out for the date of the next one and hopefully make it along. Would be nice to revisit Appleton Tower too :)

Sound kind of like the Edinburgh Coffee Morning except that doesn't have any beer & pizza :(

The informal style is the sort of thing I was aiming at with http://www.38minutes.co.uk/events/echristmas-in-edinburgh so since you are in Edinburgh feel free to come along. Probably slightly less tech and a little more marketing & advertising but hopefully an interesting mix.
Comment by Darryl Collins on November 26, 2008 at 10:40
It's amazing how often a social networking event is often forced to become anti-social - the best events are where people actually want to meet together with their peers. Belfast Open Coffee has grown organically to 98 'members' and spawned more collaboration than 5 years of government initiatives! :-)
Comment by Damien Smith on November 25, 2008 at 0:36
If any of you are in London check out the excellent 'This Happened' events run by super-talent Chris O'Shea
www.thishappened.org

Irregular bi-monthly show and tells. More concentrating on Interaction Design that pure tech but great format - each speaker limited to 10 mins + questions then beer and chat (very important - my only issue with the coffee mornings). Gives it a snappy focus without being trapped within any presentation too painful to endure.

Interesting because they want to see 'process' not just the final piece - and are as interested in glorious failures than the self-mythologised successes you often see wheeled out the larger events.

Was sat at the last one thinking 'why can't this happen oop north?' - sounds like there are stirrings...
Comment by Sam Collins on November 24, 2008 at 21:32
@Stuart I completely agree, there's a time and a place for that stuff and that's all well and good, but there's also a time and place when you don't want to be thinking about it all - worried about slipping up in front of potential investors that you actually don't yet have a plan for the future etc. I suppose the best is for you to come along and see for yourself, but it really seems to be working well - we're just providing a place where we can meet good people.

@Tony I've actually been in many conversations with people who want to turn this into something else. Bigger, perhaps, better, I'm not convinced. We're determined to keep this serving the purpose it started with.
Comment by Tony Sheppard on November 24, 2008 at 21:20
We thought we would do this with a bunch of school techies (about 4 months after a site was set up for school techies) and it quickly turned into another conference. As much as people wanted a social meeting or something informal, they also wanted something more. Hopefully the next one (at the BETT Show) will be just as fun as the others.
Comment by Stuart Cosgrove on November 24, 2008 at 21:19
No name badges, no interrogation about business models, just the growth of our eco-system and the advance of our tech – be it web apps, software, mobile apps, hardware, games - anything involving technology.

Sounds perfectt so many events can be spoiled by 'forced' business schtick like speed-dating, elevator pitches and all that stuff, question how much of it really works compared to the gentle art of meeting good people
Comment by Sam Collins on November 24, 2008 at 20:42
I met some of the guys from Belfast at FOWA and they said your OpenCoffees draw a good crowd. That's great to hear, I'd love to check them out sometime? We really should all know each other - it's not very far away!

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