People have been meeting their online friends, offline, for as long as there has been an online. From BBS get-togethers to 2600 meetings to the Mozilla 1.0.0 party, there is no lack of people desiring to meet that long-time online acquaintance and finally putting a face to that name.
Meetup's stated goal is to make this process hassle-free. It works something like this:
- Find a group of interest to you on meetup.com.
- Enter your email address and geographic information.
- Vote on a particular venue.
- Wait for the date of the meeting to arrive.
- Hope that other people show up.
Note that there is no need for a central organizer. However, anyone can volunteer to be a host for a meetup. Such a person would arrive early and help people find each other.
Now, Meetup is a commercial entity, so you may want to consider the following before you sign-up:
Typically three candidate venues at each geographic location are presented for a vote. The problem is that Meetup determines which venues are up for voting, not the end users. This has led to problems in the past. Meetup's FAQ says:
We'll get paid by retailers that have good MEETUP spots (eg. cafes, bookstores, big pet stores, restaurants, videogame retailers) to "slot them in" to Venue Voting. Like any business, these companies will pay to increase traffic and sales. (Note: We never force a MEETUP to be at a particular venue. MEETUPs only happen at places that the people vote for.)
I don't think that most people will have a problem with this, but it does bear noting.
Let's do it!
Kuro5hin users are assembling right now for a meetup at kuro5hin.meetup.com. I encourage everyone to come and meet their peers from the trenches. Maybe it can become a regular thing.