Online event promotion

Meetup- for regular, repeating special interest group events.

Facebook- birthday parties to invite people you know. Can import events from meetup with an app.  The events on facebook tend to be undiscoverable unless your friend is the organizer.  To really promote events on facebook, you need to friend lots and lots of people, which really makes facebook less useful as platform for letting friends and family know what you are up to in your “semi-personal” life.

Twtvite/Tweetups- To invite random strangers to hang out with you at a bar and talk about twitter.  Well, I’m being cynical. I thinks twitter driven events are very promising.  Twitter is already proven a good fit for one type of event, the conference.  Maybe it will scale down for small events if people tried it.

Myspace- for promoting and finding music concerts. You can list small non music events, but what is the point?

Craigslist- for finding people to join a club (groups), but the event section is actually better for listing paid events like cooking or dance classes.

Evite – for inviting everyone at your college or office to an awesome party at you house that will possibly wake up the neighbors.

Traditional newspaper- for huge events, like a county fair.

Special interest sites, e.g. Nerd Dinner or GoodReads.  These tend to have sparse user bases so you might have a hard time finding attendees from these places, but they’re good options for RSVP engines if you already have a group.

Locally Dead Languages, like French, and What they’ve in common with Conlangs.

Are we studying locally living, dying or dead languages? If one “learns” French and you never meet anyone to speak French with, or don’t move to France, you will join the ranks of people who can say, “I took 16 semesters of French in High School and College and still can’t converse very well.”  It’s a still born language with regards to your household– in your community French is dead, and never really was alive.

Like biological species that can thrive in one area and be extinct in another, languages fail to thrive outside their range or wither until their gone.  French is a living language in Quebec, Louisiana, France, not so much in Washington DC.  In DC, I’d call it an endangered language.   French, Spanish, German, Russian and Italian are all dieing languages in Washington DC. The domains of their use is vanishingly small and could disappear any year now.

A truly dead language can only be used to write messages to your self and read the messages from people who can never respond to you.  Knowing a locally dead language is a clever party trick, but otherwise a colossal waste of time.

How do you recognize the languages near you that aren’t dead yet?

A language is dead for you when you can’t use it in any domain- not at home, school, work, church, or on the street.  I haven’t made up my mind about if a language is dead or not if you can still use it on the internet on a forum or mailing list.

-Are there social events that are conducted in something other than English? This is the case with Russian.  Most of the events are in DC and Maryland.
- Are there play groups and immersian schools? If children don’t have an opportunity to use a second language in their community, they will stop using it.  Ordinary schools that offer French and Spanish don’t count because probably 99.98% of those who study French and Spanish and school will never attempt to use it in any forum and generally their students never achieve any interesting level of fluency.  The exception to this would be the various immersion schools in the area– there is one for Russian, German, Mongolian, Swedish, one in the works for Icelandic and so on.
- Is mass media available? The internet has only been half a solution.  Many languages don’t have very good internet resources and many communities don’t have a high ratio of tech savy people.  Locally in DC, there is cable TV and Radio for Spanish and some other languages, but out of the 50+ languages some one might want to study, the local availability is sparse.  Books, libraries and news stands generally a pretty grim picture for non-English materials–hard to find and expensive.
- Is this a job skill in demand for both native and non-native speakers?

If we are studying a locally living language, is a open or closed social group?
I get a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that some language are alive in the DC area, but if that language group is closed to me, it might as well be dead.

Some existing language groups are open.  This is a subtle distinction, I doubt any social group is formally closed.  Do the existing groups go out of their way to advertise and gain new members? In the case of Russian, general when you meet a bilingual Russian, the like to speak Russian to you. If you meet a Swede, generally, they like to speak English because listening to broken Swedish is a tedious chore.

Enclaves are largely restricted to recent immigrants and their descendants.  Enclaves are another scenario of interest–outsiders will never be invited, many members of an enclave plan to go home at any time, so they’re not motivated to reach out to the local community.  For example, the Vietnamese and Mongolian community is fairly closed, in part because sometimes they’re monolingual.  You can’t find  them until you’re fluent, if you can’t find them, you can’t learn the language except through books, a challenge only the most academically expert can pull off.

Enclaves are the most linguistically fragile systems, especially if they stop teaching the language to their children or if immigration from the home country drops off.  The Scandinavian languages are the best example of this.  If I had a nickle for monolingual person who showed up at a Scandinavian language meetup saying “My grandfather spoke Swedish”, I’d be rich.

How to revive a language or bring a language to life?
The Welsh, the tiny community of conlangers and the Esperanto community have something to teach us.  A language needs to have prestige, a open community, tolerant of low proficiency speakers and lots of in person social events.

To bring a new language to life, it needs to have prestige factors. Esperanto speakers are working on world peace, Lojban speakers are working on clear thought. Klingon and Na’vi speakers are Sci-fi fans who can win points for being a competent fan, where as anyone can say they watched a movie and liked it.

So what would a prestige factor for a natural language be? Icelandic for some reason is prestigious among linguists and polyglots-wanna-bes.  Chinese has a prestige factor because the pronunciation and writing system are so difficult for English speakers.  I have no idea what the prestige factor is for French and Spanish and I don’t think anyone in Washington DC knows either.  Arabic and Pashto (and previously Russian) have prestige because a noticeable number of government and military jobs exist that require it.

There are a few prestige factors which I think are junk.

“It’s a beautiful language”  What language isn’t?  Even Klingon is beautiful once you get used to it and even Italian is ugly if you aren’t used to it.  I’ve gotten used to French and Spanish, so Latin strikes me as a rather ugly counterfeit.

“Grampa speaks it.”  Who wants to talk to old farts?  It’s difficult enough to talk to family in English.

“100 million people speak it”.  Do they live in Washington DC?  What’s the odds of you ever meeting 1 of those people and needing to speak to them?

The community needs to tolerate extremely sloppy speech.  Fluent speakers of Finnish and Hungarian tend to tolerate language learners attempts because it is so rare to find anyone who is trying at all.  French and Japanese fluent speakers have a reputation of tolerating only extremely fluent speakers attempting to speak their language.  US English speakers are the same, but it’s because we are sure as hell not going to learn someone else’s language.

The community needs to have public social events.  A tribe in the Ukraine used to have fabulous feasts, were they sacrificed horses to their god the sky father.  They invited everyone to the sacrifices and everyone ate, sang, danced and had a great time.  The people who showed up got free food and learned the language of the host of the sacrifice.  This tradition sparked off the greatest expansion of a language in known times, and in my opinion, explains why the Indoeuropean languages are alive anywhere other than along a particular river in the Ukraine.

Without potlucks, French, and any other second language being pursued in the DC area, will remain a dead language, an amusing party trick and a colossal waste of time and money.

Update on Meetups

I think people are sick of hearing about my meetup adventures. So I blog about it instead.

It’s kind of like a part time job. The project got started when I figured I could use some leadership experience. It’s been a good way to be a leader with a little L.

Languages. Icelandic attracts intense, intelligent people on a mission. Swedish attracts everyone, but they’re too cool to be obsessive about learning it. Norwegian attracts people who have relatives in Norway, but are more into the food and ski-ing than the language. 100+ people and events with 2 to 9 people almost every other day.

Problem groups. The Mongolian group is going to take off…any day now, but it hasn’t yet. The constructed language group couldn’t get off the ground and I ended it. There is something wrong with the category “constructed language” as a special interest group. In retrospect I think it was a poorly chosen category– too narrow, no natural event formats that follow.

Up and coming I posted a literary Science Fiction book club on meetup and bam! In two days I’m up to about 9 people. I hope to fix some of the organizational issues that I saw in the past book club groups I’ve been to. Lemme list them:

1- It takes a long time to get the book. If the book is chosen a week before the event, I won’t be able to find the book.
2- It takes time to read the book. Odds of finishing = time / (boringness + pages + seriousness)
3- People who propose a book– sometimes don’t show at the book club
4- Books are chosen hastily
5- If you don’t like the choice, your recourse is to find another book club
6- People like to read a narrow sort of books. While it is nice to get kicked out of your normal genre occasionally, it gets tiresome to always be reading a book that was specifically written to appeal to someone else.

Solution
1- Pick the books far in advance
2- The book group should be based on a set of similar books, i.e. books are chosen from a particular pool, eg. historical fiction
3- Let readers pick one of two.
4- Set the a minimum pages read and set it at about 200 pages
5- Be geographically stable, i.e. always at the same metro stop, same house, same restaurant or bar
6- The organizer should make sure there is some discussion of the book, even if it only holds up for five minutes

My solution will work for a meetup book club because a meetup is all self selected people. I don’t think my proposed solutions would help an affinity book club, like say one based on church membership.

Party Law

I’m not a lawer, you can tell because I’m not an ass.

None-the-less, I enjoy talking about law.  Todays topic is: party law.

Noise.  If you got thin walls and loud friends, expect cops unless you have understanding neighbors.

Booze. You could be affected by underage drinking laws.  There are liability laws if you serve alcohol at parties.  The gist seems to be that it is up to the host to make sure people are legally allowed to drink and they don’t drink so much that they can’t drive home.  Here is a link to a real lawyer’s page on state “Social Host Liability” laws.

TV, Movies and Music.  Showing a movie at a party can be a violation, depending on how you conduct it.  There are special rules for educational films, films that are somewhat public,  special rules for TV shows like the SuperBowl.  The law depends on federal copyright law and the specific licenses that might exist on media.  Violations are hard to detect by the agrieved party, so unless your party is public, I don’t see how these rules get enforced.

P-ker.  If you are playing p-ker,there are 50 different kinds of laws, some states being more friendly that others.

Rowdiness.  You can be liable for your guests being roudy, screwing around or otherwise breaking the law.  PPT from Carroll College in MT, discussess sex, booze and rock-n-roll, all of which are illegal or create liabilities ofr the host if they get out of hand.  Speaking of screwing around, there is also a body of common and legislative law growing up to regulate parties where the attendees are having sex.

Fighting and falling. If someone gets hurt, you’ll need renters or home insurance.

HOA restrictions, Rental Agreement Restrictions.  You’re on your own on these.  Not sure if anti-party clauses are enforceable (i.e. both legally binding and worth the effort of detecting and pursuing)

Far and away the most likely issue to arise has to do with booze and noise.

SocialAnimalsDC.com

I did it! I finished writing the first iteration of SocialAnimalsDC.com, a social event aggregator for vegetarians, vegans, animal rights, animal welfare, and wildlife conservation.

What problem does it solve? To get a complete calendar of events in this (or any, you’d have to visit about two dozen websites. Most of these sites don’t have an easy way to subscribe to updates. Some are seriously irregularly updated and are just waiting to be re-activated. Some of these special interest calendar sites are national, which isn’t too handy if you are stranded in DC and surrounding counties.

How does it compare to Meetup.com or the like? Many organizations large and small won’t discover Meetup.com for years. My site serves the same role as the community newspaper, except the events in the local newspapers for some reason are dominated by for fee spectator events.

How do I do it? I use RSS readers and page watchers to gather the information, then I manually republish the information. The audience can either read the event listings or subscribe to them with an RSS reader.

What features are in the works? I want people to be able to easily import the events into calendaring software, like Outlook or Google Calendars. I also hope to create some membership features like commenting, tagging, user event submission.

Why’d I do it? Issue advocacy in the US is mostly about writing checks to lobbyist groups and other impersonal communications. I want to redirect my issue advocacy towards actions that involve human contact. A social events aggregator that aggregates similar but different groups exemplifies engaged compassion–staying involved with the community rather than sticking within one’s comfort zone with people who already agree with you on most issues.

Why the name? I was originally going to call it CompassionEvents but decided that that name was too serious sounding for a recreational social events site. SocialAnimals.com was taken, which was fine, since I wanted the domain name to reflect the fact that the site is strictly for MD/DC/VA. SocialAnimalsDC.com sound like a sober party animal with a mission in mind.

What are some future challenges? The biggest challenge will be keeping the content quality high over the next five years. Calendaring data becomes stale after about a week or two, so every week I’ll have an opportunity to lose my audience.

Singles Events

Here is my list of singles events, organized by how much I liked them, what the key success factor is, and who they attract.

* Dinner out. Show up, eat, talk to the three people to the left right and front of you. A variation on this theme is spectator event (like some show), followed by a group dinner out.

* Lock and key event. It’s an elaborate trick to get everyone to talk to many people. Guys get keys, girls get locks, the game is to find the person you has the reciprocal part.

Night club with a ice breaker. Ice breakers are important because bars already exist–a singles event provides no value add value without it, except that presumably the crowd knows that people might hit on them and it is expected, unlike a regular bar where flirting is done by complicated unconscious and secret signals.

* Speed dating. Continually restarting a 4 minute conversation with random people. Groups larger than 40 people are not really speed dating unless held inside an airplane hangar on account of sound problems.

* Singles Volunteering. Work at a volunteer event doing minimum wage labor for free, then go out for dinner. It works unless people are tired after work and don’t want to go out for dinner. Depending on the

* Hiking. Good event because you get a chance to talk to someone for a long time. It literally takes time to break the ice for some people–event extroverts don’t get to the interesting conversational bits for at least half an hour.

* Night club without an ice breaker. Fine for raging extroverts. But raging extroverts find twenty friends walking to the metro, why are they going to a singles event? Still, some how people show up at these in large numbers, someone must like them.

* Classes. Obviously no one interacts during a lecture, unless they are rude to the teacher. So a successful singles class will have to do something that requires student to student interaction, like breaking into mini-discussion groups.

* Discussion/Round circle. In DC, these often get really big, so they use the 3-5 minute rule and a token that gets passed around to indicate who speaks. This is important in mixed gendered groups because the large the group, the more likely men are to hog time and women to not talk at all (It’s proven by sociologists! Don’t make me have to pull a reference on you!)

* Book Club. These are slow to start, require planning sometimes months in advance. The long lead times leads to sometimes poor group cohesion ( losing/gaining lots of members). Obviously a singles book club would try to pick a book that is interesting to both men & women and may be topical to relationships and the like.

* Un-singles groups, e.g young adults groups. This would include any special interest group that has high cohesion (same large core of people at all events) So far the only group I’ve seen like this at a church event, although I suppose some work and school environments are like this.

* Pot luck. See above & basic singles event.

* Holiday party. See above & basic singles event.

Basic Singles Event. Dissuade married people from coming, encourage singles, provide opportunity for people people to interact. Sometimes events are gender balance, sometimes not. The ever popular 50%/50% target ratio is broken because women travel in pairs and the wing woman isn’t necessarily open dating. Sometimes participants are expected to ask for numbers and follow up on their own, sometimes the organizer gives everyone the attendees email’s afterwards.

Age range targeting is similarly tricky. To broad of an age range spread and no one can find someone in their preferred age range. A singles party with conversants 40 years apart is wishful thinking on the part of one or the other. And for some reason women tend to date older men and men date younger women, so the optimal announcement would say something like, women aged x to y and men aged x-1 to y + 5. But that is too much math.

Whee Brickskellers on Halloween

Went to the Russian Conversational Group. Again, another stellar batch of people, half expatriots, half people who spoke Russian as a second language. I met the organizer, a guy who worked for world bank and some one from Kent Ohio. Small world.

On the way back nothing exciting, people with pencils sticking out of their bloody foreheads, skeletal faces, toucan sam. Probably what one could expect to see after drinking Viking beer.

Talking Russian

Spent the evening talking to strangers in Russian. Pretty exciting stuff considering that I was in DC. It was held at the Russian Cultural Center. One person picked up a quarter inch thick Russian phone book. About 90% of the people there were conversationally proficient, so we were able to talk in Russian instead of about Russian. Oddly someone recogized my mug and said, “Hey do you go to the vegetarian meetups?” They wanted to go to the Halloween party this Saturday, the same one that I’m scheduled to go to. Talk about coincidences. Oh the random people you meet when you go on meetups.

BarCamp DC 2007: I was there

BarCamp is a self organizing conference, in the same way wikipedia is a self organizing encylopedia.

I went to BarCamp, I learned that: Widgets (both the flash, java and Facebook kind) are hot, but don’t have a lot of compelling applications…yet. I learned a new way to do session hijacking. This is a very serious flaw in the security of popular web pages. I learned that OpenId exists–but I already knew that. I learned some tips and tricks for google analytics and for some MS-Office apps. I learned that ruby APIs for telephony (or websites that do telephone stuff, I’m not sure) exist and are remarkably easy to implement. I learned that WoW can potentially be a place for networking on the internet, but the cost of entry is very high, especially in terms of time, although it might be just as high as golfing or hanging out at country club. I also learned that all the hot girls in IT are in the design department, so next job I get will be at an web design firm.

For all this I paid nothing, I got a free raffled book, breakfast, free coffee, free lunch which I turned down because there weren’t enough vegetarian meals, and two free beers. So BarCamp was free as in lunch and free as in beer and free as in a free thinking conference.

Wi-Fi was available, sadly DCHP was not.

Rescue, my Lord of BarCamp, rescue, rescue!
The geek enacts more wonders than a man,
Daring an opposite to every old API:
His wi-fi is encrypted, without which he can’t Skype,
Rescue, fair geek, or else the day is lost!

My kingdom for an IP!

Withdrawl, my lord, there is no DHCP

Oh, well. Sure makes me envy all the folk with mac iBooks. They seemed to be able to get online.

Cooking Classes, Slowly Forming Social Calendar

What a novel way to socialize. Here is one cooking class I wish I could attend.

Last weekend I did make it to a book club (12 angry readers, the name, not the general mood of the attendees) I’ve ordered the book for the next meeting, with luck they Half.com seller in Baltamore will get the book to me on time.

Anyhow, I signed up with a cooking class in Arlington–all about brunch. Tomorrow I’m off to the Web Standards Meetup group. I’m signed up for the Ski Chalet Trip at WISP with the UUYA/FX.

I’m not doing poker because Wikipedia has ruined gambling for me. What is social about a zero sum game with absorbing states? Poker is just a very slow and elaborate system for transfering all wagered wealth to a randomly selected participant.

Someday I need to try a games night at my place. Or finish my movie club website. So much socializing to do, so few hours to take care of the bureaucracy that would support it.