Tom Sander on MeetUp: 1. Meetup.com is succeeding in building social ties despite being in unsociable environment. 2. It attracted different users than expected. 3. Political meetups, which are relatively rare would be better if they focused more on social ties, and in the future we may get to the point where they’re not an automatic part of the process but a considered part. Is technology part of the problem or part of the answer to helping individuals build social capital (trust and reciprocity)?
Meetup has grown from 0 to over a million members, driven largely by political meetups (though that segment is now declining). Interesting prospect because expected to attract younger unengaged folks and has low barrier to entry. BUT—not a young person’s phenomenon—young people were represented approximately proportionately. It is attracting highly educated, engaged folks, and not attracting newcomers—and there appears to be a lot of turnover from meetup to meetup. How do you build real social bonds there?
Aside: I think the value of meetups is what happens outside them. Once a month isn’t enough to get anything done anyway—look at the networks that people build, the new blogs they follow.