I can sum up the Meetup in one line:
People started using the version of Unix that they first started hacking to try to win debate points. From my perspective, this sort of meeting was a marketing nightmare. I think it’s very important for the group to have these meetings and these conversations, but we need to think long and hard about how we are going to allow the uber-geeks to debate and rant (which is fun and gets them involved and, hey, even sometimes causes an interesting idea or two to surface) while sheltering the general public (the politicians, the Chamber people, the businesspeople, and the average-joe technology user) from the somewhat aggressive, antagonistic, and anti-social (albeit stereotypical) behavior of the group as a whole. It’s in a proper geek’s nature to debate and argue and rant, but that’s not good for the image… weird balance.
We also need to slant away from the techno-geek focus so that an emerging media artist would feel welcome (i.e. not just involve technologist who likes to talk about technology for technology’s sake, but someone who uses technology to create (ex issues. Public Domain, derivative works, digital media rights).
Proper facillitation is also going to be important if a meaningful conversation is to be had. Well, wouldn’t you know it, I’ve had formal training in facillitation… Heck, that’s what I do for a living. I’m not sure that’s a task I’m willing to take on, but maybe next time around some ground rules could be set.
There probably are several types of meetings EFF needs to hold-
- process meetings where deep debates on topics and issues are forbidden
- meta-issue meetings to discuss general strategy and stances of group
- working meetings to decide logistics and strategies for specific issues or activities (with specific goals)
- focused and heated conversation where issues and positions could be debated and fought over- probably very challenging environment to most people (these would probably revolve around topic areas and would involve homework on the part of the participants) – Facilitated, results relayed in a palatable manner
- educational discussions where carefully crafted and polished faces relate information to less-geeky audiences (panels, speakers, etc)
-freeform social events where friendly debates break out over hot dogs and beer
- my favorite/dream event: the EFFA Information Fair where a hundred individuals from wide varieties of backgrounds convene with nametags indicating their favorite hot topics, a newbie area, information kiosks, etc, etc.