It’s easy to keep adding features to a product based on the instincts or personal desires of the contributors. This usually results in features or flows that no one asked for or particularly needs. Most open source products tend to operate this way. Fortunately, as open source projects gain popularity, the folks building and using them tend to start meeting up and meeting up is so much dang fun and super dang informative.
Several years ago (before I worked at Automattic), I started attending Denver WordPress meetups after some encouragement from a good friend of mine, Kevin Conboy. Almost all of the WordPress meetups I attended had a simple premise: Show up and bring questions, bugs, or something nifty to show off. It’s called WordPress Happiness Hour and it’s still going today.
At all these Happiness Hours, I have met inspiring individuals and business owners, some of whom, I am now friends with. They have shown me cool development tricks and, more importantly, revealed the holes in our product. It’s eye-opening to just see someone use what you build. It’s frustrating to see them fall short of what they are trying to accomplish. It’s delightful to see them succeed.
Last year I watched someone try to set up a theme on WordPress.com. All they wanted to do was create a site that looked like the theme’s demo site. I dug through all the settings views I could think of trying to help them to no avail. It turns out some themes are pretty tricky to operate. Eventually, with the help of my coworkers, we got close.
Unfortunately, these types of problems happens to folks using our product all the time. By talking to the business owners, artists, and developers who use our product we now discover issues or ideas we would likely never discover.
But wait, meetups are good for more than watching folks use your product! There are often brilliant folks who show up with amazing insights or tricks. You also get to meet and befriend the people near you who are passionate about the product. One might even call it a community. 🙂
Meetups are one of the best ways to meet and work with people. Even two hours a month will give you insight into the next moves you should make to improve your product. You can also start one relatively easily.
All you need to start a meetup:
- A room with some chairs
- A decent network connection
- Two hours
- A few friends to promote it
- Maybe even a Meetup group to help organize it
It’s not a huge time commitment and proves to be super valuable. Go to a meetup! Create a meetup! Learn a whole bunch! Make a bunch of super cool friends! Use what you learn to provide direction to your product.
What have you learned by attending a meetup? What would you like to learn?