I’ve always been a fan of user groups, which are now mostly known as meetups. In the past I’ve led Java and Groovy user groups, and they were always rewarding experiences.
More recently, I’ve been helping to organize the St. Louis Apache Kafka Meetup, hosted by Confluent. We only had one in-person meeting before the COVID-19 rules came into play, and we had to convert subsequent meetings to online.
I was pretty bummed, thinking that online meetups would just be like webinars, or maybe recorded conference videos, which are great, but nothing like a live event. Now, after attending over a dozen online meetups around the world, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.
The Confluent Community team does an excellent job of running these Zoom meetups. At the start of the meetup, everyone can be unmuted, so there is a great time of networking and catching up with friends, old and new. Then the host mutes the audience and the presenter gets started. During the presentation, attendees ask questions in the chat. Some presenters will pause to answer questions along the way, others will answer them at the end, but I have yet to see a question go ignored.
After the presentation, the host allows attendees to unmute again, and the discussions are just what you’d expect with an in-person meetup, except the participants might be in another country!
Another bonus for Confluent’s online meetups is that they are recorded. You can watch videos from over twenty meetups from the past few months, on the Confluent Meetup Hub. This site is a treasure trove, not just for the recordings, but because it also shows you which meetups are coming up, so you can join them live.
When you do join one of these online meetups, and I’m sure you will, you should consider turning on your video, if possible, and introducing yourself. The Apache Kafka community is made up of some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met, so I can guarantee that you will be welcomed! If you continue attending meetups in a particular time zone, you will get to know the regulars and even become one yourself.
So, while I still miss the in-person meetups, and I am looking forward to them returning, I am very grateful for the online meetups as well, and at the risk of being greedy, I am hoping, in the future, that we can have both!
And, speaking of in-person meetups, there are Apache Kafka meetups all over the world. Find the one closest to you at https://www.confluent.io/community. I would encourage you to join one (or more) of the meetup groups, so that you will hear when in-person meetups are beginning again.