Boston PHP Meetup – A BostonTweetUp Review

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On Wednesday the 13th of July the Boston PHP meetup group met at the Microsoft N.E.R.D Center in Cambridge again. This time host Michael Bourque and his team (which actually consists out of 9 other co-organizers) set up a meetup around the theme: learn the secrets of SEO. But to say that was a valuable meetup only because of the topic, would be an understatement. A meetup with Boston PHP turns out to be much more than just a learning session.

When should you attend?
First of all, when should you consider joining this group? Go to one of their meetups is you’re interested in PHP, web development, open source technology and other web related topics. Don’t be afraid to step into a room where you’ll be overwhelmed with only experienced coders, because this group is particularly friendly to beginners and even provides classes for those who want to start learning PHP.

Before the meetup actually took place, there was a more informal session on CSS sprites, given by Chris Ladd. The organizers were still setting things up when the first attendees arrived at 6pm. But while I was enjoying the free pizza and chatting with others, I suddenly realized this sessions had already started. Luckily, Michael pointed this out to several people who had indicated they came especially for this part of the meetup so they could attend.

How a Meetup group becomes a community
The main presentation started with an introduction from Michael by addressing the fact that this meetup started in 2002. After nine years, the number of member is still growing, adding up to almost 2,000 nowadays.  Some other upcoming events – like a Job Fair and a session on Twitter API programming – were announced. Promoting your next meetups on your own event might seem obvious, but is often forgotten.

The SEO session was presented by Greg Hill, who is – like Chris Ladd – a member of the Boston PHP group himself. This approach is what makes this meetup group almost like a self-sufficient community. Ideas for sessions are put up by the members in the beginning of the year and could be voted on. Then the organizers start looking for experts from within the group. Bourque: “The presenter is always somebody from the audience. We don’t want to listen to a company that promotes their own practice in between the lines. At first, some of our members are not that keen on presenting when we ask them, but we also provide training and mentoring on how to present successfully. When you know the technology and you are able to present in a professional way, you’re superman!” Every session is recorded and can be found in the video library on the meetup page.

Connecting job seekers
Another advantage for attendees, is that Michael and his team made it possible for job seekers and recruiters to find each other. They initially wanted to use blue and green stickers for this. Pity that there weren’t any green stickers available… Andrew Drane, one of the organizers solved this problem very quickly by changing the color green into a new code: two blue stickers! In addition, recruiters mingled into the crowd scouting for talents. One of the sponsors was in fact a recruitment agency in tech jobs. Together with the other 3 sponsors these companies paid for the pizza. Boston PHP is a non-profit group, however, they have to cover for the expenses to be able to provide free pizza and drinks in one way or another. The organizers came up with a very smart deal: every sponsors pays $1 for each visitors that turns up. In exchange they get a booth at the venue and will be mentioned on the website and just before the session starts. A very clever idea, since at least a hundred members joined the SEO meetup last Wednesday.

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With over five years experience in journalism and PR, Fee has worked for several magazines and online media channels. She now works as an independent contractor in the PR and social media field. Fee (pronounced as Fay) worked on several (employer branding) campaigns and trained young professionals on how to blog and tweet as ambassadors. She also organized several TweetUps herself - for graduates, young professionals and professionals.