NC in Minn Meetup: Readers Report on the Fun and Conversations

Yves here. Due to our chronic state of not being as well-organized as we pretend to be, I am late to provide the report on the first evah NC in Minn meetup, organized by reader Katy. Not only did Katy graciously provide a recap, but Chuck L also volunteered his own report.

First from Katy:

I want to thank all of the people who came out to the Minneapolis meetup this weekend. I was delighted by the turnout–we had 23 people in all. I had no idea that there would be that many, so I’m glad that I picked a venue that ended up being big enough for us. We all squeezed into a back room at Dunn Brothers Coffee. There were nearly enough chairs for everyone! Knowing that, next time I will definitely try to get a head count beforehand so that we don’t have the problem of too many people in too small a space. And I’ll probably call ahead to let the venue know that we’re coming.

The most striking thing I learned through coordinating and attending this meetup is that there are a lot more Minnesotan readers out there than I imagined. And I know there were others who would have liked to come but had conflicts. It was encouraging to know that there are other people near me who are interested in the things I’m interested in and who care about the things that I care about. The readers who turned out were a really engaging and interesting group of people. Talking with them was sort of like reading the comments section of Water Cooler, except IRL (“in real life”).

The second thing that struck me is that there were many more lurkers (people who read the blog but don’t comment) than active commenters. I didn’t specifically count, but I think the lurkers outnumbered the active commenters 4 or 5 to 1. The fact that they came out to attend the meetup, however, tells me that they do want to be included in the dialogue. And the majority of us aren’t economists or finance professionals or anything like that. I think the common bond is that we think critically and don’t take things we read or hear at face value. And that’s refreshing.

The overwhelming consensus is that we want to get together again. I registered the email address to administer the mailing list. We’ve got 21 people signed up so far. If anyone is interested in learning about future Minn meetups, please email that account to get added to our list. I’m happy to be the point person of the Minn group, and I’m happy to be the meetup scheduler. If there is someone who would volunteer to help administer the email account, however, that might be nice. I don’t want to be the exclusive owner of the list.

I’ve had a few people ask whether I plan to use to organize the events. I definitely do not. Although we aren’t exactly a private group, we also are not a public group. I think that our attendees should come from among the NC readers (and their friends/family members/roommates who get towed along). That means advertising get-togethers through the email list and the website. This will keep the group small enough and focused enough to be able to achieve our core purpose, which is simply to meet and talk with other NC readers. The benefit of this is that readers have a common lexicon and a common set of topics that we like to talk about.

Thanks again to everyone who came out. To those who wanted to come but couldn’t, you’ll get another chance soon. Further planning will be done through the email list, so please email to get in on that. Time, place, and frequency of future meetups will need to be decided. I’m looking forward to meeting more of you, and continuning our engaging discussions in person.

Katy did note that the attendees skewed older and male and hoped future meetups would have more of a mix. Some of this is due to finance and economics being weirdly (like sports) stereotypically male domains, but there are cities (such as Washington, DC and San Francisco) where the NC meetups have had much younger and diverse group turn up, even when the local demographics aren’t very different than that of other cities where the profile of who turns up is very different. So I wonder if there is some other element in the mix… such as it being more normal in some cities than others for women to go solo to social events in pubs or whether the logistics of getting to the event in some cities work against career women who still have home front duties and can’t free up enough time to drop by.

Now to the writeup from Chuck L:

The first Naked Capitalism Minneapolis meetup went very well. Based on the comments to the announcement post, I expected an attendance of 10-12 people. It turned out to be about double that. Toward the end I started counting heads and came up with 24. However by that time people were up and moving around and one or two may have already left.

A handful of us middle-aged and older males arrived early and after ordering our beverages wandered around trying to suss out who among the two dozen plus patrons in the establishment looked like possible naked capitalists. After three or four of us had found each other, I spotted an attractive young woman who had just arrived wearing a “Redacted Tonight with Lee Camp” T-shirt and thought to myself, “Ah Ha! That’s the sort of garment someone would wear to a naked capitalist meetup.” So I asked her if her name was Katy and indeed it was. Her addition, as well as the several other patrons who came out from deep cover, gave us the critical mass to violently evict the biker dudes planning their next ride from the alcove that served as an informal meeting area in the coffee shop. (Just kidding about the violence. When they realized that we had a planned meeting and also outnumbered them by about four to one, the half dozen weekend bikers graciously offered to reassemble around a table in the establishment’s main area.)

After introductions, an orderly round table discussion took place in spite of the fact there was no designated chair or convenor. People just waited for a break before speaking up. The topics addressed were typical of those raised every day by the posters and commenters on the Naked Capitalism blog. A central issue mulled over at some length was how do we effect change, especially how do we multiply the force of the interest implicit in the fact that two dozen or more people attended the Minneapolis meetup, a turnout that was considerably larger than any of us expected. We talked about how to keep in touch with each other and as this discussion proceeded Katy began passing a sign up sheet around, to which we each affixed our names and email addresses.

After that first hour the group splintered into six or eight breakout discussions. Although most of these were animated and no doubt productive, because the alcove is lined on three and a half sides with brick walls and/or large windows the cacophony was such that it was very difficult for me to hear what even people right next to or directly across the table from me were saying. And I still have pretty good hearing for someone now deep into his eighth decade.

As Katy noted in one of her comments on the announcement post, starting this weekend downtown Minneapolis will morph into a zoo as preparations for The Big Game – cough – go into high gear. Although I didn’t notice much in that regard on my three block walks between the meetup venue and my bus stop, the whole area is getting in the spirit.  As evidence I give you this video of a cheer leading assembly of the student body at my grand daughter’s elementary school. They are doing the “Bring It Home” cheer, which has become the signature slogan here since it began to appear during the fall that the Vikings might have a shot at being the first NFL team to play in The Big Game in their home stadium. By Sunday evening we will know one way or the other whether the Vikings have indeed brought it home.

Even though, by virtue of my tardy posting, we know who the Super Bowl participants will be, and sadly it won’t include the Vikings, I’m sure Minneapolis is buzzing with pre-game excitement. I was in Sydney during the 2000 Olympics and it was a non-stop party (the locals tell me it continued through year end). So I hope those of you who live there can enjoy the festive mood even if you aren’t a football enthusiast.

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  1. Bukko Boomeranger

    Another reason you don’t want to use Meetup for organising events is that it costs money to register a group, and not an insubstantial amount. Small groups (50 members or fewer) are U.S. $10 a month; larger ones cost $15/month. So you’d be on the hook for more than $100 a year. I like Meetup for socialising, and have belonged to a number of groups in Australia and Canada. As a member, not an organiser, though. Organisers of some of the Meetup groups I’m in here have complained about the cost, which is more than $200 a year in Aussie dollar terms. Several group organisers ask for a “gold coin” (Aussie term for the colour of the $1 and $2 coins used here) of everyone who attends. Meetup provides a good service, and the .org can’t do it for free, so I don’t begrudge it that. However, as anyone astute enough to read NC would glom, what’s the cost/benefit ratio for Meetup vs. notification by freemail?

    1. none

      I don’t like Meetup (or eventbrite etc) on privacy grounds: they are about collecting mass data and figuring out who knows who and goes where. Meetup is mostly for advertising an event to strangers, actually not that good an idea since lots show up hoping for free food. Except for the issue of getting the word out, it’s easy enough to organize small or moderate sized meetings in simpler ways like email. I’m not sure what ready-made alternatives to Meetup exist for bigger meetings (other than something like a wiki or online spreadsheet) but it would be easy enough to code up something if people thought it was worthwhile.

  2. ChiGal in Carolina

    Way to go Katy and all who participated–with such a positive outcome and by example a user-friendly how-to guide, I am looking forward to seeing which state/city will be next!

    So encouraging, thanks!

    1. artiste-de-decrottage

      I wholeheartedly second that. Looking forward to a NC meetup in the San Francisco Bay Area.

  3. Alternate Delegate

    Somebody suggested “mention something you think is hopeful.” There were no instant winners, but a lot of good starting points. I learned a few things about media strategies and third parties (the Minnesota Farmer-Labor party ran the state in the 1920s and 1930s).

    It’s true there were only three or four people under fifty present. That might be a problem; or else maybe it’s up to us oldsters to spread the knowledge around.

    1. False Solace

      Hope isn’t necessary to persevere, but —

      “There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.”

      That’s what keeps me going.

    2. another David

      I just got the book I requested from Hennepin cty. lib. on the farmer labor party in MN. There is a large notes section at the back that should lead to more information which I will happily share.

  4. Katy

    I spotted an attractive young woman who had just arrived wearing a “Redacted Tonight with Lee Camp” T-shirt and thought to myself, “Ah Ha! That’s the sort of garment someone would wear to a naked capitalist meetup.”

    Oh Chuck, you flatterer!

    To all who have signed up for the mailing list, I’ll be sending out an email later on tonight.

  5. False Solace

    That’s great to hear! I was really hoping to attend but unfortunately I didn’t leave work until 3 AM that morning. For me, 10 AM was a little too early and while Minneapolis may be popular for most people, for me it’s a bit of a drive. Hopefully I can make it to the next one. I sent an email to the list.

  6. Bryan

    I’m a long time lurker here but I wonder if there’s enough interest to make a Denver Meetup worthwhile. I run a DIY warehouse space and can host plenty of people, and have heard rumors that Denver’s DSA group isn’t super active (I will admit that I haven’t reached out yet but definitely would if this goes well).

  7. Lambert Strether

    This is not a criticism, since thinking of it at the time would have required me to have more social eptitude than I have, but “Bikers for Naked Capitalism” wouldn’t be such a bad look.

    Do people pass out business cards any more, or is it all done with smartphones?

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