In the past few weeks I have visited five blockchain themed meetups across the Netherlands. Here, I will share my experiences and explain how blockchain meetups can help you — whether you want to learn more about the basics of blockchains or whether you want to promote your favorite blockchain project.
How to search for blockchain meetups
The first thing you might want to do is to search for relevant meetups in your area. Travelling takes time and can be expensive, so finding meetups that are close to you is important. You can use several meetup specific websites such as Eventbrite.com or Meetup.com, which allow you to filter on topic and location. Another option is to explore Facebook events, since some organizers prefer to make use of their social network. I have used both methods and they are both effective. It depends on your preference how you will find your next blockchain meetup.
Blockchain meetups I have attended
In the month of November I visited these five meetups:
10 Nov | Amsterdam | Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies: the Block(chain) is hot!
13 Nov | Amsterdam | Lecture: Bitcoin and its development
14 Nov | Utrecht | Decentralisation, Blockchains and more
30 Nov | Haarlem | Open Ochtend — Cryptocurrency
30 Nov | Amsterdam | BlockchainTalks volume 2
Each meetup was organized by a different organization. As far as I could tell, they were all largely independent (in the sense that there was space for a diverse set of views during the event).
Why most blockchain meetups are great for beginners
If you are new to blockchains and their applications, blockchain meetups could potentially be very interesting. Most meetups aim to inform a wider audience, which is great if you are new to the blockchain space. What will certainly help is to do some research before signing up for meetups, in order to find out which speakers will come and which topics they will address. If it wasn’t obvious, titles such as “Ethereum smart contracts for developers” are generally a no-go if you are a beginner.
There are three reasons why meetups are a great place for beginning blockchain enthusiasts:
1. Presentations with different views
Most meetups invite speakers with different views on the topic. This is great if you are starting your blockchain adventure. The meetups I visited all had a balanced line-up and most of the presenters tried to include different viewpoints into their presentation. Meetups that have sponsors tend to be more biased than independent ones.
2. Questions from the audience
Whenever there is time for questions, pay close attention! This is an excellent opportunity to learn how people with a more advanced understanding of blockchains approach the topic. Of course, there are always motives behind a question, and good speakers will be able to react both to the question and to the assumptions behind the question. It’s like Reddit in real life!
3. Discussions during drinks
You know a meetup is well organized if there are (free) drinks available after the meetup. The drinks are a good way to advance your understanding of blockchains. By talking to others and listing to their stories, you obtain tons of new ideas. Most people who come to blockchain meetups cannot talk about their ‘nerd hobby’ in their real life, which is probably why everyone I met so far is very open and happy to share their ideas and opinions.
How I represented the Decred project
If you are thinking about promoting your own blockchain project at these meetups: think again! I made the mistake of showing up unannounced with my roll-up banner. I can guarantee you that the organizers were not amused. After a polite but firm request, I took the banner down. What you can do instead is represent your project. Nobody will ask you to take off your shirt, or to wear something else to cover it. Furthermore, in the discussions you’ll have with others during the drinks, you can bring up your preferred projects as much as you like. I printed several high quality A6 cards that I could distributed if people were genuinely interested.
Experiences from the field
My first meetup was in Amsterdam, on the premises of the Free University (VU). The title “Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies: the Block(chain) is hot!” implied that it was mainly aimed to attract students and other beginners. After the event ended, I positioned myself near the entrance to distribute Decred cards and to talk to those who were interested. One guy recognized the logo and told me he owned some DCR. I told him how easy it is to participate in the PoS process, which is basically free money if you plan on holding your DCR anyway. Several other students were amazed by the coin that solved the governance problem of Bitoin. Others were more skeptical, but many of them didn’t know too much about cryptocurrencies in the first place. In the end a few people where still there, an IOTA enthusiast (who spent around 100 BTC on online poker games back in the days) and a sushi restaurant manager. We talked about the broken fundamentals of our modern society and shared some good stories about our youth and our daily lives.
The second blockchain meetup was also in Amsterdam, but located in a cultural meeting point near the rivaling University of Amsterdam (UvA). The lecture, entitled “Bitcoin and its development” was organized by the student society for international relations. Non-students had to pay a fee of 5 euro. The event was so popular that the line in front of the cashier did not fit inside the building. It is fair to say that 50% of the people did not fit into the building, and as the event sold out shortly after the ticket sale started, most of them waited in vain. During the waiting process I managed to talk to several people about Decred. During the talk, I enlightened the cashiers about why blockchains are such a big deal (as they could not comprehend the huge line). I also waited for participants who left the lecture early, and managed to talk to multiple people about the future of Bitcoin, the governance system of Decred, and the sustainability of cryptocurrencies.
For the third meetup I traveled to Utrecht, where the local Tech Tuesday event was dedicated to “Decentralisation, Blockchains and more”. The ‘more’ in the title referred to biohacking, smart cities, and research on how to sleep better at night. The part about blockchains was more of an open exchange, which was very awesome. The moderator, who goes by the name ev0k3d, is one of those people who represents the ideals behind blockchains (decentralization, freedom, autonomy) instead of only mentioning the financial gains. We had a great group conversation and I distributed Decred cards to all those who attended. After the meetup, I managed to talk to ev0k3d in detail. We agreed to talk more about Decred some other time. A week later, we went for dinner at an excellent hummus bar in Utrecht, where I showed him the details behind the Decred project. He was very impressed!
The fourth meetup was located in a library inside the central train station of Haarlem. Once a month, they organize an open morning with a quick breakfast buffet and an interesting topic. Because it was located inside a train station, we listened to the speaker via headphones. The speaker used an analogy to explain that blockchain technology is much bigger than Bitcoin or cryptocurrencies. He compared it to an electricity grid. You can have many light bulbs, which give different colors of light, but the underlying technology empowering those bulbs is the electricity grid. During the Q&A session, I managed to grab the microphone to make an essential remark: that there are multiple blockchains (and thus multiple electricity grids that all power one or more light bulbs). The speakers looked a bit surprised that I pointed out a flaw in his analogy, but was very thankful for the addition. A small crowd surrounded me after the talk because of this useful insight. We managed to talk about blockchains and Decred, and some of them were already familiar with its innovative hybrid consensus system.
The final November meetup I visited was located in Amsterdam as well. The organization by BlockchainTalks.io was excellent. They picked an awesome location with a marvelous view. They managed to arrange a diverse set of speakers, the turnout was impressive, and the meetup was live-streamed across the globe. The theme of the evening was ICOs and cryptocurrencies. One of the other speakers was ev0k3d, who is now a friend of mine, and he managed to capture the crowd with his presentation about the fundamentals behind blockchains. During the breaks, I met with several people who noticed my Decred shirt. We had great talks about Decred and blockchain governance. Most participants went to a nearby bar after the event ended, and I had the pleasure to talk to more awesome people. Together with the organizing team and another meetup participant, we ended up in a burger bar that served vegetarian burgers. Although I was unimpressed by the veggie burgers, we had good fun and made plans for future meetups.
Conclusion: Go out there, learn more about blockchains, and meet new people!
Overall, it was a great experience to visit all those meetups. I learned new things, talked about interesting blockchain projects, but most importantly: I had a lot of fun. What made it so much fun? Simple: I met great people. From a sushi restaurant manager to a crypto anarchist who travels the world and speaks on blockchain conferences, people are by far the most important aspect of blockchain meetups. Essentially, blockchains allow us to connect with each other without the need for intermediaries or trusted third parties. The blockchain community is the reason why this technology has such a huge impact. It consists of people who realize that our current society is inherently unsustainable, who are able to think beyond existing models of command and control, and who are able to express themselves freely. Many of those people I have met, and I am looking forward to meet thousands, maybe millions more!