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Nerd Fun Boston

After hosting and attending 346 meetups since 2007* the time has come to step down from running Nerd Fun Boston

I started the Nerd Fun Boston Meetup in 2007 because couldn’t get my “normal” friends to go to the local events that I wanted to go to, so I figured I’d collect fellow nerds from the internet to go with me.  The first event that I hosted was a Michael Palin book signing, and no one showed – it was just me and my meetup sign. I went in to the venue alone and had a great time creating the lifelong memory of making Michael Palin laugh.

My second event was also a treat because people actually showed up! (See photo of boyfriend below, I met him that night. 🙂 )  The Harvard – Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics was having their monthly public observatory night, and never having been I figured I’d collect some random nerds and go check it out. If you’ve never been I highly recommend going. Their monthly public lecture and telescope evenings are consistently the most popular Nerd Fun Boston events I’ve run.

And so it began… 11 years of connecting people to educational and otherwise nerdy events around town. It’s 2018 now and I can easily say that the Nerd Fun crowd has become my community. My world expanded by making new friends, meeting their friends, and then bringing them along for more fun. We’ve all learned new things, met new people, and relaxed knowing that this crowd is completely ok with you giving a damn about 18th century history, or natural science, or the Kepler mission, or the latest medical advances, etc.

The time has come for me to pass the reins to someone new. Times have changed, but the need for people to connect in real life is now more important than ever. So I hope others will pick up where I left off and continue to connect, educate, and entertain.

I do suspect that in the future I may be up for running the occasional event as there’s always something intriguing going on in Greater Boston. But personally committing to hosting at least two events per month is finally wearing on me as I begin focusing on new things.

I’ll finish below with some ideas and tips for running this or any Meetup group. But here is the most important thing that I learned from founding and running Nerd Fun Boston: the most rewarding experiences are the things that take the most courage to do.

Be well, stay curious, and Nerd On, <3


* ~ 2.6 meetups/month !?!

Things I know from running Nerd Fun

  • Nerd Fun Boston has the nicest, most intelligent, most authentic people anywhere. As a group our members see the term “nerd” and ignore the associated social stigma, “meh, who cares”. Instead they’d rather connect with people who are also intrigued with the world. They all get it, our conversations are rarely small talk. The name of the group, coined by my friend, Susan, self selects really great folk. I’ve seen other people roll their eyes and back away when I tell them that this here group of people is a Meetup group called Nerd Fun. They don’t want the association, and they physically step back. Self selecting. It’s awesome really.
  • Protect the email list. It’s a large group, nearly 15,000 people, and everyone who knows the first thing about “promoting an online bizness” finds the largest Meetup groups to spam the organizers to get their products and services in front of many people for free. I’m not gonna lie, I enjoy saying “no” to these people. I truly think people will leave the group en masse if the email list gets spammed. Protect it, for it is sacred.
  • Being an organizer is the best way to meet new people. The people that take that bit of courage, step up and rally other people to attend a lecture, tour, walk, or event enjoy themselves while being themselves and always end up with a crew of new friends. I’ve seen this over and over.
  • Keep politics out of the group. No political events. Nope. None. It’s everywhere else, that’s not what we are here for.
  • Run events that you’d be going to anyways. If no one shows up you won’t be disappointed. My first event going to see Michael Palin is an example, I would have gone anyways, and had a great time regardless.
  • Find events everywhere. Surf the calendar pages of the local colleges that we’re lucky to have here in Boston. Check out the calendars of the local museums. The walking tours at Boston by Foot, Historic Bostons, and the National Parks are spectacular. Fred Hapgood emails a weekly list of lectures around town and has a great list of sources at his website. People that run events love having interested people in attendance, don’t be afraid to reach out and tell them you’ve got a group showing up.
  • The organizer has to attend. Don’t leave people high and dry. It’s a responsibility. It’s worth it. But it’s a responsibility.
  • People are not good at RSVPing reliably.  People always have a hard time committing to attending. We had a forum post about it with a good discussion of why people RSVP yes and then don’t show up. It comes down to people “wanting to have gone” to an event but not having the will to show up. I mean, we have some shy people, I get it. Also I am aware some people may show up and then not feel strongly about connecting to say “hi” to the group. I’m convinced there’s nothing you can do about how members RSVP, so I tried not to let inconsistent attendance bother me. When in doubt, expect 12 people will attend. It’s usually 12 that attend anyways, no matter how many people say they’re going.
  • is changing. Social media has so overtaken our discourse in the past ten years that people are reacting to sites like Meetup differently. Also, since WeWork bought Meetup they have taken on the “upsell” business model. They took advertising space away unless you upgrade. They mismanaged turnover, the site is a hybrid bug-fest now. The old stuff is there, the new stuff is pinned on over it, the app tries to hang on to the pertinent info, email goes out unreliably… it goes on. In short: Meetup in 2018 is not as fun as it was in 2007. When I bring people on a walking tour and get people talking it’s still the best. But lectures and bar talks are chaos, connecting with people at such events nowadays can be difficult. I don’t know the answer here, other than wait and see how adapts.
  • Courage = Rewards. To reiterate, personally, the things that I have done that have required the most courage have turned out to be the most rewarding. Starting and running this group took a bit of gumption, I had more than a bit of doubt as to whether it was worth the trouble. Ultimately, there is no question that my life is worlds better than it would have been had I not started the group. No question.
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Nerdabout Story

from the Nerdabout website:

Boston Nerds Sound Off!

March 02, 2009

Heather Classen recently wrote us about the geek scene in Boston, and we agreed that the world needed to hear more. So voila! Please welcome our Boston Correspondent Heather Classen.

What’s going on in your city? Write us here and be featured on our site.

Hearing about NerdAbout via a Facebook link, I saw that Nerdabout covers Austin TX, Portland OR, and NYC … no Boston. what up? Boston is the central nerd hatchery as far as I’m concerned… the nerd “Hub”, if you will. You can’t close your eyes and toss your iPhone without hitting another adventurous knowledge loving brainiac… and here’s how I know.

Looking to meet new people during the summer of 2007 I started wading into the Meetup waters, going to lunches, walks, and whatnot. Met great people and had a nice time, but the existing meetup groups weren’t doing the sorts of events I wanted to. There was a Michael Palin book signing in Harvard Square that I wanted to go to and I couldn’t get any of my regular crew to come along. So I took a chance, opened up Nerd Fun Boston, and posted it. No one came. It was just me and my red meetup sign. But, figuring there weren’t many people signed up in my group by the time I ran my first event I gave it another shot. Harvard’s Center for Astrophysics (CfA) has an open house night each month, lecture, telescopes, so I posted it. And they came. There’s been no turning back.

As I write this there’s 1429 membersin my group.My premise for Nerd Fun was to gather life-long learners together. I ran a bunch of events, and then with the help of superstar assistant organizers (i.e. T.J.) the group gathered steam, and people. Each event we attended recruited more and more members. We even started recruiting people who run the events that we attend. NerdFun Boston is a fantastic group of people from all walks of life. Younger people, older people, single, married, straight, gay, local, visiting, foreign, history geeks, science geeks, astronomy geeks, art geeks, geek geeks, everyone. It’s fantastic.

Things that surprised me about the group:

1. history nerds.
I had no idea there were so many history nerds, I thought everyone would be all about semiconductors and bio-pharm in line with Boston’s biggest industries. Our most prolific organizer, T.J. , started attending Boston By Foot Walking Tours and like the pied piper of nerds, T.J. collected a gaggle of history geeks, including the Boston by Foot tourguides themselves. But, I realized, it’s inevitable in a city with Boston’s past that curious people are going to want to spend time learning the history that’s all around us here. Automatic.

2. transient nerds.
We’re getting lots of members who are here in Boston/Cambridge temporarily, for school and work. It’s perfect for them to attach onto a good group of active curious people and see and learn what there is to be seen here. Scientists and lawyers from Europe as visiting Harvard and MIT students, business travellers from Montreal in town for the weekend, students testing the grad school waters before they commit, again, I’m always surprised by who finds us.

3. my nerds are hooking up.
(Myself included.) Having this completely low pressure way of meeting other local brainiacs has really made dating easy. It’s like being back in college without all the classwork and tuition. Many of us are working stiffs that, until now, hadn’t had that “birds of a feather” feeling of community since our university days.

Photo of EventsOur Events:
My favorite recurring event is the monthly Smithsonian Observatory Public Viewing Night, which involves an always interesting lecture followed by stargazing through the telescopes on their Cambridge rooftop. The CfA also has the occassional movie night (i.e. Destination Moon—see below.)

Photo of EventsPhoto by Aram Comjean

We attend talks and exhibits at the Harvard Museum of Natural History , the Museum of Science , the Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Northeastern University Marine Science Center, the Boston Public Library ,MIT Museum, Boston Duck Tours, movies like Coolidge Corner’s Science on Screen series, John Quincy Adams home, cemetery tours, Paul Revere House, the Old South Meeting House and other Freedom Trail locales. The Longfellow House, Lexington and Concord’s historical sites, Science in the News Seminar Series from Harvard’s Medical School . yada yada yada. The list of events is endless. And our memberlist grows constantly as word gets out.

I’m thrilled at the direction this meetup group has taken, I had no idea that there would be so many really great, funny, intelligent, kind, good hearted, fun, adcventurous people out there looking to do the same sorts of nerd-tastic events that I like doing.

But, then again, this is Boston.

If you’d like to join, please connect with us at meetup alliance to collect similar groups across the US, please join the fun.

—Heather Classen