April 21, 2004

Myles Weissleder: America Offline

Myles Weissleder talked more specifically about his organization, Meetup.com. Meetup.com was inspired in large part by the book “Bowling Alone” by Robert Putnam. This book is a statement on the fact that Americans today tend not to participate in civic activities. 50 years ago, 40% of Americans were participating in some activity outside the home. Today, a mere 4% of people are civically active. Today, through Meetup, people can use the internet to get off the internet and get involved in their communities, to everyone’s benefit.

Currently, there are about 1.2 million registered members of Meetup, with 4000-5000 meetups occurring every month on around 4000 topics, around the world. Anyone can organize a meetup about almost anything (see Joe’s post from earlier this evening—the permalink is acting up). “Politics found us,” said Weissleder, Meetup wasn’t at the outset trying to create a political tool. He points out that even a politically oriented meetup doesn’t “feel like a political event,” or at least not a traditional one—people are meeting at the bar or coffee shop, not the dark and dusty town hall meeting room.

Weissleder also dispelled five common myths about meetups: (1) not just kids, (2) not just internet (meetups are advertised through posters, newspaper listings, and radio announcements), (3) not just a “Dean thing,” (4) not just Democrats (although, as was commented later in the session, the vast majority of visitors to political websites are in fact Democrats), and (5) not just bottom up (organizations use meetups from a top-down angle as well).

Posted by taraw at April 21, 2004 10:16 PM
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