There’s a question I get asked a lot.
“How do I find a space to hold my user group meeting/event/conference?”
I’m not a professional event planner but I’ve got some experience in this area after having planned three Barcamps and helping out with Philly ALT.NET, Conshohocken.rb, and some of the other (un)conferences in and around Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, the answer to the “how do I find space” question is still, “depends on who you know”. That makes things really hard. Unnecessarily hard.
What I think the city, and arguably other cities could use, is a central booking site or directory where free/cheap spaces are listed, along with their availability, contact information, caveats/requirements, and equipment. User group leaders would then be able to easily check availability and cross reference their needs. Projector? Check. Room for 30? Check. The list of data points to collect for each space wouldn’t be that long either:
Address & Room Number
Equipment (Projector? Vending machine?)
Contact / Resource
Adult Supervision required? (Does the space maintainer have to be there?)
Where would all the space and location data come from? I imagine this could happen in one of two ways. A hard way and an easy way.
1) The hard way: Find a grant. Put someone on this full time. Have them schlep around the city meeting and greeting everyone with a partially available conference room or classroom.
- Full time curation. More likely to stay up to date.
- Some money and wiggle room for basic marketing.
- Funding. This isn’t really a money-making venture.
2) The easy way: Borrow the weworkinphilly model. Open the site and let folks with access to spaces add theirs to the listing. They would be in charge of keeping availability data fresh and being (or delegating) the main point of contact.
- Ready to go out of the gate.
- May fill out spaces faster.
- Data more likely to go stale unless everyone maintains their spaces.
Regardless of how a directory like this might come together I think it would be a big benefit to user groups, free or low cost conferences, and ad hoc meetings. Making it easier for people to find space to talk and collaborate benefits everyone, however indirectly.
There are plenty of goatchas I’m forgetting so I’d appreciate feedback!