What’s the point of a tweetup?

This weekend we had a Southampton based tweetup as a christmas spin off off the occasionally Tuesday Tweetups that have been going on well over a year now.
Just as twitter, or any social networking online gets the odd guffaw from those who don’t use such services, the tweetup with physically meeting people is usually greeted with some derogatory comments about geeks getting together to tweet one another in a room.
As with all events they take some arranging, and commitment to turn up, with such a loose affiliation as twitter this may seem unlikely, however with both the efforts of @OzoneVibe and some quick thinking by @amandagolding to book the excellent Orange Rooms in Southmapton we all gathered, ate, drank and talked (not in that order).
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However the tweetup is another form of social gathering, it is like popping into a local pub. (very often a tweetup is actually in a local pub anyway). The pub used to be the social hub of a community. Regulars and visitors mingling, and generally a mix of people from many walks of life. Of course a local pub clientele of old would probably have pretty much been people of a similar background, same schools, local firms etc. The world has changed quite a bit of course, demographics and people moving around more, vast changes to the employment and industrial makeup means that we mix and connect in different ways. Some would point out our web cliques on social media restrict our serendipitous meetings, and that can be the case just as in any social environment. . However I think the affordances this gives us to meet and listen to other people, friends of friends, colleagues of colleagues etc means if we are open to new conversations there are there to be had.
Saturdays tweetup was a case in point. Many of us hook up with people we already know online, friends, colleagues and people in the field we are interested in. However in that you also tend to bump into other people. In the case of this tweetup is happens to be a gathering of people in and around the Southampton area.
On going there you find that in a group of 30 or so people you will know a few personally, and a whole lot more more indirectly they had open conversations with the people you already know. It is those people who are quite often in a completely different sphere to you.
A prime example was that many of us techies were chatting away but we then got talking with a fellow tweeter and someone asked her how her pants were going. (Pants being colloquial word over here for Knickers).
That meant we needed to find out more as thats a pretty good ice breaker.
It turns out that @dellacunio from local manufacturing firm Who Made Your Pants
We got to talk a little before the music kicked in at the venue we were at and this is a brilliant workers cooperative social and ethical business.
They help provide training and jobs to help women who have not had the chances to work and and improve their qualifications.
The business cooperative and ethical actions it take have attracted positive attention from those in the lingerie business. Social enterprises are always interesting, the antithesis of the corporate world, but with real business pragmatics in place. They are founded based on ethics not profit, yet they still work and succeed. Maybe a lesson for corporate life there?
Yes this is a web based business, but it is certainly more about serendipity and choosing to connect with people on social media that led to this conversation, and hence this blog post.
Updated 13/12/2010 with this video of the organisation and the founder talking.

I got talking to all sorts of people, but not everyone there, so there is plenty more where this story came from I am sure.

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