A panoramic photograph of Malham Cove in North Yorkshire.

More than Meetup: Using Eventbrite and Open Tech Calendar to identify digital clusters.

What we did.

People already use Meetup events to estimate the amount of tech industry networking in cities. It’s one of the methods in the Tech Nation report by TechCityUK. For our new cluster quantification method I extended this method by using Eventbrite and Open Tech Calendar events too.

Compared with previous methods this nearly tripled the number of events we found, which in turn allowed us to look at subgenres of tech for the first time. It also made the geography of our results more balanced. Eventbrite seems to be more widely used in North England than Meetup, and many of Scotland’s tech events are to be found in Open Tech Calendar.

Combining all three meeting services is a big improvement and you can see the results in our clusters analysis tool.

Why tech meetings matter

We know that informal sharing of ideas is important to innovation. One of the best-documented historical examples is the British industrial revolution and today, 42 years after the founding of the Homebrew Computer Club , we still see a similar effect in Silicon Valley.

Counting and categorising tech meetings is a proxy for measuring this informal sharing of ideas that we know is often linked with innovation. Compared with measuring publications, patents, and citation in science it is a poor measure, but it is one of few innovation metrics we have. For a fantastic summary of this innovation measurement issues I recommend reading Juan Mateos-Garcia’s fantastic recent summary .

Some more details of our method

One of the biggest problems we faced is that different event services define cities differently, and sometimes in unhelpful ways. For example, Meetup lists most of London’s events in a search for events in or near Brighton, Reading, and Cambridge, and often vice-versa. I don’t think that this is a useful definition of a cluster and I fear that this error has made its way into previous research based around Meetup.

We started with a list of cities that we based on Meetup’s list of cities with the most members. Interestingly a tiny village in Scotland called Aberchirder is 14th on that list , look out for out if you try to replicate our method. We searched for tech events in each city, but then threw away the search city and defined the city where the event was taking place based on the address of the venue.

We did Eventbrite searches by taking the latitude and longitude for each city in our list (Meetup’s API usefully provides these) and using Eventbrite’s “smart” radius to look up tech events in those cities.

In total we got 1738 useful events from Eventbrite, about 700 from Meetup, and 230 from Open Tech Calendar. I consider Eventbrite the best single source. By comparison Meetup reports much more activity in South-East England. Open Tech Calendar reports much more activity in Scotland.

Of these, 927 of the descriptions contained terms related to one of our areas of interest; Virtual Reality, Machine Learning, Advanced Manufacturing, Technology in Design, Technology in Health, Internet of Things, and Data Science. There were 1946 total matches.

What next

We need more data. For narrow areas of interest the number of events in a single city was too small to be confident that results meant much. We could solve this by searching for past events, but Eventbrite and Meetup only let you search into the future for now.

So for now our approach will be to look up and save Eventbrite and Meetup events every few months, and gradually build up a better dataset. But we’ll also get in touch with Eventbrite and Meetup and see if they keep records of past events that we could access.

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