Tech in New Hampshire has been growing at a rapid rate. So, too, have a variety of communities that have sprung up around some of the open source technologies in use -- and chief among these are the New Hampshire Drupal and PHP communities. Regular meetups held by these communities give members a chance to introduce themselves to other people working with some of the same tools, network, and share knowledge. In New Hampshire, there are four meetups held by the Drupal community: Keene, Manchester, Portsmouth and the Upper Valley (Lebanon). The home of the NH Drupal group is on Drupal.org, with over 250 members. Each of the four NH meetups is typically held once a month on separate days -- for example, the Manchester meetup is held on the second Thursday of the month downtown at ABI (Amoskeag Business Incubator) from 6 to 9 pm, while the Keene meetup has been taking place on the first Thursday of the month. The frequency of some meetups may vary depending on members' availability and interest.
You don't have to be an expert in Drupal to attend -- far from it, in fact. Anyone with an interest is welcome, and the Drupal experience of the attendees varies from new users/site builders to others who have been working with it for years. There are people who would classify themselves as themers, developers, engineers, users -- lots of different perspectives which all make for interesting discussions about topics related to the Drupal community. Everyone can learn something, and everyone has something to offer. It's very informal and welcoming, and no question or thought is too insignificant to be raised. Afterwards, people often adjourn to a nearby restaurant to continue discussions over dinner and beverages.
A typical agenda at a Drupal meetup can include lightning talks, where each person has 5-10 minutes to talk about who they are and what they do, a question or problem they've encountered and hope to get other thoughts on, or a few words about something interesting they've been working on. Usually a couple of weeks or so before the meetup, an organizer will post a signup thread in the NH group and either propose a topic or ask for ideas. Sometimes this leads to discussion online in advance of the meeting.
Recent meetups in Manchester have included topics such as Drupal Commerce -- sample implementations and how to get started, "Why Drupal?", theming of custom modules, and the organization of the annual DrupalCamp NH. In fact, the latter was also the focus of a special "summit" held in July in Concord, where Drupalers from all around the state met to discuss the next camp which is tentatively scheduled for early 2013 and will be the third such event -- an all day gathering with presentations on various topics and for all levels of experience.
If you're interested in attending one of the Drupal meetups, be sure to join up, find the event post and use the signup feature. This lets the organizers know approximately how many people are expected to attend. As the community continues to grow, it's possible that the venue that hosts the meetup may not be big enough -- the list of signups will help organizers to know if they need to start looking for other venues.
Another meetup that has really taken off of late is held by New Hampshire PHP. This was an outgrowth of the very successful Boston PHP meetup, and the group has already surpassed 50 members, with two meetings having been held already in Manchester attended by a dozen or so people. The meetups are held on the third Thursday of the month in the evening, usually from 7 to 9 pm, and also at ABI.
Much like its Drupal counterpart, the NH PHP meetup brings together individuals from a variety of tech backgrounds -- some who have been using PHP for over a decade and others just getting started; freelancers and others working for companies of various sizes. July's inaugural meetup featured a pizza party, a preview of the Northeast PHP Conference that was recently held in Boston, and an open forum on what topics people were interested in for future gatherings.
In response to that topic list, the second meetup in August featured a presentation on PHP frameworks -- why, how and what kinds are out there (Drupal being one) -- and a focus on one framework, CakePHP. Attendees were given a virtual machine and worked through a tutorial on CakePHP and the MVC architecture to produce a simple functioning blog.
If you're interested in taking part in future NH PHP meetups, join the group, then sign up for an event. Just as with the Drupal meetup, it's important to let the organizers know how many people to expect. Keep in mind, too, that neither meetup is restricted to those who work or live in New Hampshire. The PHP events, for example, have had members who drove up from Massachusetts -- it's not that far a drive, although you'll need to allow some time for traffic.
And bring a friend! The whole point of these meetups is to grow the community, so if you know other people who are interested, spread the word!