When I was living in Amsterdam, I participated in plenty of Appsterdam events. Things like the weekly Meeten en Drinken. I even helped lead a class in Swift. One of the events I liked the most was called Peer Lab, organized every Saturday morning by Samuel Goodwin.

The idea of Peer Lab is pretty simple, but also somewhat profound: developers gather in a physical space to work on things. If someone has a question, they ask the group. If you can help, you offer assistance. The goal is to foster a collaborative learning environment where everyone feels fulfilled.

Samuel held Peer Lab on Saturday mornings to dissuade recruiters from attending. The café where we met had wifi and good coffee, which is all you really need when you’re trying to get something accomplished on a Saturday morning.

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Before I moved to New York, I talked to Orta about organizing something similar at the Artsy offices. He was very receptive and excited to see it happen. I would be there every Saturday from 10:30-12:30 to host, and Artsy would provide the space, the wifi, and some free coffee and snacks. Pretty minimal costs. Orta offered the CocoaPods NYC meetup group as a place to promote the event. We’ve also been mentioning it to people we meet at other tech events in New York.

It’s been about six months, and I feel that the Peer Lab has been a fantastic success. Every week, I get to meet developers – some regulars and some newcomers. We sit around, talk shop, code, and hang out until pizza arrives for lunch.

From my perspective, it’s been great. I get to meet other developers in a really chill setting, and it gets me out of the house early on Saturday. It sets an awesome tone for the rest of the weekend.

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Everyone seems to have a good time – people meet, chat, work away on their projects or open source or whatever. Attendance includes iOS experts, iOS beginners, and everyone in between. Non-iOS developers are always welcome, but the CocoaPods branding – and the network of people Orta and I know – make it somewhat iOS-centric. We’re working on that.

We’ve been doing our best to create an inclusive environment, with an emphasis placed on CocoaPods’ Code of Conduct. Importantly, the event creates a space where developers can meet, work, and socialize outside of the regular alcohol-soaked meetup scene. There’s nothing wrong with booze at tech meetups, but it’s nice to have a space where people can socialize outside that context.

The Peer Lab is a cost-effective way for Artsy to get respect from the NYC developer scene. This is good for all manner of reasons, and it only costs a pizza every week.

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So I’m happy, the people who attend are happy, and Artsy is happy.

But there’s a problem.

Not everyone can make it to Artsy’s lower Manhattan office every Saturday morning. Some developers live too far away, or have family/work obligations Saturday morning.

I want to see more Peer Labs pop up across New York, and across the world. I want you, reader, to consider starting one. It’s super easy to do, I promise!

You don’t even need a company or sponsor to organize something like this. You’ll be surprised how easy it is.

I have a few friends living near Toronto that get together weekly at a café to work together. They tweet about it and invite others. It’s nothing formal, but it’s valuable time for them.

A Peer Lab by any other name is still an awesome idea.

If you are a company, and you’re looking for an easy way to meet talented developers, hosting or sponsoring a Peer Lab is definitely worth considering. There are a tonne of meetups in tech, but most revolve around evening drinks, maybe pizza, maybe a talk. A Peer Lab can help you stand out – even people who don’t attend are thinking “oh, that’s cool.”

Nice job, company.

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How to Peer Lab in four simple steps:

  1. Pick a Time. When are you free to do this? Do you like working in the evenings? Awesome! Do it then. Are Sunday afternoons your jam? Sweet. Whenever works for you.
  2. Find a Space. This is easier than it sounds, trust me. As an organizer, you need a space that’s convenient for you. I use my workplace because I live nearby. Samuel used a café by his apartment. Anywhere that has wifi. Pick a place that works for your time – for example, if you’re meeting in the morning, a place with coffee is a good idea.
  3. Let the World Know. Tweet it, send it to some friends, whatever works. You could ask your employer to pay for a Meetup account. Send details to popular developers in your city and ask them to help spread the word 🎉
  4. Show Up. Most of success is just showing up. At the very least, you’ve got a nice time to jam every week, and hopefully you’ll meet some other people to jam with.

Keep things as simple as possible so Peer Lab stays something fun that you look forward to, and doesn’t become a chore. Like I said, six months in and I still love it.

Peer Lab is a fun and rewarding activity. From my perspective, from attendees’ perspectives, and from Artsy’s perspective. It’s simply awesome.

Whether you’re a developer or a company, an expert or a beginner, I highly encourage you to start one of your own.

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Categories: community, ios, mobile, open source, oss