OpenHack Syracuse Turns 10 🎉

My decade invested in the local tech community


This month, 10 years ago, I hosted a developer meetup at the Tech Garden in Downtown Syracuse, NY. It was a simple, laid-back event with the slogan “Code together, on anything!”

Syracuse isn’t a tech hub (yet?), and there weren’t a lot of options for meetups at the time. Still, I was pleasantly surprised when people showed up to chat about their projects and programming in general.

Every month since, for the past 10 years, we’ve had a consistent turnout of 10-30 local tech enthusiasts. The OpenHack Syracuse success story is a testament to what can happen when you show up consistently and put the community first.

What’s an OpenHack Syracuse Meetup?

OpenHack is a “forkable” (A GitHub term, meaning it’s meant to be copied and tweaked) meetup format established by Nick Quaranto in 2012. See the lightning talk that inspired me.

I’ve adopted some of the “rules” for a running a successful OpenHack outlined at, including:

  • You can hack on anything! Any language, framework, public/open-source, personal, etc.
  • You don’t have to have an idea to hack on! You’re more than welcome to come just to pair with someone.
  • Start off with a quick round of introductions (every night!), to say who you are, what you’re working on, and if you’d like help with your idea.

Additionally, I’ll add two more that have worked well:

  • Hold events on a regular cadence. Saying “OpenHack is the Second Tuesday of the Month!” over-and-over helped people internalize.
  • As host, my job is to greet everyone when they enter and try my best to remember name and faces for return guests.

Forcing attendees do their introductions is easily my favorite part of the OpenHack structure. Gathering everyone into a big awkward circle to say hello can feel weird and uncomfortable, but it leads to natural openings for later conversations.

Why does it work?

I’d say the generalist focus is the primary reason for success. Over the years, I’ve helped organize language-specific meetups, which have been great and well-run but needed more attendees to thrive.

The inclusive atmosphere also helps. I aim to bring together people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. Seasoned Pros and first-YouTube-tutorial developers are equally important! 

We’ve dabbled with different approaches over the years. Held talks, went online show-n-tell during COVID, and generally tried to listen to what would best serve the community at the time.

Was it worth it?


When we started, I was looking for others to learn from and vent with about the frustrating parts of programming.

Over the years, OpenHack Syracuse has been a platform for unexpected personal growth and learning. I’ve met inspiring individuals, formed lasting friendships, and had the privilege of mentoring and guiding the next generation of developers. I’ve witnessed members collaborate on projects, land speaking opportunities, and even land new jobs through the connections they made at OpenHack events. The potential for personal and professional growth is immense, and I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years hold for OpenHack Syracuse and beyond.

There’s something special about “finding your people” in real life.

Should I try this in my city?


I hope this story shows that successful dev communities can be built in relatively small cities. Who knows, maybe like-minded people in your city are just waiting for you to start something.

Using the OpenHack format allowed me to bring various skills, interests, and abilities.

If you use this format to start a meetup, please let me know how it goes! [email protected]

Thanks everyone!

OpenHack wouldn’t exist without the people who left their everyday evening routines to attend my humble Meetup. It’s honestly so much easier to not leave your home to participate in your local community, so I truly appreciate everyone who’s chosen to join us.

I’ll close with a photo of some of the originals who helped build momentum back in 2013 (and haven’t aged a bit!)

Longtime OpenHack Attendees

I hope to catch you at the next OpenHack, on the Second Tuesday of the Month ❤️