NLHTML5: Some parting words

I’ve decided to stop organising NLHTML5 meetups. I’ve gotten a lot of questions on why I would do that. The short answer to that, is because I want to do different things, the long answer is the rest of this blog post.

Roughly two years ago I decided a wanted to do something new. I had given some talks at conferences, and organised some documentation sprints for (which seems to be a bit dead now), but wanted to do something for a broader community. I really liked the setup of the Fronteers meetings, but I wanted to try it for myself and try a different type of outreach. So I decided to start a Meetup group called NLHTML5, based on the San Francisco meetup group SFHTML5. And this story is about looking back at the past two years, and why I’ve decided to quit the group and thus abandoning a 1500-people community.


The reason I was able to start NLHTML5 mostly contributed to two people: Peter Lubbers from Google and SFHTML5, who initially funded NLHTML5, was excited about the idea I had and shared his experiences he had with organising the biggest web development meetup group in San Francisco; and Lia Mast, my girlfriend, who supported me in everything and became a vital part of the NLHTML5 group.

The first NLHTML5 was in January 2015, last year. But planning the start of it actually began much earlier. In June of 2014 I started my new job at Indivirtual. Indivirtual provided me some time each week to work on presentations, go to meetups/conferences and organise events. So I had some ideas, and on my second day at Indivirtual, June 4th, I reached out to my friend at Google, Peter Lubbers, who organises the SFHTML5 meetups. I told him of the idea I had, to start a meetup group based on his, called AmsHTML5. I asked if he could share some tips for starting this whole thing.

He was more than happy to help and provided me with some tips. One of the things he told me was:

I think it might be better to do an NLHTML5 instead though, since Holland is pretty small and you can make it really big

NLHTML5, the start

So that’s what I did. I changed the name to NLHTML5, Peter provided me with artwork, arranged a sponsorship by Google Developers and gave me some ideas to work on, and I was good to go.

And when I say ‘I’, I actually mean ‘we’. Because all the planning, the sharing of ideas, making checklists, and late-night discussions wasn’t done solely by me; but with a lot of help from my amazing girlfriend, Lia. She was going through some tough times, but put a lot aside to help me build this thing that turned out to be so good for the both of us. She also made sure I wouldn’t go crazy or get a burn-out.

We decided on a few things, about what NLHTML5 should be about. What we should stand for. Which was a little bit like

NLHTML5 should be friendly and open to everyone, accommodating all attendees and speakers in the best way we can

We summed that up in a few rules:

  • All events should be in English;
  • All talks should be front-end related;
  • The events should be free for attendees;
  • The events should not just be in Amsterdam;
  • The planning should be consistent;
  • The group should be independent;
  • Talks should be put online, if the presenter allows it;
  • We should be open and friendly to everyone, but be strong and firm to those that are not;

And we tried to live by those rules as good as we possibly could.

The first year, with great successes …

So we started with our first event, on January 15th, 2015. An evening about the HTML5 spec. I had invited Robin Berjon from the W3C, who I had met at a conference; and Bruce Lawson, whom I admire greatly. Two amazing speakers to start off this new meetup group with a bang.

It was a success, people were talking about it full of praise. They were telling us how good they thought it was organised. We were very happy how this first meetup turned out.

The whole year was amazing, with one great event after another. People were impressed, and we were doing much better than we expected. We even hosted an IoT workshop with Seb-Lee Delisle. The only event we did where you had to pay for.

At one point Lara Anabel, one of the attendees, asked if she could help out. She became a great help, taking photos and helping with building up and breaking down every month.

… and minor failures

At the end of the year we wanted to do something different, so we thought of doing a volunteer day. We asked around and people seemed interested. But when the time came, only two people signed up and we had to cancel the whole thing. That was a bummer.

But we also planned a Christmas party! On December 11, we wanted to celebrate our one-year anniversary by inviting everyone to join us. We would pay for the snacks and drinks, and it was supposed to be great. Sadly, we were with just 5 people. It was still a fun night, but not what we expected.

The end of NLHTML5

The second year started for me with a new job at, and for Lia at Online Galerij. We were both a lot busier than we expected to be. And the meetups didn’t go as good as we hoped. People were still excited and liked the meetups, but I wasn’t that happy about them.

We didn’t have as much time for organising as I had at Indivirtual. Picking up, and dropping off the camera we hire every week had to be done in my own spare time, as well as editing the films. Lia didn’t have the time to join me at the meetups or to pick out and edit the photos. And because I always want to do the meetup on the 3rd Thursday of the month, it also meant I had to turn down conferences to speak at, or drive at ungodly hours to go to a conference just because the meetup was the night before. But that wasn’t the only problem. People were not showing up.

The percentage of people that didn’t show up, and didn’t un-RSVP went from a 20–30% in 2015, to 50–60%, and once even 75%, in 2016. This was really hard on me. I felt like I was letting the venue, the speakers and the attendees down. When 100 people sign up, and you fly in two speakers and only 30 people show up; that’s not a good feeling.

So a combination of wanting more time to do other things, and having a hard time with the no-show, made me (well, us), decide to stop with NLHTML5. At least for a while.

So now what?

We don’t know yet. We might take a break for a year, we might come back some day in a different format. Or maybe we’re not coming back all together. As the cliche goes, only time will tell.

Join us for the last NLHTML5, at TamTam in Rotterdam:

But I do want to thank a couple of people, who helped us with these amazing two years:

  • Lia Mast — for being awesome the entire time, helping with the meetup and helping me with everything;
  • Peter Lubbers — for believing in me and helping me with making the idea a reality;
  • Niels Leenheer — for the many awesome talks and all the kind words;
  • Lara Anabel — for helping out during the meetups;
  • Roel Mast — for helping out during a lot of the meetups, even though he was just an attendee;

And of course, all the speakers: Bruce Lawson, Robin Berjon, Peter-Paul Koch, Stephen Hay, Seb Lee-Delisle, Bert Timmermans, Vasilis van Gemert, Miriam Tocino, Sannie Kwakman, Wilfred Nas, Guido Bouman, Taylor Savage, Yvonne Yip, Gabriel Zigolis, Paul van Dam, Robert Haritonov, Lewis Cowper, Arjan Eising, Jan van Hellemond, Liz Hubertz, Zoe M. Gillenwater, Jessica Rose, Jelmer de Maat, Michiel De Mey, Sybren Wartna, Jaume Sanchez Elias, Martin Naumann, Ricardo Tomasi, Rik Schennink, Anne Fortuin, Christiaan Laarman, Frank Broersen, Flaki, Fritz van Deventer and Pilar Huidobro;

And all the great venues: Indivirtual, Mirabeau, Netvlies, Xebia, Q42, Backbase, Coolblue, Springest, Nerds & Company,, De Voorhoede and TamTam;

Marc Thiele from Beyond Tellerrand and the volunteers from Fronteers;

And thanks to all of you, the attendees and everyone that supported us!