More and more BCH meetups are being cancelled around the world due to the COVID-19 situation, and the organizers are frustrated because they want to keep providing their members a place to talk about BCH, but at the same time they don't want to encourage anything that can put their members at risk.
Japan meetups had the same struggle the past few weeks and both Tokyo and Osaka had suspended the meetups temporarily. We have just announced that Tokyo and Osaka BCH Meetup will start weekly virtual meetups from this coming Wednesday as a temporary safe solution.
The idea of virtual meetups have been floating around even before COVID-19, but I think the reason it has not become mainstream is because people felt the benefits of physical meetups (such as being able to talk to different people freely and supporting the merchants) are mostly lost if we did it online, but the recent situation forced us to move forward and implement the plan so that we can keep having the BCH meetups asap.
One of the things we were concerned that we won't be able to do with online meetups is it is hard to create an environment where people can talk to whoever they like, with the language they choose if the tool only allows certain people to talk at a time such as a zoom call. We can not probably have this ideal environment from the beginning, so in the meantime we may try to patch this by creating different rooms for different languages and topics in discord or zoom so people can choose to join certain chats.
VR (Virtual Reality) should be able to solve these issues all together but it will be expensive to make this happen soon. We do hope to eventually offer the VR options, while allowing people without it to be able to join too. (We are looking for sponsors for our VR meetups. Please let us know if you are interested!)
Not being able to support merchants by doing physical meetups was one of my top concerns. To solve this problem, we plan to provide the BCH address of one of our venues at each meetup, so members can feel free to tip BCH to support the venue remotely. It might be fun to have a drink at home and pretend that you purchase that drink at the actual venue! I think it is a great way to show support to merchants if you don’t want to risk your health by going out to a physical meetup.
We can easily show new members how to use BCH by using text, voice, or video. We can practice sending and receiving BCH just like in real life. Members will probably realize how easy it must be to also send BCH to family and friends living abroad on Skype etc too if we can do this.
Filtering members may be one of the challenges. We do not want people who try to harm our meetup and it is much easier for people to join the online meetups than physical meetups because you can join from anywhere, and of course we don't want to do KYC for each member.
We also do not want people randomly recording the meetups so our members can comfortably voice their opinions or show their faces. For now people who want to participate in our virtual meetups need to sign up to Tokyo or Osaka BCH groups on Meetup.com first, and then RSVP for each meetup in order to have access or virtual meetups.
We realize there are also many benefits of virtual meetups that we can not achieve with the physical meetups.
Members who live too far from the venues or those who are traveling abroad can join. Members who have to stay home because they have family obligations might be able to join the meetup for an hour or two. We can easily invite guest speakers from abroad. We are able to collaborate with Osaka BCH Meetup because the location doesn’t matter.
Of course we will miss actually seeing the members in real life for now, but until the situation improves, we are excited to explore the new possibilities with the virtual meetups, so we can continue spreading awareness about the power of p2p electronic cash!