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The Makeover Issue: Tech

Can two local companies fix Boston’s hobnob problem?

Using online tools to make real-world pals.

Jennifer Brooke and Carolyn Meenan of The Good Ones.

Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Jennifer Brooke and Carolyn Meenan of The Good Ones.

It’s no secret Boston is a tough place to meet people. A 2011 University of Michigan survey even named the city America’s least friendly. But Carolyn Meenan and Jennifer Brooke hope to change that reputation with an online social event company they founded with two others.

Members of The Good Ones start by filling out a Personality SnapShot assessment, an online survey about lifestyle, interests, and values that Brooke created with a Harvard Business School professor. “People are frustrated with going to 20 events to find one person that they kind of connect with,” says Meenan. “We use psychological elements that tell us about compatibility — if people would be a good fit for friendship, for working together at a start-up company, or for dating.”

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Daniel Heller of the Welcoming Committee.

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While many Boston get-togethers take place in (yawn) bars or restaurants, The Good Ones chooses more unusual venues, like art galleries or hair salons, places that inspire conversation. Events are capped at 85 and planned with consideration for factors in common, like age and education. Ticket prices range from $40 to $150, and the group is given clues about one another beforehand, but few details about the affair itself, in the hope that everyone will arrive with something to talk about.

“They told us that 80 percent of the people invited had been to five or more continents,” says Lauren Creedon, a 23-year-old Boston entrepreneur who attended the first event in July. “The clues contribute to the comfort level.” Creedon twice had brunch with people she met and says more could become friends and business connections.

Small is one thing, but there’s also something to be said for the en masse strategy. Since 2007, Daniel Heller has organized Guerrilla Queer Bar events in which LGBT participants choose a local bar or nightclub to “take over” for the evening. This summer, he unveiled the Welcoming Committee, a program designed with bigger targets in mind.

Take a Red Sox game. “Boston is a super-liberal city, technically speaking,” says Heller. “But as a gay person, it still feels pretty uncomfortable to sit in the stands and hold hands with a same-sex partner.” Using online networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook, his organization recently sold 100 tickets to a Sox game in 12 hours (Heller is working on an app to let people in other cities organize their own events).

The events are not only fun, but “you also feel like you’re giving something to the community,” says Jared Milrad, a 28-year-old attorney who’s attended several Welcoming Committee affairs. “It’s not just another night out — you’re promoting the idea of inclusivity.” 

Meenan likes that idea, too: “If we can connect more people with meaningful relationships, it could have a huge chain effect for the better.”

Anne Vickman is a writer in Boston. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.
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