[group-organizers] Advice on starting a python UG

Jeff Rush jeff at taupro.com
Sat Jun 9 10:06:43 CEST 2007

Chris Calloway wrote:
> For instance, we do 
> something not in the rules which I think is very important: fixed 
> meeting place and time. Also, we don't meet in restaurants or bars. We 
> meet in places where we can have presentations, and then go out to 
> restaurants and bars afterwards.

Yes, presentations make a difference, if you can find a suitable meeting
place.  Meetings in restaurants and bars turn into purely social settings and,
in my experience, eventually taper off.

> Also, just because one person is giving a program doesn't mean that's 
> the only person who can be giving a program at any given meeting. Two 
> programs, three programs, should be no problem. Don't worry about having 
> too many programs. That's a good problem to have.

Many programs also help with keeping everyone engaged - if you only have one
big talk, say on the Zope framework, the non-web developers won't attend that
time.  But if they know that a diverse set of talks will be covered, they're
more likely to always show up, to find out.

> Now, a lot of user groups or meeting facilitators I've seen for other 
> groups might come up the day before the meeting and say, well, no one 
> has volunteered to give a program yet, therefore I'm calling off the 
> meeting. This is the absolute worst thing you can do.

Agreed.  Be patient in the beginning and expect sometimes to sit and wait for
others to show up.  I've certainly sat for an hour waiting, had a dinner by
myself, and then gone home once or twice, but the consistency of being there
is important.  You also get people who couldn't be there at the start, but if
they know you're still there, they'll drop by late.  As the group grows, this
won't stay a problem.

> Never meet somewhere which isn't public. Don't meet at private companies 
> or businesses. Especially don't meet in places where the door is locked 
> and you have to be buzzed in, or which require ahead of time a list of 
> people coming for security to badge and check in. You keep the best 
> people away when this is your culture.

Another item to consider - meet where there are other groups already meeting.
 Like at a student center or in our case a bookstore.  We get people wandering
in who came for another meeting but got in the wrong room (;-) or got bored
and decided to check out our group.  You can also share resources like a spare
power cord or fan, with the other groups.  We meet next to the Dallas .NET
Group, and they're unaware of IronPython - we're working on them.

One thing I need to work on myself is a big sign to hang on the door during
meetings, with a big "everyone welcome" note.

> As soon as the meeting is "over," head to the nearest tavern with 
> everybody who doesn't want to go straight home. Because the absolute 
> best part of the meeting is the *after-meeting*. That's where the real 
> possibilities occur.

Be *sure* to make it clear to attendees that the after-meeting gathering is
open to all.  Be careful that it doesn't appear to be a select gathering of
friends, and not open to new people, if indeed it is.  Newcomers aren't always
comfortable asking, "hey, mind if I tag along?".


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