[group-organizers] Creating and growing your user group

David Christian david.christian at gmail.com
Sat Apr 4 19:30:10 CEST 2009

Hi all,
This is the second year I've been to an Open Space event about local
Python Local Users Groups and again I found it very interesting.  I
also had a number of great conversations with others outside of that
open space about other local tech activities.  Thanks to everyone who

I'd like to recap what I've learned and what I think about user groups
here in hopes of getting the ball rolling for conversations about
techniques to make your group work.  I hope others find this useful.
Note that a lot of this advice is not from my personal experience but
from what others at the open spaces said.

=== Starting the group ===
* Have a website, and preferably your own domain name.
* Have a location you can rely upon.
* Get at least a few people you can count on as core members who will
contribute regularly to the running of the group.

To me, doing these three things right is the most important part.
Especially the meeting location.  If you can get a good, reliable
location that will allow you to have the space on a regular schedule
and is large enough for the group size you intend to support, you are
half-way there to having a successful meetup group.

=== Getting a location ===
* Businesses that are heavily invested in your technology may sponsor
your group.
* Libraries often have space available, although their hours can be limited
* In NYC, there are bars that host groups on off-nights - they can see
it as a way to fill their bar with tech people :)
* Coworking spaces are often a good choice as well, as they want their
members to be able to network.

=== Advertising your group ===
* Register on meetup.com.  If you like, talk to the PSF about paying
for the meetup fees.
* Consider putting your group on facebook, upcoming, and other places.
** Note that there is a cost to putting your energies into keeping
these multiple places up to date, but it can get you users who would
otherwise not find you.
* Do a good search on your technology + location, if your group
doesn't come up first after a bit consider investing in google
adwords, or getting as many people as possible to link to your group.

=== Content of the meeting ===
There are lots of different things to do at meetings.
* Presenters
* Lightning talks
* Code reviews
* Display videos
* Standard module of the month

Some people find it works not to have a topic but just have people
talk about what they've found interesting and what they're working on.

Often groups meet for beer/food before and/or after the meeting, to
give people a chance to congregate and hang out after the meeting
place has closed.

=== Speakers ===
I think others may have better advice about how to get speakers.  I've
found that keeping the presentations short, and maybe having two or
three speakers, is a good alternative to having one speaker (unless a
good speaker volunteers!).  It takes some of the load off the speaker
and gets more people invovled.

=== Social meetings ===
Some groups hold social meetings occasionally, often inviting other
tech groups.  This can be a potluck affair so that the only real
concern is getting the space.  The portland group has a twice-a-year
social even where the dynamic-language groups all get together.

=== Presenting for upcoming conferences ===
A local meeting is a good place to have members practice for upcoming
conferences.  You may find that if you can find three people to give a
presentation on a topic that suddenly you are creating something

=== Hack sessions ===
I don't have experience with this yet, but if you get people together
to work on projects, you can have some people show up with projects
they're already interested in and have others show up without projects
and people will gravitate towards the projects they're interested in.
It works well if experienced programmers come with projects and the
less experienced programmers can pair up with them.  I'd love to hear
more about how to make these work.

=== Other types of meetings ===
One of the amazing things about tech today is that if you state
clearly that something is going to happen, and give people enough
information about what you're planning, people will show up (thanks to
Brian Dorsey for this).  Some other types of meetings I've heard
people running or participating in:

* Startup weekend.
* Unconferences/barcamp
* Saturday house
* Local conferences

Your group could host any one of these.

=== An alternative ===
Last year there was a group where people only got together for social
meetings _unless_ someone felt strongly that there was something they
wanted to present about.  I haven't heard of this happening anywhere

=== Thanks ===
Thanks to all the leaders  leaders for coming and sharing their advice
about their user groups at the open space.   And thanks to all of you
for being interested in your communities!  Without you, the world
would be less connected and less interesting.

David Christian
NYC Python Group

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