Those that know me know that the PHP community is near and dear to my heart. I am always looking for ways to support it, usually to the chagrin of my employer. We have the greatest community of any programming language I know of and I like helping people find ways to participate in it.
This blog post is in two parts, First, the video. This year at TEKX we had a community round table discussion. My partner, Keith Casey moderated it and we had 4 wonderful guests, Michelangelo van Dam, Lorna Mitchell, Rafael Dohms and Ben Ramsey. (Of the 4, I think I got Ben’s name right in the opening credits.)
When it comes to organizing and running PHP user groups, they are very smart. All 4 have experience in building some of the best groups in our community. If you are interested in user groups, you will want to watch this video and take notes. Feel free to add your ideas as comments to this post so everyone can share.
Ideas from the community
Recently I put out a call for ideas from PHP Users Groups leaders to send me their favorite ideas for building groups. I present them here quoted directly from the emails. I do not claim ownership of these ideas, I am only the curator. (I wish I was as smart as these people)
- Start slow, get a mailing list up and wait till you have a good number of members to start moving to bigger and better things
- Get in touch with the UG resources, UG mailing list and other UGs near to you
- Try to find more people to share the coordination with you, that will lighten the load
- Podcasts are a lot of work, but get lots of attention and are really fun
- Try to get communication going between the UGs near to you, so one UG can also benefit from partnerships and lessons learned from others (this is the PHP Brazil Communities structure)
- A good event to do is a testfest, simple and fun.
- Get in touch with the publishers like O’Reilly, they will send you books to hand out, the more reviews you get them, the more they will help you
- We are consistent. We meet at the same location and same time every month (Same bat place….same bat channel).
- We offer a QA meeting every saturday following our usual meeting. This helps a lot of our newer PHP devs.
- Keep the topics advanced/challenging. We want to keep attracting the more advanced devs, while guiding our newer developers. If we keep it too basic then the advanced developers will stop showing.
- We have “after-party” at the Fox and Hound for drinks. A lot of great networking/conversation occurs during this time. It really helps the organizers feel what the crowd is wanting to hear about. We have plenty of people who do not drink alcohol, but have no problem coming to hang out.
- We operate an IRC Channel, #dallasphp, which is very popular (15-20 people most days). This helps keep communication going throughout the month and gives us a channel to help others with issues.
- We have a meetup.com account which is an amazing source for getting new members. We operate through our website/google group, but pull in many new members through meetup.com (Great Exposure).
- We have pre-meeting dinner, very informal, and we also have a Dallas PHP lunch every Friday following our meeting.
I guess the key with our group is constant contact/communication.
Of course, once I because busy enough–the UG had to take a back seat–no one else picked up the talks and attendance fell back off. It’s usually a good discussion, but gets pretty random without a talk to kick it off and focus the discussion and learning.
Another tip I want to share is that when running a (PHP) user group, stay focused on stuff that matters to the majority. We’ve tried and failed a couple of times when we sidetracked from our main focus (organizing a PHP on windows event, talking about agile project management, …). We didn’t received the response our partners (mostly this is done in collaboration with commercial companies) would have wanted, and since they had high expectations, their loss was even more a failure than the event itself.
Wrapping it up
I would add to this list but…wow. All of them are great advice. Thank you to everyone that contributed. For those of you who didn’t, or didn’t see it, feel free to add your ideas on how to boost your user group attendance as comments to this blog.
Until next time,
I <3 |<