Even if you don't listent to DotNetRocks on a regular basis (you should!), if you are a user group leader or interested in starting a user group you should listen to this show.

It is been quite a while since DotNetRocks has had a community focused show.

http://www.dotnetrocks.com/

Show #344 | 5/22/2008 (69 minutes)
Building Communities at Dallas TechFest

Carl and Richard talk with three community leaders in Dallas about building communities, and specifically how you can directly benefit from participating locally.

This DotNetRocks session touchs on many of the most important points about running a user group.

A few things I can add...

- At one point INETA  (International .NET Association, www.ineta.org), when the .net community was being built, had large user group leader summits that got a wide variety leaders and potential leaders and everyone always walked away pumped up and excited about all the new ideas they heard about at the sessions. This in my mind was another very significant benefit that INETA delivered. Unfortunately funding dried up as it was hard to make a case for the Microsoft "numbers" system to understand the much deeper reach this had on the community and Microsoft. Everyone leaving one of those meetings had a wide and lasting effect in their respecitve communities. None of us were smart enough to figure out how to translate this comitment to the very large numbers Microsoft likes to see!

- Another benfit of INETA in the early days was to really mentor new user group leaders and potential leaders. This was dropped at some point and personal and ongoing communications between INETA and the user group leaders was stopped. Having helped mentor many hundreds around the world to start user groups this was crucial at one point. The .net community has maturred now and perhaps this type of mentoring is not as important.

- One social / community building thing I like to do is to go around the room and have everyone introduce themselves.

  • Leaders, speakers and members can get to know who is in the room and what they might be interested in
  • Many of the developers may not be use to speaking in front of a crowd. I know it is small but believe just this small exercise may help some people out of their shell
  • It sets the tone for a more interactive meeting.

- I do agree that charging a small annual fee (I don't) is not necessairly bad and may be required if you have to pay for the venue (which usually is not necessary) but it does add a fairly significant additional set of tasks on a monthly basis for someone to collect money, keep track of the members, deposit money, write checks and do a bit of accounting at the very least. My thought is that all admin functions should be kept to a very small minimum, nobody really loves doing them and volunteer hours should be very carefully spent!

- We did a "Code Idol" meeting which was good but none of us could be mean like Simon! In the end, our judges were part of the vote but next time we will rely only on having all the participants face the front wall and have a silent vote by the rasing of hands. I think it is time to do another one!

- Thse days the Microsoft Developer Evangalists are very active in starting and supporting user groups, this was not always the case. So... if you are starting or want to start a user group, definitly find out who your most local DE is! Our DE's Joe Healy, Russ Fustino and Jeff Barnes are very active and Joe keeps the entire state of Florida influencers linked together. If you are having trouble finding out your local DE let me know, I can help you or direct you to someone who can.

- Finding committed volunteers for any organization is always a challenge. As Toy pointed out, you have to ask people to do things. Over time, some will respond and get interested, many will not. In all cases it has to be fun, even if it is a bit of work there has to be personal growth or reward or people will not do it over time.

Thats all for now!