Wednesday 12 September 2012

Organising my first user group meeting.

In April I read a post on Hacker News that stated “If you’re not in a usergroup, then start one”[^post]. I wasn’t in a usergroup so I started one - django newcastle. I did the usual thing, register the domain name, set up a mailchimp account and secure the twitter handle. Then I forgot about it and didn’t put the effort in to get it off the ground. Silly me.

I was aware at the time that I registered the name that there was a Python North East usergroup, but it wasn’t very active, in fact it could have been mistaken for dormant. Then back in July Dave Jeffrey and Simon Oram started posting to the list about breathing life back into the group, at that point I saw an opportunity to get involved and I grabbed it.

Getting People’s Attention

After an initial meetup in a pub in August to throw around some ideas I grabbed the bull by the horns and set up the first “real” meetup for the group in a long while. Thanks to Paul Lancaster we secured a date at the PostOffice and I volunteered Simon & Dave to give talks on the night. I quickly threw together the Python North East meetup on eventbrite and started tweeting about it.

By the time the meetup came we had 19 people who’d ordered a ticket.

Structure

We’d discussed that we wanted to make the group as accessible to python novices as possible so that we could grow the amount of people using python in and around the region. This provided the structure for the meetups; each meetup was to be two hours in length and split up into four half hour chunks and arranged like this —

  1. Intermediate level presentation
  2. Novice level presentation
  3. Group work type workshop
  4. Networking and food

The thought process behind this structure was that by introducing novices to intermediate topics we’d be filling in blank areas or providing detail to their understanding of python. At the same time we’d be supporting their development by covering novice topics.

The group type workshop chunk is so that people can work and learn together and make connections to strengthen their membership to our community before finally getting something to eat — pizza.

The Meet Up

The plan worked and it all went off without a hitch. I welcomed everyone, Simon gave a talk about Zope DB, I introduced Dave and his virtualenv presentation, I then got everyone working in groups to get virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper installed on peoples machines and finally we ate pizza.

I also got a chance to talk to people (though not everyone - I must rectify that next time) and ask them about what they wanted out of the group. I got some excellent ideas from people that we’ll be acting on for next month.

Though I must remember to bring a bin bag to clean up the pizza boxes next time.

Thoughts For Next Time

Eventbrite was an experiment and it definitely helped because even though the tickets were free, I suspect there was a perceived value. We had a few no shows on the night, but that’s to be expected. I’ll be using eventbrite again.

I’m also really pleased that we stressed to everyone that this was their group and that their input and ideas for presentations and workshops are going to be life that keeps the group alive.

It’s still early days for Python North East, but now there’s not just myself that’s excited about it. So whilst django newcastle may not have gained much traction, I’m glad to say that the larger group has.

So although I ended up starting one group and then being part of the lead on another it’s still mission achieved. Thanks to everyone who came and heres to next time.

Huzzah.

[^post]: Unfortunately, I don’t have the link. Thought that I’d bookmarked it, but I was wrong.