Growing the community is really a learning gap. At Acquia, we’re working with partners to roll out Drupal training... yet we need to seek out more avenues for learning. I see one of the biggest challenges and opportunities for growth is the local user group meet-up. What works in these groups? What kinds of support do they need? I'd love to hear from you. What are you guys doing at your meetups?
Edit: I forgot to link to the info at the Drupal Meet up organizer's guide!
Just for fun
At DrupalCon recently meet-up organizer said to me:
“We have monthly meet-ups at a pub. I just want to go there and drink beer and talk with other developers, but new users come expecting to get trained. I just want to relax and socialize.”
It’s harsh, but also fair. If a meet-up to fosters connections between developers outside of the issue queue, well then, that is a great purpose and function. It’s social. (see a list of social events on Groups.Drupal.org)
But where can we direct new users? They would also benefit from being able to ask questions and learn from one another.
How they do in Boston
At the Boston Drupal User Group, they meet in a classroom at MIT from 6:30pm-8pm, the first Tuesday each month. Moshe Weitzman is normally the organizer, but this week, Stéphan Corlosquet convened. As they arrive, people sign up on the board, and take turns in front of the group- sort of like lightning talks. Mostly people were asking implementation questions. And they got answers quickly. Many answers. Even some of the simplest questions lead to “how many ways can you skin a cat” debates- which everyone learned from.
In the photo above, you can even see someone raising their hand- it is afterall, a classroom. I can't imagine that happening at the Dublin Drupal meet up.
The Pub effect
This form of dialoque and turn-taking suits a classroom. But not likely a pub. Of course, the Boston group did go to a pub afterwards on campus. I had to sit outside- because I didn’t have ID on me. (Oh you zealots, you puritans in Boston!) I didn’t feel left out, because some non-drinkers joined me on the steps outside to wax philosphic about The Future of the Internet.
But what about people for who avoid drinking for either religious or personal reasons? I for one was excited about the movement for “Drupal Happy Hours” on the last Wednesday of each month in many cities. This is great for the social aspect of Drupal... but I worry... what if we’re excluding some people?
Alternatives: Local dojos and study groups
So, we know we can create great opportunities to build social connections, but what does this mean for new Drupal users? There might be some alternatives that work better. The Drupal Dojo works virtually, with volunteers presenting each week. Some groups are starting up local face-to-face Drupal Dojos. See a list of local Dojos. Lynn Bender from the Geek Austin group organized a Drupal Theming Study Group, which started in August. It will be interested to hear from him how it went. I suspect we might be able to develop models that work and can be replicated.
“There is a rich social life to learning, and we can’t tear these two apart.” says John Seely Brown presenting at New Culture of Learning in a World of Constant Flux (video). John Seely Brown’s references research that shows “nothing beats collaborative study groups.” However this was done at Harvard with full-time students. How we can interpret this for professionals with limited time- is another challenge.
In fact, Acquia is working with Web Enabled on a Introductory Self-study group for Drupal. I’m really interested in making a better welcome-wagon for Drupal. Think of it as a book-club for existing open educational resources already available (hat tip to P2PU.org).
Please forward the sign up link to anyone you think might be interested:
http://tinyurl.com/selfstudydrupal - A book-club for open educational resources in Drupal, for absolute beginners.
How do you organize your meet-up?
I think it shows that there are so many different ways people are holding meet ups, and small differences in venue or structure can change the outcomes. I’d love to hear:
- How are you organizing your meet-ups?
- What's working?
- What’s not working?
- What kind of support do you need?
- What would you like to get out of them?