Community Building Beyond the Black Stump

Presented by Josh Simmons
Wednesday 2:15 p.m.–3 p.m.
Target audience: Community


User groups are great resources for learning, finding new opportunities, and making friends with like-minded people. But what if you don’t live in Sydney or San Francisco? What if the community ecosystem is sparse where you live and there’s nothing that suits you? Starting a community isn’t hard but there are unique challenges to starting a user group in these circumstances.

There may not be enough JavaScript developers to sustain a JS meetup, there may not even be enough developers to sustain a developer meetup. You may not have startups or tech businesses eager to host events. And how do you program events without a membership and a local network of practiced speakers?

Don’t despair! Whether you’re in a suburban and rural region or the local tech industry just isn’t very big, there’s a solution for all of these challenges. I learned these lessons first-hand when I started a meetup in Northern California where most the tech communities were defunct and I only knew a few other developers. Over the course of 4.5 years we hosted more than 150 events, grew to over 600 members, and eventually I was able to step down and hand it over to the volunteers who run it today.

In this talk we’ll address all the basics of starting and running a user group: setting up an online presence, securing venues, promoting the group to attendees, building an event schedule, booking speakers, and recruiting co-organizers and volunteers. And along the way we’ll zoom in on the issues you may run into building a community outside of metropolis and tech centers.

This session will be useful for anyone interested in bringing people together, especially for folks who want to build critical mass where it seems impossible.

People who are already running user groups are encouraged to attend. They may learn something new and their experience will be handy in the Q&A as we try to mint some new community organizers!

Presented by

Josh Simmons

Josh is a short stack web developer, community strategist, and armchair philosopher. He started his career as a freelancer and agency owner before failing epically as a startup CEO in 2013. In 2011, Josh co-founded Web & Interactive Media Professionals (WIMP), a multi-disciplinary meetup that served to bring together creative and technical professionals in the rural and suburban region north of San Francisco.

After his startup tanked, Josh realized that community organizing was the common thread in his life, even more so than technology. While he had neglected his startup, he had grown WIMP to several hundred members, organized charity hackathons, and spurred local government to focus economic development efforts on freelancers, designers, and developers.

This realization was part of what landed Josh at O’Reilly Media where he served as OSCON’s Community Manager for 2.5 years. It was through O’Reilly that he fell in love with the open source community he had long benefited from as a web developer. In 2016, Josh joined Google’s Open Source Programs Office and was elected to the Open Source Initiative (OSI) board of directors.

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