Getting involved with a local Alfresco community

Even though there are still two weeks to go in this year’s Alfresco Community Survey, I couldn’t help but start to review the 1200 or so responses we’ve received so far. There are some great insights and suggestions coming through, but there’s one I wanted to jump on right away: It’s clear that a significant portion of the Community would like to see more local, Alfresco-focused, non-marketing,  gatherings (aka, meetups). And I’m right there with you. I think it is extremely important that local groups of people interested in Alfresco are able to get together regularly to share tips and tricks, to network, and to have fun. In this post I want to outline my perspective on events, my plan for local meetups, and some ideas on how to get involved with a local Alfresco community.

Alfresco Community Meetups are different from other events

Alfresco drives many types of events worldwide, including presence at third-party conferences, lunch-and-learns, training, and webinars. We also do an annual developer’s conference called Alfresco DevCon. Last year DevCon was in New York and Paris. We’re starting to plan for this year’s DevCon. We’re still finalizing cities and dates and I’ll let you know when that happens.

The events I’ve listed so far are completely driven by Alfresco. But there are several groups around the world that get together and talk about Alfresco on their own. These are grassroots, locally-organized meetups. Some meet more regularly than others. Some are a handful of people getting together for an informal happy hour while others are large groups with formal agendas, name tags, and everything.

In addition to these locally-run meetups, in the past, Alfresco has conducted “Community Meetups” that were really more like mini-conferences that happened in multiple geographies. These were fun and informative events, but they can’t happen with the frequency and scale that locally-driven meetups can.

Going forward, I’d like you, the community, to drive local meetups. And I’d like to see these happening more frequently, in more parts of the globe, for technical and non-technical audiences regardless of the Alfresco product they use. I want more people to feel that sense of family that I feel when I walk into a room full of people who share the same hopes, joys, and frustrations with Alfresco.

Local Alfresco communities should be driven by the local community

In short, I don’t want Alfresco to own, control, or constrain local Alfresco communities in any way. Ideally, anywhere there are two or more people that care about Alfresco, a local meet-up would form and those people would get together fairly regularly and, hopefully, grow to include others over time.

Alfresco’s role is to foster and support these local communities. I think we can add value in the following ways:

  • Alfresco can serve as a “connector”, matching up groups of interested community members with people willing to organize the local community
  • Alfresco can supply presentation content and, in some cases, people to deliver it in-person
  • Alfresco can help promote your meetup and drive attendance
  • Alfresco can support communities with Alfresco-branded giveaways and other small incentives

What we lack is the hyper-local perspective into the topics the local community is most interested in, the ability to know all of the cool projects going on in your area, and the feet on the ground to make every meeting a success. That’s where you come in. Local community events shouldn’t be driven by Alfresco’s Marketing team–they should be driven by you, the community, and Alfresco will do everything we can to support you.

So, as part of this, I’ve been reaching out to various communities around the world. If they haven’t met in a while, I’m encouraging them to get together, even if it is an informal meet-and-greet. If it is a group that was just thinking about getting together, I’m asking them to take that first step. And, if it is a group that has been meeting a while, I’m asking what, if anything, you need from me to keep it going.

How can you get involved?

This wiki page is the master list of existing local communities we know about as well as communities that people are interested in forming. If you are participating in a local community or are interested in forming one and that’s not reflected on the list, please update the wiki page.

Take the first step

If you are lucky enough to live near an established community, sign up and attend. If there isn’t a meeting happening any time soon ask the innocent question, “Why isn’t there a meeting happening any time soon?”. Maybe you’ll be the spark that gets it going again.

If you want to organize a meetup, it’s pretty easy. Decide on a time and a place, then let everyone know about it. You can use sites like Meetup.com or Google Groups to facilitate sign-up and collaboration, but that’s not a requirement.

If there isn’t a meetup already organized near you and you’d like to find out if others are interested, go to http://www.meetup.com/Alfresco, search for your city, and add your name to the list.

Decide where to take it from here

That first meeting doesn’t have to be a big production. It isn’t much work to get together and talk about what you are doing with Alfresco. While you’re talking, you may want to:

  • Set a focus. Is the goal to network, to learn from others, or something more specific? For example, I have been talking to multiple communities about organizing Alfresco-focused hack-a-thons/code sprints that would have a goal of creating new or contributing to existing Alfresco community projects.
  • Decide how often you want to get together. Meet too often and you’ll burn out the group. Don’t meet often enough and your group will lose interest. Somewhere in the neighborhood of monthly or quarterly is probably best.
  • Decide on an agenda for future meetings (or whether to have an agenda at all). You might have an end-user focused group that discusses tips/tricks for using the product and walks through case studies. Or, you might have a more technical group that dives into the details of a different part of the platform each meeting.
  • Establish ground rules. Maybe for your group, the rules are there are no rules. Or maybe a couple of common sense ground rules would help. It depends on the focus you’ve set. For example, you might want to ban blatant sales pitches and recruiters.
  • Pick an organizer. Someone needs to be on point for reminding the group about upcoming meetings. If you’ve decided on a more formal sort of group, that person will also need to facilitate setting the agenda and find people to speak. I’d recommend rotating this responsibility every 3 to 6 months, but you can decide.

Keep me posted

If you get a meetup going I want to know about it so I can support your group in the ways I’ve outlined above. Who knows, maybe I’ll even show up in person at one of your meetings.

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