I Already Know the Problems! Where’s the Solutions!?

I got an email later today from Franky, telling me that the Microsoft Developer Show was back on TPN, and that their re-entry show was titled, User Groups R Us!.

Now lately I've been working with a couple of new public technical communities, and some customers who are forming their own Internal Technical Communities, and I've spent most of that time working on some lessons learnt style strategies on how to start, grow and sustain a new or existing technical community. When I caught wind of the podcast Nick, Athena and Adam were doing I thought, "Unreal, I wander what insights and innovative ideas they have towards this very tough topic!".

To say I was disappointed was to put it lightly! But before I fire up the Bunsen, let me put some context around this.

I'm a big fan of blogs... except the ones that offer zero value. And my measure of value is either and or either passionate opinion, surgical insight, or clever humor. I hate reading the ego blogs, or the "I'm so anti-establishment I want to eat my own Evisu jeans!" blogs, or the fine whine blogs, you know, otherwise known as the bogs! And the same holds true with podcasts.

So when I took 45 or so minutes out of my day today, to listen to the podcast, I was expecting three well versed, well experienced user group leaders to:

  • Offer insight into how to start, maintain, grow a technical community
  • Describe how others could start a user group and what resources where available
  • Provide some best practice advice on how to develop content and culture speakers

Instead what I copped was 45+ minutes of retrospective chin rubbing, eyes-north brow furrowing, and in some cases, complete speculation on how Microsoft runs their technical community engagement strategy (which for those who listened and know the shot, realized how wrong some of the info in the podcast was) with no real substantive supporting info.

Now the first thing most people will be thinking is, "What the deuce! Has Lempho gone Randle!? Isn't he paid to shake the pom poms at all community activity!?". Well, not really. I'm paid to be a Developer Evangelist, and I'm also responsible for working with technical communities to kick buttuci! But part of that is looking to the elders of the game to step forward and come up with new ways to improve things. New ways to change the game! Every time I see someone with some experience looking backwards and rubbing their chin, I think, who's looking forward? Who's looking for ways to maneuver and improve the status quo!?

And why am I getting all hot and Nacho about this? Well, the topic of user groups a.k.a technical communities a.k.a Miguel Sanchez a.k.a Dr. Nyugen Van Falk, is very dear to my heart. And after realizing over the past 18 months how really hard it is to start, run and make successful a user/technical group can be, hearing all the boo hoo just makes me want to do the locomotion! I mean no one ever sets out to screw the pooch, but no plan is fool proof! Or I'd be capable of flight and time travel!

Fact of the matter is, we could all spend a lot of time wandering why things didn't quite work out the way we had hoped in retrospect, or we can lead a revolution completely to our liking! One approach is easy, the other is damn hard! And no, this is not a metaphor for why Coatesy, Chuck and I didn't get the chance to share a bed at CodeCamp last year!

Comments (14)

  1. Athena says:

    Sorry to hear that you didn’t believe the podcast offered much value. If you(or anyone else)have specific questions regarding running user groups I’m more than happy to share my experiences with you/them.

    Here’s some quick offerings of how to start/maintain a technical community:

    -It’s easier when you have the backing of a company and you’re not doing it alone

    -Understand your community (where they work, what their aims are for attending, etc)

    -Offer members support that they woudn’t otherwise receive

    -Have a range of speakers

    -Listen/respond to members requests

    -Make registration to attend EASY (this is more important than most realise)

    -Don’t sell (the aim is sharing knowledge not selling)

    Where to go to start a UG? Well Microsoft of course. Speak to the assigned ITPro Evang or Dev Evang for their area. Then I’d recommend seeing if there’s any community interest by attending other MS events in the area and talking to delegates. They’ll generally swap business cards if they’re interested.

    How to develop content and culture speakers?

    Speakers usually develop their content. It’s not something I get invoived in. However it’s a must that the topic is relevant to the group and that the speaker is knowledgable. Most speakers we get have presented at Tech-Ed’s in the past or are local specialists in their field.

    cheers – Athena


  2. Rob Farley says:


    We all know podcasts are just the fews of the presenters as they see them. It’s not gospel.

    As per Athena’s comment, if someone wants to know about the value of user-groups and what they can do, feel free to send them my way.

    And… what do you see the problems as? I mean, the problems that I have running a SQL group in Adelaide would be very different to, say, Adam running a .Net group in Sydney.


  3. This could be a comment on Dave’s blog but I would not want to put this much comment spam out there,

  4. Thomas says:

    Weird…you linked to my blog. Double weird – I actually know and care.



  5. Brian Madsen says:

    burn baby burn!!!…

    Well, David…at least you’re being honest which i suppose can be appreciated once the flames have died down.

    i think it’s an excellent opportunity for you, as an evangelist, and TPN to maybe start up a dialog on where improvements could be introduced.

    i’ve not been able to download any of the podcasts (which was a bit of a nuisance) so can’t comment on any of them yet but now that the fire’s been stirred i’m certain that i’ll absolutely have to have a listen.

  6. Cameron Reilly says:

    You know what I hate more than bloggers that just whine? Bloggers than whine about the whiners!

    Nice rant Dave but…. NO SOLUTIONS! If you are going to rant, on your blog, about the evils of someone not providing solutions on a blog/podcast, shouldn’t you… like… provide a solution instead of just ranting about the ranters?

  7. Brian Madsen says:

    what about bloggers that whine about bloggers that whine?

    no throwing stones people…

  8. Tom says:

    wondering – not wandering. (and wonder, not wander) unless you really are meandering about on foot, possibly even lonely as a cloud 🙂

  9. This could be a comment on Dave's blog but I would not want to put this much comment spam out there,

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