When I started this job about a year and a half ago, I didn't know much about user groups and community. I was aware of the NJ MS Developer Group that met in the local Microsoft office only because it was run by some of my fellow MCS consultants. I figured it was a good customer service initiative Microsoft was leading to help folks learn about its developer technologies.
When I took the Developer Evangelist role at Microsoft, I learned that one of my main responsibilities would be to support the local .NET developer community and area user groups. I quickly learned that there were many .NET user groups that met throughout the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania area. I also learned that these groups are led by a set of dedicated people who are passionate about technology and excited to share that passion with their fellow developers.
My first thought upon learning this was, "Why are these folks doing this? What's in it for them?" The folks from MCS who led the NJ group, while passionate about the technology, did so more or less as part of their jobs. But these other community leaders appeared to be doing it in their own spare time!
Over the past year or so, as I've gotten to know most of these folks, I've come to understand what drives most of them to be leaders in the developer community. There's a whole slew of reasons, and I'll tell you that money is not one of them! While passion about the technology is prime, I came across this article from Paul Kimmel yesterday that sums up nicely what's in it for him. Paul is one of the leaders of a .NET user group in Michigan, GLUGnet.
Read Paul's article on "Exploring the Value of .NET User Groups".
I'd like to think most folks who attend user groups get similar value out of them. In my efforts to help support the developer community, I'm always looking for ways we can improve the user group experience and provide more value to people who go out of their way to attend after work.
So what say you?
If you do attend a user group regularly already, what's in it for you? Why do you choose to travel to the monthly meetings after work and get home late? What would make the user group you attend even better?
If you don't currently attend any user groups, what would make you interested in trying one out? Is it the topics? Location? Meeting time? Free schwag that many groups usually give out?
Each month, I try to list out what's going on at each of the user groups in the NYC, NJ, and eastern Pennsylvania areas here on this blog. Does that information provide value?
Speak out and let me know! Leave a comment on this post, or send me an e-mail via the blog.