Whether you are working in the field of Internet Technology (IT) since a long time or you just started your studies in Computer Science recently, at some point in time you might have the urge to meet and exchange with other like-minded people. Communities and user groups are surely the way to go and most likely there is an active user group already not far from you. Although user groups are not new concepts it was a bit surprising for me that discover the lack of an active community here in Mauritius - I mean active ones. According to some search queries on Google you can easily find relicts of previously existing user groups; but unfortunately most of them aren't active anymore.
While having a closer look at the search results and with the experience I gained during earlier years as a member of various communities and even being responsible to organise monthly meetings for more than two years, I finally decided that Mauritius should have a vital and thriving IT community again. No offense towards the other existing ones but as said, they were either long forgotten and abandonded or acted very dormant in some remote corner of the island. Anyway, back in May 2013 I started to organise myself a little bit and officially announced the existence of the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community, or short: MSCC, on various social media channels.
What is the MSCC?
Let me quote the official "About Us" statement from our official site:
"This is a community for those who care and are proud of what they do. For those developers, regardless how experienced they are, who want to improve and master their craft.
This is a community for those who believe that being average is just not good enough."
Having the chance to exchange experience and to discuss certain aspects of technology saves you time and money, and it's a pleasure to enjoy. Compared to dusty books and remote online resources. It's about humans!
Elements of a successful community
Within less than 1.5 years the number of registered craftsmen in our community reached 200+ members. The MSCC is now the largest IT community in Mauritius, maybe even in the region of Indian Ocean but there are have been a couple of techniques to make this happen. Following I would like to describe some key indicators that helped to thrive this user group. Of course, the list is not complete and they are surely more aspects in play to achieve this goal; at least it might be some starting point for others.
Regular dates, easy accessible locations (and stick to it)
Trust me, especially at the beginning it might be frustrating and discouraging. The first two or three meetups, I was sitting on my own at a local bistro and couldn't talk to anyone else about my current struggles in coding or about discussing some vital ideas with someone else. Be persistent! It takes time that other people in your area take note and they also have to see whether they can arrange their schedule to come and visit. The MSCC has currently two schedules:
- The weekly Code & Coffee session every Wednesday morning
- The monthly topic during the last Saturday of a month
Of course, you don't to have to stick to this one but at least focus on regular, easy to remember dates, ie. third Monday evening, or similar.
Organise topic-specific events and give away SWAG
During the weekly meetings we usually exchange about recent news in the IT scene, talk about various ideas and technologies and sometimes put our heads together to work out an issue a craftsmen brought on that day. Personally, I'm enjoying the time out of office, and for a good number of times I got great hints from others and was able to improve my daily routine and productivity. You would be surprised about how much a short personal chat with someone else could help you to get better on your job.
Our monthly meetups are usually centered around a specific topic, and most of the time it is other community members that share there experience in a certain field with all the other attendees. Usually, we choose two sessions of approximately 45 to 60 minutes and then have a nice Q & A session afterwa
Active contribution to social media channels
Creating awareness of the community and keeping an open communication channels for announcements and exchange between members is very important. The MSCC is present on all major social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn. In case that this might take too much of time, there are multiple tools on the market that allow simultaneous posting to all of those platforms. Your user group members have different taste and preferences, so don't miss the chance to be present for all of them.
Engage with members and ask for assistance
An IT community is about latest news in technology, IT-related promotions and other cool things that are worth sharing and discussing. Again be persistent and post interesting information through the social media platforms, retweet, share postings and be an attractive source for your members. Even though there are endless numbers of news publications don't be afraid to collect some good ones and redistribute them through the user group.
In general, it might be also interesting to engage some selected group members to assist you. Especially, about publication of news and promotional offers. Engage, encourage, share the load and have great fun together.
Also, in terms of work related scenarios it's great to have some vital communication among user group attendees. The number of project offers, requests for some freelancing work and consulting activities has constantly increased between our members. The networking sessions during our monthly meetups are highly appreciated by the MSCC craftsmen as they offer the chance to get in touch with skilled people. Someone might be looking for a job while another attendee is desperately looking for talent to fill an open position.
Work together with other communities
Do not distinguish or isolate yourself from other IT communities. No, quite the opposite: Embrace their activities, learn from each and other maybe even organise common events. Despite the short period of existence of the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community there are positive connections to several other user groups here in Mauritius. Most interestingly, the MSCC acted somehow as a catalyst or igniter for them. Back in 2013 the local Linux user group - LUGM - was kind of dormant with very low profile and irregular get-togethers. A bit inspired by the our communities activities the LUGM experienced a wave of new motivation. There have been several Linuxfest events since then, and future events are planned together. Another example is the newly founded chapter of Startup Grind in Mauritius. The founder is one of the MSCC craftsmen with great ideas and ambitions in the field of entrepreneurship. You see, communication and networking are essential to keep an IT community like the MSCC prospering.
Your future looks bright
Running and participating in a user group or any kind of community usually provides quite a number of advantages for anyone. On the one side it is very joyful for me to organise appointments and get in touch with people that might be interested to present a little demo of their projects or their recent problems they had to tackle down, and on the other side there are lots of companies that have various support programs or sponsorship especially tailored for user groups. Don't be shy! Contact them and ask for gimmicks that you could hand out in small contests or raffles during one of the upcoming meetings. Usually those companies provide all kind of goodies, books free of charge, or sometimes even licenses for communities.
Meeting other software developers or IT guys also opens up your point of view on the local market and there might be interesting projects or job offers available, too. A community like the Mauritius Software Craftsmanship Community is great for freelancers, self-employed, students and of course employees. Meetings will be organised on a regular basis, and I'm open to all kind of suggestions from you.
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