Met with Tom and Rob yesterday evening at Timothy Patrick’s – an Irish pub, appropriate no? – to brainstorm on how to grow the Rochester Java User Group. How to get on average a larger turnout at the meetings, how to attract more members.
Over the last year or so we did manage to attract quite good speakers – James Gosling, Ted Leung, Neal Gafter, Brain Leonard and others. But the size of the audience could have been better for these speakers and topics. So we’re going to try a number of things to see if we can change this.
One approach is to broaden how we reach out and connect to the membership. Currently the main avenue is the web site and the mailing list. We’re going to try some of the social networking places like LinkedIn and Twitter to give potential interested developers more ways to find us and to communicate with us. The mailing list is mainly one directional, a LinkedIn group gives the possibility for a member to start discussions. And the web site could do with a refresh.
Getting good speakers is one thing, making sure speakers cover topics that match the local interest is at least as important. To that end we’re going to hook up with local companies doing Java development and talk to them about what value RJUG could provide to their developers. In this vein, we do get regular participation from RIT (one or two of the professors, a few students) but not much if any from UfoR (maybe because the meeting is at RIT?), and so an action item for me to go talk to the faculty there.
In addition to learning about new Java technologies the user group is seen as a place for networking. While our meetings aren’t specifically geared towards that, we do have a social aspect attached to each meeting: those interested go to McGregor’s (aka Conference Room M) afterwards just ti chat. Something we don’t really advertise in the meeting announcements (ie you have to have been to a meeting to know about it).
During the summer months it is always hard to get people into a conference room in the evening. Thus far this meant we don’t have meetings then because of the very low turn out. Perhaps during that time of year we solely focus on the networking aspect at a nice beet garden and forego the formal part.
In good silicon valley style we decided that we need a logo and a t-shirt. Now, Duke was open sourced under a BSD license, so no hurdles to our creative skills!