Driving the Social Software Movement in the Twin Cities

My last article, “Taking Software Social in Minnesota“,  covered local groups banding together to connect and collaborate over software. How are these groups driven and what is it like to lead one of these groups?

Minneapolis Skyline

Downtown Minneapolis (via l’interdit/Flickr)

Facilitators from a couple of local independent tech groups, Joel Miller of AngularMN and Kevin Whinnery of JavaScriptMN, were kind enough to provide some insight into what their groups are about.

Chris Meyer (TCG): What draws members to a group?

A commonality between the two groups is focus. People are drawn to these groups because they seek to gain knowledge in a particular skillset.

Joel Miller:  AngularMN meetings consistently contain discussions about Angular hot topics and members have the opportunity to share their Angular projects. Members can bring burning questions to the meetup and there’s always someone with a creative answer or solution. On top of all that, we always have a great time.

Kevin Whinnery: JavaScriptMN appeals to a broad audience because JavaScript is one of the most broadly useful programming language in service today. JavaScript code can run in browsers, mobile apps, servers, embedded devices, databases—if you wanted, you could write almost any kind of application software in JavaScript these days.

TCG: How have members benefited from being a part of the group?

Arguably, the greatest benefits of being a member of one of these groups is personal growth and networking. Members benefit by hearing experienced speakers discuss topics directly related to their field, as well as network with other members of the technology community. Joel noted that meetings give members an opportunity to hone their presenting skills and get valuable feedback on their work.

TCG: How have members given back to a group?

The members are the lifeblood of every group. They give back by being contributing members of the community; giving lightning talks, providing discussions through forums or mailing lists, and helping others solve coding problems they have brought to the group.

TCG: What is the typical interaction style of a group?

Meetings of tech groups typically focus on presentations, many opening with “lightning talks”—brief presentations about very specific topics. Some tech groups like AngularMN and JavaScriptMN host “hack nights”, which are events in which members break off into more focused groups to work on projects. These projects involve solving coding problems, contributing to open source projects, or any other project each group sees fit.

TCG: Do groups host or participate in community events?

Some groups have extended beyond their regular meetings.

Joel: AngularMN traditionally hasn’t hosted events but in 2015 we are looking into other hosting opportunities like ‘ng-extended’, which is a remote viewing party for ‘ng-conf’, an AngularJS conference. JavaScriptMN also does not usually host events, but many of its members are active in the community by helping with local events and organizations like Minne*, Geekettes, Open Twin Cities, and Coder Dojo.

Kevin noted that JavaScriptMN played a key role in bringing the Joyent’s Node on the Road event to Minneapolis.

Kevin: The group and TJ (Node project lead) was instrumental to the Cities for that rare opportunity. We also had Bert Belder of the Node core team present at one of our meetings, giving people in the community a chance to interact with these open source leaders. I think this is a solid service we’ve provided as a group.

TCG: Where do the speakers for sessions come from?

Speakers are usually people just like you! Finding a speaker for a particular topic can be a difficult task, so it’s a good thing there is a bounty of local tech knowledge. AngularMN and JavaScriptMN get presenters from a variety of places through a “call for presenters” on the web and in person at meetings. This has drawn in the majority of its speakers. The groups have also invited local and out-of-state professionals to come speak at meetings, providing valuable insight into real-world applications of the field. Speakers usually can present any topic, as long as it is relevant to the group.

TCG: What if I can’t make it in person?

Making it to meetings can be difficult, if not impossible, for some. Thankfully, some groups provide a live feed so members can participate remotely.

AngularMN makes their meetings is available on the AngularMN YouTube channel. The broadcast is shared at the beginning of every meeting via the AnuglarMN Meetup page and @AngularMN on Twitter.

JavaScriptMN has its own Twitter (@JavaScriptMN) and hopes to provide a similar service this year. Kevin mentioned one instance where Google Hangouts was used to bring in a small group from Argentina to participate in a discussion.

TCG: What does the future look like for these groups?

Joel and Kevin indicated that their groups will continue to move forward, providing great content, insightful speakers, an inviting atmosphere and friendly people.

If you’ve found this inspiring but haven’t found a group that fits you, then you may want to consider starting one of your own. There’s a good chance that you’ll attract some like-minded locals who would love to be a part of it.

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  1. By willbuck

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