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Have you ever seen a successful technical community -- e.g. user group, industry organization?

Am I asking about a group of software engineers who get together F2F (or maybe online) and discuss technical and industry issues with deep zeal and interest -- a place where meaningful connections are made.

Here are the only examples I have ever seen:

  • Open source
  • Maybe the Silicon Valley Java Users' Group
  • Homebrew Computing Club in the '70's

This sort of thing does exist in academia.

Also, business people do it all the time -- but networking is part of their job.

Of course, there are lots of conferences and attempts at user's groups. However, almost all committed, serious software engineers, when asked about this, say "I don't have the time", which means that the organizations are not worthwhile to the best in our profession.

Has anyone seen any organizations with an ongoing spirit of enthusiasm from top software engineers?

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For a lot of developers this is just another job. (I have to admit I was shocked by this at the time.) And those of us who do take it more seriously, can rarely afford to specialize in a single subject the way people can in many other areas. –  biziclop Jan 30 '11 at 21:03

5 Answers 5

RFC's in various standards committees tend to strike quite a bit of debate and intelligent discussions. This goes for programming languages, protocols or anything else that gets canonized into a standard.

ISO and POSIX are two that I can think of that bring quite a bit of enthusiasm. The single UNIX specification was an amazing feat, given the highly competitive circumstances at the time.

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I consider ISO and similar meetings to be "just part of the job." They are driven by needs of the employer and are not networking and mutual learning opportunities driven by the professional needs of a given engineer. However, "open source" protocols as in IETF may be an exception. –  Joshua Fox Sep 18 '11 at 8:56

The Design Patterns movement included many discussion groups all over the world, such as the Silicon Valley Pattern Users Group, members of which I seem to remember having been referred to in the Acknowledgments section of several books on the subject. However, I couldn't find any living reference to this group, also most of the homepages of other similar groups show that they are extinct. The only such group I found apparently still alive is the Melbourne Patterns Group.

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Thanks. There are lots of organizations over time, but few seem to be truly active, alive and vibrant. The Melbourne Patterns group has ongoing meetings, but does anyone know if it is vibrant, alive, and active? (This can be judged subjectively.) –  Joshua Fox Jan 30 '11 at 15:55

Some companies that sell software packages set-up user groups as part of there support mechanism. Providing the local users with a venue and some food and a deeper technical knowledge. Personally I know this for LabVIEW by National Instruments, on this meetings there are no sales persons but technical support most of the times sends some people in.

On LinkedIn there are a lot of groups that use the discussions section for the technical details.

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In which proprietary meetings or LinkedIn groups have you seen people get deeply interested in discussing interesting challenges on a serious, professional level? (I'm not saying that there aren't any -- just asking.) –  Joshua Fox Jan 31 '11 at 7:17

Google has started a network of users groups. Microsoft is trying the same.

Check out

http://www.gtugs.org/

From this link I think you can find a local group if one exists near you. They have around 350 groups in 95 countries, so your chances are pretty good. If not, they will help you start one.

Involvement seems to matter to Google because a few of our officers seem to have had an inside track to getting tickets to Google I/O pretty recently. Otherwise, they would have needed to fight it out for the conference when public registration opened, and then sold out a few minutes later.

Our local group has a Google groups page and a lot of people with G+. The group page has activity pretty much every week. It is helpful that we have Don Felker who wrote two of the Idiot's books (Idiot's Guide to Android Phone Programming and IG to Android Tablet...), so there is deep technical depth to call on if someone is stuck.

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Great! Are there ongoing face-to-face activities? –  Joshua Fox Aug 22 '12 at 7:35
    
Yes, between them, the groups have hundreds of events every month. The one I am involved with starts with free pizza and soft drinks, has a speaker with slides or a demo, then moves to a nearby watering hole for more continued discussions, often about how customers don't understand fixed price contracts or Agile. –  DeveloperDon Aug 22 '12 at 7:45

Two communities that come to mind are Start Up Weekend.

http://startupweekend.org/

which has events that span three days that are held all over the world (but only about once per year). Between past and planned events, they have done their boot camps about 1000 times.

And more local to where I am, but spreading with help from municipalities who want tech business development, a coworking space called GangPlank.

http://gangplankhq.com/

GangPlank offers for free:

  • Work spaces (mainly a table, WiFi, conference rooms, white boards).
  • Classes taught by volunteers on whatever (the site has video examples of some).
  • Mentoring for start ups, using graphics design tools, web dev with WordPress, marketing, etc.
  • Use of a 3D printer.
  • Guitar lessons? It is what participants want to make it.

It is pretty oriented toward web developers and designers, and occasionally has a bit of a counter-culture vibe, but it is a pretty good place to be around people who think outside the box.

Not sure where to find a list of all the GangPlank locations but I know they want to duplicate the concept as many places as possible. There are many coworking spaces, some free, some not.

If you are unfamiliar with coworking, check out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=le0dfcG_jVw

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Thanks, this sort of event at heart has a business motivation, though focused precisely on the sort of developer who wants to open a startup. Though that is important, my question was aimed more at "Java Users Group" or similar purely technical groups. –  Joshua Fox Aug 22 '12 at 14:14

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