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I've been a tinkerer of tech and programming, but books and online resources only go so far. I want a community to engage in discussions about programming to take me beyond what books can give (also, often just to explain what the books are trying to convey). No one in my daily life is very tech-inclined in the slightest, so where do I go?

Are online communities enough for you programmers out there? If not, where do you go, or recommend going?

(specifically, I'm interested in C++, Linux, Python, & Objective-C, but that may not apply to the question)

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3 Answers

There are a lot of great internet meeting places out there -- you can start hanging out in the IRC channels for some of your favorite applications, operating system(s), and programming languages.

Bright and helpful people notice other bright and helpful people, so it doesn't take too much to start expanding your coding social circle from there. Mailing lists, issue queues, etc. are great for getting things done, but lack the social aspect of IRC where you end up randomly picking people's brains.

Of course, on-line isn't enough for me and so I have a few other places I go. Here are a few ideas:

  • Local user groups - For example, near me is a Calgary .Net user group that can be handy for networking as well as seeing what is up and coming in the .Net world.

  • Meetup groups - A bit broader of a category but sometimes can work as there may be specific groups such as for those focused in ERP or CMS work. There can also be more general groups for geeks or technophiles that works well too.

  • Local colleges and universities - There may be Computer Science Clubs or other groups that may be where some with an interest in programming could be found.

  • Look for signs at local bulletin boards - This kind of ties into the previous one to some degree but I could picture in some rare cases where people may post signs about an event that may be of interest to you.

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One other thing you might try is getting involved with an open source project you're interested in. Pick your favorite Linux distribution or open source package, and see if you might be able to lend a hand. Some quick ideas:

Debian - How you can join
Gentoo Linux Staffing Needs

You'll notice that a lot of projects don't require you to be a pro developer to join. You just need to have an interest and jump in. You can learn as you go and try your hand at different tasks as your skills progress.

Edit: I mention Gentoo specifically because it is a Linux distribution which has a Python-based package manager at its core. That covers two of your bases right there!

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You could check Meetup.com for groups in your area. As far as Python goes there are a lot of local user groups: http://wiki.python.org/moin/LocalUserGroups. Also try going to conventions, or other events. You just missed the US PyCon, but EuroPython is at the end of June. I went to a Startup Weekend recently, and met some interesting people there.

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