Suggested topics and directions for next year

A lot of user group managers have said to me in the past that setting an agenda early is a key to making user groups more useful to their members. With this in mind I’d like to start a discussion regarding the topics/formats for next year.

One thing that will need to change is the mix of presenters. In the past it has been almost entirely up to regulars like Geoff, Andrew and me to prepare a long, hopefully interesting presentation for the group. In my own case this was easier when I was working for Macromedia, but after I started RocketBoots I found that I just didn’t have the time to spend 1-2 days a month preparing a presentation. This, combined with the uncertainty over the venue, has been a contributing factor to the lack of meetings this year. We really need more presenters, or to change the format to make it a less onerous task to prepare for a meeting.

Some ideas for different formats:

  • Study groups, e.g. tonight is “lets all install Reactor and try it out” night. Chris Velevitch has been trying this with the Flash group.
  • Code reviews: A panel discusses a real application with the developer and offers free advice.
  • Mixing canned presentations in with the live ones. Darren Tracy does this a lot at Queensland CFUG.
  • Plain social gatherings – a lot of people say that the networking aspect of the group is important.
  • Paid presenters – spending time preparing for a complex training style presentation etc is perfectly viable if presenters or trainers can be compensated for their preparation time.
  • Paintball, go-carts or other weekend, paid for activities. Should we have some activities that partners or family could attend (that’s the 30something coming out in me)?
  • Meetings targeted at non-CF developers to evangelise the product and get/train more developers (there is a complete shortage of CF skills in Sydney and elsewhere at present).
  • Trade/carreer shows, attending other conferences or user groups?
  • Tours, e.g. RocketBoots attempted MAX tour this year?
  • Working on projects together for charity on an ongoing basis.
  • What other ways could we use this site? We can have up to 35 logins without paying extra, so what wiki-like possibilities are there? Putting up files and slides from recent meetings is just the start.

Further to the actual format are the topics people would like to cover. Here are more suggestions:

  • New releases of ColdFusion
  • Framework/tool reviews: ColdSpring, Reactor, Rails, MG Unity
  • Recruitment, training developers
  • Show and tell (I don’t know what it will take to get some other people to show off their projects)

Then there is the venue question. Christmas drinks are sorted, I was wondering though how people would find meeting in Chatswood (the Adobe office) or if that is just too far (and before we get too many disgruntled “you’re kidding”s from the West, can I point out that in 2005 we went to a fair amount of trouble to arrange a westerly venue and the response wasn’t so good).

Lastly a little pep talk. It’s in all our interests to have an active ColdFusion user group in Sydney, particularly if we care going to find more ColdFusion developers. There is a real shortage of all developers – I heard last month that the intake for Sydney University IT is now the lowest it has been since the 1970s. If we want more developers we need a positive, supportive community to attract and keep people involved with the ColdFusion platform. If we aren’t proactive in this, eventually our business and our job security will suffer, and even worse there will be developers out there who haven’t had the joy of working with a great, RAD scripting language.

We need your help. It’s not up to Adobe and a few of us to make all this happen – we all have to get CF civic-minded, chip in and help. Even a few hours a year from each of us, or just making more of an effort to attend meetings and welcome new members, is a big help. Your first task as a community memeber is to have a think about this post and give us some feedback about what you want to see this year.

Thanks,

Robin

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