What constitutes community?

Since I’ve been here in Montreal I’ve had the opportunity to interact with the leaders of the other User Groups in Canada. Without exception they are saying that my description of the Edmonton .NET User Group‘s first meeting indicates that there is a strong and thriving developer community in Edmonton.

One of the things that was a point of numerous discussions prior to the first meeting of Edmug was the idea of success vs. failure and what metrics drove the idea. Eventually we decided that success or failure was easiest measured based on attendance. Some of the discussions I’ve had here have led me to believe that the satisfaction level of the feedback provided at the end of the meetings is an important part of the metric. I’m now endorsing the idea of pure attendance numbers plus feedback satisfaction levels as the measure of success or failure.

Attendance metrics are easy to analyze. Compare the number of actual attendees at a meeting against the high and low values that you have predetermined as your expectations.

The feedback satisfaction component is a more difficult value to measure. Most User Groups gather satisfaction performance by getting the attendees to fill out forms that are handed in at the end of the meeting. The difficulty arises with the question of how to include this data in your analysis. If you average the data how much weight does it have in the success/failure analysis? Is it 50% of the decision or is it larger? Maybe it’s a smaller value?

I’m a firm believer in having easy and consistent metrics. First they have to be easy or we (User Group Leaders) won’t take the time to measure them. They also have to be consistent or we won’t be able to compare events.

In combination with the success/failure metric, performing these measurements will also help to boost the moral of the people organizing the events. Any feedback is good feedback. The key is ensuring that the organizers concentrate on the constructive comments and ignore the destructive ones. You will never make all the people happy all of the time. You just have to know that you are succeeding in making, and keeping, your target group of people happy as often as possible. Seeing, hearing and knowing this is one of the keys to stopping the organizers from burning out.

I’m the Igloo Coder and I’ve been surprised by the number of Mad Mexicans that are in Montreal.