As you probably know we had our first meeting in the Aarhus .NET Usergroup last wednesday. I wanted to get the summary out earlier but unfortunately customer meetings got in the way. A couple of accounts of the meeting has already been posted, one by Jeppe Rørbæk from Microsoft (with pics), another one by Morten Vadstrup of Host Nordic who was kind enough to arrange a place for the meeting at the offices of Dynamic Web, and finally a short one from Klaus Hebsgaard.
I wanted to help Morten out with setting the place up for the meeting so I arrived early at Dynamic Web, luckily for me Morten and Morten had already done all the work which left me looking good without actually having to do anything :) Actually that's not entirely true as Marten asked me to handle the agenda since I was the one who proposed it.
We had quite a turnout with a total of 15 people attending. The number was perfect as our game plan for the evening was to establish the ground for the usergroup: What content to offer, what format to offer it in, membership, and so forth.
After a brief presentation of myself and the agenda we went around the table and got everybody introduced. I'm very pleased with the breadth of people who turned up, both professionally and technically.
We had people working with system administration, provisioning, C#, VB, Web, WinForms, CMS, SAP, and even one person looking into game development using XNA. XNA in particular was something people were instantly interested in hearing more about, much to the surprise of the person in question :) No doubt about the fact that we should have a presentation on XNA at a future meeting. A couple of students had also found their way to the first meeting which is great. No doubt that a usergroup is a great asset to them in particular as it gives them access to not only great knowledge but also to industry contacts which they can leverage come graduation. For those of us already in the business of software it's a great opportunity to meet the next generation of software developers and single out potential hires :)
In short we had people working with almost every aspect of .NET with all levels of experience which brought us to the next question: Technical level of the content. The consensus was that we would try and find something for everybody and that we would encourage everybody to take part in doing presentations. As one person pointed out nobody is an expert in all areas of .NET so even if you only have limited experience on a given topic you would still be able to provide value for people not familiar with that particular topic. In short we'll try to avoid a RTFM culture and try to create an environment which provides something for everybody.
Next up: Brainstorming about concrete topic people would like to see presentations on. My goal here was to walk away with something for the next meetings and boy did we ever cover a lot of topics! We had a whiteboard available for the seance and by the end of the session we had the entire whiteboard covered in topics. At the end I had difficulty even finding space for new stuff. Basically we're going to dig into all areas of .NET and in the future we might even take a look at some stuff not related to .NET. For now though we have more than enough: Check out the picture I took of the whiteboard in case of doubt :) Of course topics such as Orcas, LINQ, Silverlight, and other upcoming stuff were mentioned again and again so we need to do something in those areas. Jeppe mentioned that he would be able to come up with people on various topics such as unit testing (Mark Seemann), ORM (Morten Mertner), and Team Foundation (Martin Pamdeth). I mentioned that I'd like to see that bulk of the content created by the group itself to get it going but we'll see how we end up doing it.
Three people elected to come up with presentations for the next meeting: Jeppe Rørbæk, Klaus Hebsgaard, and myself.
With a very nice discussion on topics and level of presentations done we moved on to the physical aspect of the usergroup: Where should the meetings be held? The same place every time, in alternating locations, or something else entirely? Everybody were pretty much in agreement that doing a round robin between the offices of our respective companies would be preferrable because we'd get to see how other people have chosen to set up their shop. I personally like the idea of doing a round robin approach in spite of the fact of the additional planning required. The fact of the matter is that we all get an opportunity to be inspired and maybe start doing things in a better way by seeing what others have done. So we decided on giving the round robin model a go while keeping a couple of places as backup should all else fail. Jeppe ensured us that he would be willing to help us out by finding speakers on particular topics.
On a very cool note I had proposed that we should try and work something out for a informational web site but that had already been taken care of by Morten on beforehand. He launched our web site at http://aarhus.activedeveloper.dk a couple of days before the actual first meeting. It's a great example of the energy and entusiasm surrounding the meeting. When I asked if anyone would be interested in doing a presentation most put up their hand. I expected about 5 but got double that which bodes well for the future I'd say.
We needed some way of easily planning meetings which is why I came up with the idea of meeting the last Wednesday of the month at 19:00. We did not schedule the next meeting because of summer vacations which are sure to conflict with the group. In hindsight we could probably have chosen a better time to start this thing :) Keep your eyes peeled at the usergroup web site for information about the next meeting. We had a brief discussion about the particular day of the week and which time. Some wanted the meeting to start later, some earlier. For me personally 19:00 suits me just fine as I have to hang out until the meetings start and you never know how long they will go on for. We didn't decide on a particular length of each meeting but I feel that 2 - 3 hours is as good a place as any to start out which leads us on to the format of the meetings.
Basically we would like to have a presentation which can act as a base for further discussion, maybe a couple each time depending on how long we can keep a single topic interesting. We definitely need to play around with length and number until we find something that works. Someone came up with the concept of the "Nut Cracker" ("Nøddeknækkeren"); the idea here is to have people present problems they're facing and others will try to help them out. Also Jeppe suggest that we should try and build some actual useful code which sounds great in theory and it's certainly something we should try and do but in reality I'm concerned that it might be a tad too unmanageble. I would encourage people to try and come up with ideas for implementations based on the topic of their particular presentations. Additionaly we could put a Subversion server online for the group to play around with.
As the last order of business we decided to elect a number of core responsible people who will make sure that the meeting are arranged and that we have speakers for the topics people want to hear about. I was a bit afraid that no one would volunteer but in the end 5 people including myself volunteered for the job. Again a nice sign that we have something special going on here. The core responsible are: Morten Vadstrup, Peter Loft Jensen, Lars Buch-Jepsen, Brian Holmgård Kristensen, and Søren Spelling Lund. We had a short meeting at Vertica before we went to the meeting to discuss what we could do ourselves to get this thing rolling; one of the things was to actively participate in the group and that's just what we did as Lars and Brian are colleagues of mine. Also Vertica is ready to support the group should it be needed.
Finally I would like to thank everybody who showed up for the meeting and for the very active participation in the discussion. Also thanks to Morten Vadstrup for arranging a place for us to hold the meeting and organizing a web site for the group. Of course thanks to Dynamic Web for allowing us to use their offices for the meeting.
Sorry about the longest post since TechEd :)
The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent
my employer's view in any way.