Last night was the 100th MHVLUG meeting, which makes it a good time to reflect on a lot of things.
Good organizing is invisible, and takes a lot of energy.
Running a group like this for eight and a half years has truly made me appreciate a well run event, as I know how much work it takes. Good organizing, like good infrastructure, is invisible, which also makes it really easy to take for granted by people that have never had to do it themselves. Just like you only notice your plumbing when there is a leak, you only notice the effort required on an event when the equipment fails, or the speaker gets lost, or they turn off the power on your venue and you only find out about it 3 days in advance.
You must take 100% responsibility for the outcome.
Groups break down when no one takes responsibility for the whole. This doesn’t mean that you’ve got to do everything yourself (more on that in a second), but at the end of the day someone has to be responsible for the whole thing coming together. I’ve seen a lot of groups start to get dysfunctional when every one just sticks to their defined roles, and no one is interested in the whole.
Groups work really well when more than one person feels 100% responsible for making things work. Which is why I’m really happy with the officers we’ve now got with MHVLUG.
It’s too much work to do alone.
For a lot of years I was pretty much lone wolf in organizing MHVLUG, and it really started to burn me out. I wasn’t really enjoying it any more, and kind of lost it about a year ago on our mailing list. In the end, our incredible community stepped up, and a number of folks stepped forward into roles to help share the burden of MHVLUG organizing. The results have been fantastic!
Ben, Paul, and Joe have all been putting in great work this year to make things happen. Our attendance has gone from low 20s, to the low 30s at basically every meeting this year (we passed 40 at the Arduino meeting). That’s due to a combination of dedicated publicity, a really fresh and exciting list of programming, and activity on our website showing what we’ve done in the past. All really wonderful stuff. And all stuff that I just didn’t have the ability to handle when I was doing this on my own.
The power of this extra help can clearly be seen in the reaction to the venue change yesterday. On Monday we found out that Central Hudson was shutting off power to the street where our meeting takes place. I immediately sent out an email to our officers asking about options. Within an hour I was getting IMs from Ben that they were finalizing a new space at Marist. By the end of Monday afternoon we had the new space booked, Maps and directions on the website, and announcements out. Most of this was done by others, so I only needed to key an eye on things and make sure everything was coming together. It was all incredibly smooth. And even after the venue change, we had 30 folks at the meeting, something which would have been unheard of in the past.
Success breeds excitement, which breeds more success
I’m now more excited than ever about our group. This year has been simply amazing. It used to be that summer spots were largely dead air, and we were lucky if we had 18 people at a meeting in July or August. But now they are vibrant cutting edge presentation, that have massive engagement from the audience. Last night’s really excellent Scala talk by Ron Coleman had 30 people, and at least 10 members of the audience had questions or comments during the presentation. That level of engagement really brings an energy which is amazing.
This has been a great journey so far, and I can’t wait to see how the group evolves over time. Getting this community off the ground, and managing to not only have it still exist 8 years later, but be as vibrant as ever, is one of the things I’m most proud about. Here’s to another 100 meetings, which I’m sure will be every bit as good as the last 100 meetings.