So, I keep talking about the Cincinnati tech community, but the reality is that we have tech neighborhoods. Unfortunately, I think we do a bad job bringing the neighborhoods together often enough. That's the reason the poorly named Cincinnati Web/Tech Drinkup was born after all. Chris and I had met a couple times and I thought he was a pretty smart guy, but I didn't get to talk to him very often since we went to different user groups.
I wanted a chance to hang out with Chris and all the other smart people working on cool things in the other communities without talking about a particular programming language or framework. A couple tweets back and forth and a year and a half later, we have almost 700 members and sponsors every month (except for next month, because of poor planning on my part -- get in touch if you want to change that).
I've known for a long time that there's a lot more happening here than meets the eye, and I know others do as well. How can we get the word out beyond our smaller groups?
One of the problems we face, as I see it, is how to begin to bring things together without friction or exclusion. The last thing we want to do is divide in to even smaller groups.
"It's never a software problem. Start offline first."
I completely agree with that. As a developer, my first instinct is to code something. Now I have two problems.
The first thing I did after QCMerge was run off and set up two Rails apps: Made in Cincy and Calagator. Make that three problems. Two old Rails apps and no one using them. I naively assumed that if I built it, they would come. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
Communicate with Everyone
What I didn't do was talk. I didn't talk to anyone except my group. I wish I had written something about the idea then, so I could share that with others, create shared buy in and move the whole thing forward.
I understand now that the issue is communication. It's always communication. We don't need any more mailing lists or Google+ communities or forums, what we do need is more good old fashioned writing in public. Just write about what you're thinking, then share it with people who might be able to help.
You can say what you want to say once and let lots of people see it. This is a tough one for me, but as you can see, here I am doing it. I often have one-off conversations about something and assume everyone else is on board. I will stop that now.
Second, others can share it, too. This is also an issue for us. Carin is frustrated that lots of good events are coming up and we don't know where to talk about them. We need a way to talk about all the things that are happening. We need something we can point the business community toward to look for innovation. We need something we can point kids in school at to learn about programming, or hardware, or whatever other cool things we're doing this month.
Here's everything I know that's going on right now attempting to unite tech communities:
- StartupCincy (blog)
- Cincinnati Startup Digest (newsletter)
- The Circuit (group)
- Techlife Cincinnati (group)
- Web/Tech Drinkup (group)
- QCMerge (conference)
- Web/Tech Study Group (group)
- an Open Data Initiative (group)
- Hive13 (hackerspace)
That's a lot, and that's just the higher level groups. There are also the user groups:
- Functional Programmers
- Agile Cincinnati
- Clojure and Coffee
- Blacks in Technology
- Web Analytics
- Content Marketing
- Cincinnati Digital Exchange
- Social Media Enthusiasts
- MongoDB User Group
And a few of the events:
- Day of Agile
- Maker Faire
- Southwest Ohio Give Camp
The list goes on and on. It's a good thing. Scratch that, it's a great thing! But how can we start working together to get the word out beyond each of those smaller circles?
So, what can we do. Well, let's look at what's already there first:
I know very little about The Circuit. It sounds like exactly what we're interested in, but maybe a little dated. Is there value in talking with them? Probably. Seems like it's sometimes easier to push a rock that's already rolling.
Maybe we can just update what's there and get some content moving. That always helps.
I'm pretty sure this is part of The Circuit. It's basically an abused Meetup group, but it works. It's one giant group that creates events. Normally, Meetup groups are very focused; you'd have one for Ruby and one for Python, etc.
I'm not sure what to do about this one. I don't know if there's anything to be done, really.
QCMerge and the Drinkup
I'm only mentioning these at the same time because there's been talk of just merging (ha, it works!) them together.
Let's talk more about that if it's absolutely necessary. I'd really like to figure something else out first.
What if we just start with a blog. I know, I said it isn't a software issue, but that's not what I'm talking about. What if we just start writing about our events. Someone is tasked with the overall management of the stuff, sure, but we each make an effort to take a picture and write a paragraph about whatever we're planning, participating in, attending or want to know more about.
Then, what if we took that content and pushed it to all those outlets up top. We start to develop a single stream about all the fun and exciting things that happen in our community. We start to create a single point of entry for someone interested in tech.
So, it's not that exciting. It's a step toward more communication outside the current circles, though and that's desperately needed.
What do you think? Let me know on Twitter.
Photo credit: dcmaster, on Flickr