PHP User Groups (Orlando and Daytona Beach)

I am a member of two PHP user groups.  Each one runs a little bit differently.  I am looking for feedback from other people in other PHP user groups to find ways we may be able to make these better.

The East Central Florida PHP User Group (Daytona Beach area) is new/restarting.  They have only had one meeting so far, and finally scheduled another a few months later.  They seem to be more geared towards teaching new PHP developers.  While we haven’t done anything so far, they are leaning towards a mentor/student type of group.

The Orlando PHP User Group is quite different.  They lean towards more presentation style meetings.  Someone proposes a topic, and then someone volunteers to be the presenter.  If there isn’t a presentation, then they do some coding in DjangoDojo.  I have not been to a meeting without a topic yet, so I am not sure how those go.  I probably should since I am not very familiar with Django (or Dojo for that matter) at all.

Of the two, I prefer the Orlando version because I am growing my skills.  However, I may like the mentor version because I feel I am a decent programmer and love teaching.

I am looking forward to doing a presentation sometime, because I really want to improve my speaking skills.

How does your user group run?  What is your preference?

 
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12 Comments so far »

  1. Cal Evans said

    am April 11 2011 @ 8:32 am

    Hi John!

    I'll preface my remarks by saying I know David over at the Orlando PUG and think he is doing a great job.

    I've never seen a PUG organized around a mentor/student model. I think that could be very interesting but only if it has a very dedicated leadership. The problem I foresee is that as students grow and mature, they will fade. A strong leadership may be able to flip them to mentors but you will constantly be rotating people in and out. This is where a traditional UG structure comes in handy. By having an ongoing program of presentations and discussions, you give developers of all skill levels reasons to continue to attend.

    I would suggest that you start with the traditional structure and once you have your base solidified, appoint someone to run a mentoring program. Make sure that the mentoring group meets on an alternate week so as not to draw attendees away from the main group.

    IMHO, etc.

    =C=

  2. John Congdon said

    am April 11 2011 @ 8:41 am

    Thanks Cal! So from your experience, most User Groups follow the Orlando model of presentations? I know that you probably had a lot of interactions with PHP UserGroups through your CodeWorks tour (which I enjoyed very much).

    That is definitely my preferred model, as I constantly add new tools to my tool belt. I feel I am learning, but at the same time I have been able to share from my experiences.

    By the way, how's the move to Orlando/Central Florida progressing?

  3. John Congdon said

    am April 11 2011 @ 8:44 am

    I will also add, that the group needs to meet regularly to be successful. The fact that the East Central Florida inro meetup was 2 1/2 months ago, makes it difficult to keep people engaged. Hopefully after this meetup, we can get it more regular.

    The fact that we are meeting in a Wine Bar also makes me want to attend… ;-)

  4. rdohms said

    am April 11 2011 @ 9:02 am

    Interesting points of view.

    Here in São Paulo we have never been able to maintain regular meetings every month or so, its hard getting around and finding a place, our beverage subgroup is better at it, eventually.

    But we do promote events every nw and then and we actually cover both cases you mentioned, some meetings are gueared toward presentations and some a guided toward coding and mentoring, like our TestFest, whe had quite a bit of new developers and the older one were very enthusiastic about helping averyone. We also try to add the mento mindset in our presentations, trying to bring sessions that will grow everyone, from newbie to veteran.

    Maybe you can mix both styles there as well?

  5. John Congdon said

    am April 11 2011 @ 9:07 am

    Great point. I noticed that in Orlando. Some of the presentations do start from the bottom and work up. My first experience with a UserGroup concerned me that the group was going to be too basic. But I made it a point to continue to go and I am very happy that I have.

    I enjoy getting to meet other people with a similar mindset. I could be more outgoing for sure, but I have found myself at least one new person every meeting to have a conversation with.

    And I do feel like I am adding skills that I can use now and/or in the future.

    THANKS EVERYONE!

  6. Joel Clermont said

    am April 11 2011 @ 9:25 am

    In Milwaukee, we tend toward the presentation model as well, however we make sure to regularly include other features like a roundtable discussion or a "show and tell" breakout session. At each monthly user group meeting, we try to have two short presentations, one aimed at beginners and one aimed at professionals. Every other month or so, we'll have only one presentation and then use the remaining time to break out into smaller groups, fire up the laptops and help each other with code or show off what we've been working on. Everyone seems to enjoy and benefit from those sessions.

    One other side comment, even though it takes more work, it's good to have a variety of speakers from within the group. As the organizer, it's easy to throw together a presentation each month, but by encouraging members to step up and present, they take more ownership in the group and it becomes stronger overall. I've been very impressed by our members and the quality of presentations they create, despite having never presented before.

    More info at mkepug.org

  7. Lineke said

    am April 11 2011 @ 9:36 am

    Hi Joel,

    Here in the netherlands we have the PHPBenelux Usergroup. They also have the presentation style meetings, which i think will work best. Maybe you could do both? Offer presentations during the meetings and use the internet (e.g a forum or something) to set up a student/mentorship program. PHPWomen has the big sis/little sis program which is basically the same idea.

    Greetz, Lineke

  8. Matthew said

    am April 11 2011 @ 12:30 pm

    At the Burlington, VT, PHP user group, which I used to attend (I no longer live there), we went the presentation style route. One thing we did, however, was to use Google Moderator (http://www.google.com/moderator/) to allow members to recommend and vote on topics. We found that when we did this, and had folks step forward to present on highly moderated topics, our attendance went up, and attendees tended to get more out of the meetings — because they were getting information they were interested in.

  9. Matthias Gutjahr said

    am April 11 2011 @ 4:39 pm

    Good idea, Matthew. We (http://www.phpug-rheinhessen.de/ in Germany) also took the presentation style approach and at least try to meet every 6 weeks. It's sometimes difficult to find a presenter, and then we have discussions about various topics. Our attendees are mostly more or less experienced devs, but there are very active "normal" folks, too ;)
    We don't focus solely on PHP, but already had presentations on Javascript, Mobile Apps, or Microcopters (next week). Increasing the attendance is one main challenge for us, so maybe Google Moderator is worth a try.

  10. jaguarnet7 said

    am April 12 2011 @ 9:46 pm

    John,

    Here in Rio de Janeiro, we (phprio.org) use mailing list to tecnical subjects. We also have the presentation and beverage style meetings.
    A particularity of my city are the various Coding Dojo meeting, virtually all days of week has a Dojo running. This promotes a contact with various developers.

  11. David Rogers said

    am April 15 2011 @ 10:38 am

    John,

    What a great discussion you’ve sparked here…! Thanks so much for participating. Can I post this to the group for additional comment from the members? I know some of our folks ride the line between two groups or have moved on to other cities, so it might illicit some other opinions.

    One correction, though: our non-presentation meetings are Coding Dojo meetings using PHPUnit, similar to the ones in Rio that @jaguarnet7 talked about. In fact, our resident “sensei” hails from there and kicked off the OrlandoDojo.org group from the PHP group, actually. I still help him out with that.

    My motivation for choosing the presentationVstyle model is mostly efficiency. It’s much easier to get someone to give a talk and have a little intro, Q&A, and social time than it is to organize a mentoring program, and ppl are less likely to show if it’s just a round-table discussion, I’ve found. The dojo is the _least_ maintenance, though, since it requires almost no planning up front. Still, I think you’ve got some great ideas. Let’s talk about them!

  12. John Congdon said

    am April 19 2011 @ 3:56 pm

    Hi David,

    For some reason, your comment did not go into IntenseDebate. I am trying to import it now, that’s why I missed it for so long. :(

    You can definitely share with the group. I would really like to open the dialog as much as possible.

    As for the coding Dojo, I will correct it. :) I haven’t been to one of those meetups yet, and have not used Dojo at all. I guess I should at least look into it.

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