Stephan Pötschner is one of the organizers of the Django Friends meetup. They held their first get-together September 11th of 2013 with about 15 Django developers. We thought it about time to ask Stephan about his experiences running this group.
Why did you start your the Django user group ?
After being at several DjangoCon’s Europe (2009 in Prague, 2011 in Amsterdam, 2012 in Zürich and 2013 in Warsaw) I was very impressed with the community around Django and wanted to grow some smaller community in Vienna as well.
DjangoCon is one of the best conferences I have ever been too and recommend it to everyone doing Django work. Meeting the people behind the code in person and seeing how clever and at the same time respectful they are, made a huge difference for me.
How do you stay in contact with your members?
I am very satisfied with meetup.com. It makes promoting our meetings within the community and getting started a lot easier.
We also use the mailing-list feature for sending out regular invitations (including the agenda for the next meeting, current Django jobs and upcoming/relevant events in and around Vienna).
How did your user group evolve, what possible initial hurdles did you surpass?
One of the hardest things I still struggle with is motivating the members to give lightning talks. Even though we only ask for 5-minute talks, it is a lot of work to prepare – if done correctly. Luckily we have built up a small number of excellent, regular speakers who share their know-how with the rest of the community. I definitely hope we can grow the number of speakers in 2015 more and keep the quality of the talks as high as in the last years.
For me, providing an interesting agenda with high quality talks and creating a welcoming/relaxed atmosphere at the meeting is the main task of the organizer.
How many members does your user group have today, how many show up at meetups on average?
At the moment about 100 Django developers are registered at meetup.com. And 20-25 people were at our last meetups. Both numbers have been growing in 2015 steadily – without us organizers doing much touting.
Most of us are Django professionals: some are Django freelancers, some are employees working for agencies or on Django-based products. A very small percentage are people doing Django development only as their hobby.
How much time do you spend moderating your group on a weekly basis?
We only meet every 1.5 or 2 months. So, moderating the group is not very time-consuming. As a Django Freelancer I try to keep Friday free from my ongoing client projects, to instead do work for smaller clients, personal side-projects or organize the meetup.
I would guess it is about 1-2 days per month – but there is also Anton and Florian helping out: finding dates and location for future meeting, asking people to give talks, writing invitation emails and trying to find sponsors for drinks at our meetings.
Funniest anecdote you can share?
The idea of organizing a meetup in Vienna was originally born in a bar in Warsaw:
At the DjangoCon in Warsaw 2013 a group of devs went out for some beers. It seems some natural physical law that the Austrian and Czech people go home last – at least there is strong evidence from all conferences I have been so far.
Some time after midnight the remaining Austrians joked around about this being the first Django-Vienna meeting. These guys were also the first to confirm the initial meeting in Vienna and still are the most active members of our small community.
Are you planning something special for 2015?
For 2015 we want to improve on several things. Like publishing our schedule for 2015 as early as possible. We want to meet every two months (in the first 2 weeks of every even month). It’s also important to me to actively rotate the tasks among us organizers. Just to ensure the meetup is not tied to a single person.
We had the idea of holding one or two meetings at other locations: maybe this way more people learn that Django-Vienna exists. So far, all our meetings were held at Sektor5 which is/was key for creating a welcoming and relaxed environment.
I also personally plan to launch a side-project within the next months: django-developer.de. My goal is to make the German speaking Django-Users more transparent: I will start with a Django-Guide for Vienna, but plan to launch one for Berlin and Zürich too. For developers it should be easy to find relevant meetup groups and conferences nearby. I will also share my private list of Django-powered companies and aggregate a list of relevant jobs.
For entrepreneurs and CTO’s I will include a highly subjective list of agencies and consultants doing Django work. I think this initiative could help people getting involved in daily Django development and make Django in general more attractive for German-speaking business owners.
The next Django Vienna meetup will take place in February. For dates check their meetup page.