A birthday feature – the Vienna Ruby User Group turns 2 this week. Originally started by Andreas Tiefenthaler, Toni Bangratz and – ahem – yours truly, Laura Gaetano, Benjamin Fritsch and Alex Tacho took over December 2013 because “it was a very fun group with a lot of potential and friendly attendees“. Laura adds: “being a very very new ruby developer at the time, I felt that it would help me learn a lot.” I came back to organizing vienna.rb late summer last year and with the Codeship guys being in the US a lot, serial meetup organizer Aaron Cruz joined the team December 2014.
Team soap opera aside, we asked Laura about running one of Vienna’s biggest meetup groups:
How do you stay in contact with your members?
Meetup.com is an easy way to track RSVPs to our monthly meetup and check the growth of the group; it’s also the main way we get talks, as there can usually be an open discussion on what attendees would like to hear or discuss about. But I use twitter for everything! I love twitter! So it’s my favorite way to communicate with our members, make stupid jokes, and post pretty pictures (and pass them off as meetup-relevant). Twitter is usually how we advertise our weekly picks, too.
How did your user group evolve, what possible initial hurdles did you surpass?
When we took over, the meetup was already almost a year old, so I don’t feel like there were any initial hurdles. We now have quite a few familiar faces, so it’s great to see that people like the meetup enough to come back – but I also really like seeing new people, especially people who are completely new to the ruby community.
How many members does your user group have today, how many show up at meetups on average?
The last time I checked, there were 289 (!!!) members in our group. That’s a lot! On average though, we have something like 30-35 attendees at each meetup. Maybe the next step is to try and find out why (we can’t get more people to attend, red.), if only I wasn’t so lazy…
How much time do you spend moderating your group on a weekly basis?
3 weeks out of 4, I only spend on average something like 2 hours on the meetup (between answering emails, doing the picks, answering posts on meetup.com, and so on). The meetup week is usually a little busier: we double-check for talks and sponsors, sometimes organize swag, prepare the meetup announcements (roundup of interesting conferences happening soon, job postings, and everything else our attendees might be interested in) and, after the meetup, we also collect the slides for our archive. Sometimes we even do a small recap of our meetup for people who weren’t there!
Funniest anecdote you can share?
One of my favorite moments was when we baked cupcakes for our 1-year anniversary last year. I got Ben and Alex so excited about baking (and decorating our cupcakes with red rubies) that I had to almost force them out of my kitchen by the end of the evening. They fell in love with fondant!
One of my least favorite moments, which I now can look back on and laugh at, was having to organize a meetup by myself on short notice because all the other organizers were busy that week; on top of that, we had to change venues because of a double-booking, and ended up somewhere with no projector, no drinks, no audio speakers (we actually needed them because we were doing a remote talk that month), and the list goes on. It was actually pretty funny, because I ended up running around like a madwoman trying to get everything sorted and getting A LOT of help from non-organizers.. And everything magically went well 🙂
Are you planning something special for 2015?
I think I speak for everyone when I say I’d love to do a mini-conference at some point, but all of us are pretty busy at the moment, so not sure if that’s really going to happen. Otherwise, my goal for the end of 2015 is getting a few more women into our group, for example by joining forces with RubyHabits, a brand new study group for rubyists.
Our next meetup is in a few days and we have a sponsor (RadarServices) as well as a few talks lined up: on Jekyll, state machines, and Logstash; all pretty diverse, so it’s going to be interesting! You should drop by!