After the inspiration of starting a community and creating the vision the big question in my mind is how am I going to start this thing? Luckily, I had a guide. I started off by reading Dr. Greg Low’s (blog|twitter) The Rational Guide To Building Technical User Communities. This short book is a must read for user group leaders. It goes into the ins and outs of leading technical communities. It covers everything from finding speakers, recruiting volunteers to tips for presenters and how to find funding. It gave me a good foundation on how to start the group.
The next thing that I did was to start spreading the vision. I initially met with a few developers that I worked with in the past and other people in the South Florida community that I’ve met. Some were interested, some were not. The meetings were small; we never had more than four people. One of those people was Dave Nicolas. Dave became my right hand man and our biggest cheerleader. I think it’s safe to say that without Dave there may not have been a dotNet Miami. These meetings were discussion on how we would get started and where I would share the vision. We held these meetings every month and started to get to work. The biggest hurdle that we had to overcome was to find a meeting place. Since Miami is a big place we needed it to be somewhere central. Somewhere that was easy to get to after 5:00 PM. I instantly targeted Coral Gables. It was smack in the middle of Miami-Dade county and thirty minutes from anywhere.
We made good headway on sponsors, a website, and speakers but we were still missing one major component: a location. During one of our planning meetings Josef Diago mentioned a new café that opened in Coral Gables called Planet Linux Café and that maybe they would host us. So I took my daughter for a trip to the café. It was a wonderful place that was warm and friendly. My daughter also approved of the chocolate cake. I spoke to the owner Daniel and he was more than happy to host us. So we set a date for the third Thursday of January. We had the final piece. DotNet Miami was going to become a reality.
Seven months spanned from our first planning meeting to our first real meeting. It was more work than I initially thought and not being able to find a location for so long was disheartening. But it was totally worth it. For our first meeting in January we had thirty-five people attend. Not bad for the first time out. The community continues to grow and meetings are lively as ever. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this year I’ve learned more than any other in my professional career.