In this post, I want to update everyone on the current progress of the weekly VAN meetings. What started as just two programmers pair programming, has turned into a virtual alt.net community. This virtual community has also spread to other parts of the world. We already have a European and Australian VAN group started. I was really surprised when Scott Bellware talked about VAN in The State of Alt.Net. I felt like he was really giving us a thumbs up for what we are doing with VAN.
The agenda and format for each of the meetings has been different for each meeting. We started with Chad Myers hosting the meetings and with an Open Space Technology format. Then we switched to hosting different influential alt.netters. As of late, I have been letting the meetings just try to take a life of their own. I’ve been letting the people set the agenda and not putting much effort into organizing the meetings, hoping that it would just grow without much effort on my part. One of my goals at first was to have 100 attendees in one meeting. I still have not reached that goal.
Each of these formats have pros and cons. Some have a lot of attendees and some just have a few. Sometimes the topic levels are at too high a level, then other times they are too low. I have been thinking lately how to better organize the meetings. What I would like to try next is doing topic series. The first meeting of a series would be more of an introduction to the topic. Then it could progress into more advanced topics. These series could last four or five weeks. The introduction meetings could also be done by people looking for opportunities to speak. Also one of things I would like to see more, is people asking questions. I would like to believe that the intro session would allow for more discussion. The more advanced meeting could be done by true influencers of the series topic. By the time that person presented, everyone could be on the same level. The other benefit of this format is that others could organize a series. Maybe you are the influencers or some just wanting to present something at the intro level. If so, drop an email to the virtual Alt.Net google group.
In our last couple of meetings we have talked about the series format. I have started planning the next series on automated build and continuous integration. If you know of someone that would like to present on this topic, let me know.
Time Zone Issue
At this time, we have had two other VAN groups started. I would like to give credit to Colin Jack and Jan Van Ryswyck for hosting the first European Virtual ALT.NET (E-VAN) meeting on Feb 09, 2009. For their first meeting, they hosted Greg Young. I want to thank these guys for stepping up to create a VAN in Europe. They have also decided to host their meeting every other week. My friend Richard Banks from down under, started the first virtual Australian Alt.Net meeting on Mar 2, 2009. From Richard’s blog post, they just had a lot of good conversation and chit chat. I’m sure there will more to come from Richard. He seems like an active fellow in the Australian alt.net community.
So if you would like to create a VAN for your time zone just drop me a tweet at http://www.twitter.com/zachariahyoung. I will give you the keys.