The Cambridge .NET User Group is born

The Cambridge .NET User Group, a new .NET technical community is born in Cambridge, UK.

On 10th February, 2015 we held the inaugural event Envisioning the Cambridge .NET User Group and this post want to be a summary for the people who were not able to attend so that everyone is on the same page.

I started the event with my long experience with communities in Italy and in UK, sharing what I think were successes and failures with the aim of clearly define what for me is a real community. The most important lesson I learnt is that it’s not about the number of members, or the number of events, or the number of expert speakers you can bring in but it’s all about members engagement.

What is a community?

A community is a set of people with the same passion and interests willing to share knowledge and experience every day both online and face-to-face with the goal of develop themselves through collaborative learning.

I like to see a community as a knowledge sharing platform.

What is the Cambridge .NET User Group?

The Knowledge Sharing Platform for .NET developers in Cambridge

Base on my experience with communities in Italy I learnt that it is extremely important to set in stone the principles of a community otherwise future members can easily ruin the initial spirit of the community.

For this reason, I defined our community manifesto taking inspiration from the Agile manifesto.

The Cambridge .NET Community Manifesto

  • Members Engagement over number of members
  • Members Contribution over external experts contribution
  • Constant Knowledge Sharing over sporadic events
  • Collaborative learning over self-promotion
  • .NET technologies over other technologies
  • Free Events over paid event
  • Respect and humility over technical competence

 

As I said before, members engagement is by far the most important thing. I don’t care about the numbers of members, what I want to see is high engagement among members. That’s where the value of the community comes in.
Because members are the key part of a community, the content should come from them and not only from external contributions made by experts in the field. We will surely bring some experts in the future but that’s not the goal of the community and events made by members will be always prioritized.
An another key element for engagement is that conversations should not only happens during physical events. Events happens sporadically, every months of two, so it would not be possible to create real engagement only from them. The only way to have real engagement is to have a social network where members can discuss every day online, learn together and share ideas. This is powerful and mandatory for the community to be a real community.
The community brings a lot of value for speakers that can self-promote themselves and improve their brand. This is certainly a positive thing but should not be the main reason why people share. If you only present at events without actively participating in online discussions or collaborating with members you are not a real member of the community. Collaborative learning is the goal. You learn by sharing, people learn from you and everyone grows.
We are indeed a .NET community so .NET related talks are prioritized. Other technologies can be presented in the context of .NET developers.
For the community to really fly, events must be free and will be always free! Presenting to our events will be always a volunteering activity made by speakers who love teaching and being part of a community.
Least but not last, respect and humility are the foundation for every interaction between members. We love people who are passionate, enthusiast, willing to learn and we don’t judge them based on their technical competence. Everyone is welcome and nobody should feel worried about it.
From these principles, the ideal member emerge.
Who is the ideal member?
  • Passion for learning and self-development
  • Passion for .NET and Microsoft technologies
  • Actively contribute in sharing knowledge and experience
  • Open minded and curious about other technologies
  • Believe in the power of “learning by teaching”
  • Love to discuss and share opinions
  • Respect others regardless of their skills
  • Promote the community on social network
It’s clear that a community is a win-win situations for all the members.
Now, the difficult part…. how to get content from members?
In my experience, it is really difficult to get people sharing and presenting.
The reason is that everyone of us (included myself) suffer from a disease.
The Impostor Syndrome
We believe other people knows way more than us and we are not feeling “good enough” to share and present at events. Reality is different! We should focus our mind to the picture on the right, our knowledge intersect with the knowledge of others and we have something to share with the world, our unique experiences and opinions. To stimulate yourself in sharing more, you should see this exercise from an egoistic point of view that is for growing yourself. At the end of the day, this is the reason why communities work.

Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself. 

William Faulkner

The Knowledge Sharing Process
If you overcome the impostor syndrome, the knowledge sharing process is quite simple.
Do you want to be part of the community?
Participate to the online discussion on the Public Message Board (we collaboratively decided to use this board as our online social platform for now to see how it goes)
Follow us on Twitter @DotNetCambridge. (yeah DotNetCambridge is the short name of the community).
Volunteer to share your knowledge and be a speaker to one of our future events.
Thanks to Red Gate
Red Gate Software is our first and main sponsor. We are lucky enough to have a good equipped room to use for our events and food and drinks offered so that we can focus on delivering great content and be an awesome community. This helps is really appreciated and I’d like to thanks Red Gate for his amazing involvement in making this community a success.
Future activities
We decided to have regular Community Dinners where members get together for dinner to socialize and learn in a more informal way. The first community dinner is yet to be announced but likely to be in May.
We aim to become an official Microsoft Technical Community and get Microsoft as a sponsor.
I am incredibly excited about the potential of this community and I am looking forward to see what’s our members are going to share. Happy learning!
What our members say?

 

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