What is community? A quick look at the Wikipedia defines community as “a group of interacting organisms sharing an environment” and I think that pretty much nails it. In this new series, I’ll be talking about the developer community as a whole and highlighting some people, organizations,

and events I think you should check out. If you’re a developer and you aren’t hitting the local user groups and code camps, you’re really missing out. I’m not referring to just the free training either, but also on some potentially great networking opportunities. I realize that not everyone has these resources in their area, but many folks do and still don’t take advantage of them. Maybe it’s because they don’t know what they are missing…

What goes on at user groups?

The concept of user groups has been around for decades. I’ve been involved with them off and on since I was about 13 (around 25 years ago.) Back then, they typically fell into two camps: Mac User Groups and PC User Groups, at least where I lived.

We all met under one roof, in different rooms, at a local office building. Occasionally, someone would give a presentation on a new piece of hardware or software, but most of the time it was little more than an excuse to hang out, talk shop and trade pirated software. Ah, the “good old days.”

The user group scene today is a much different story. Depending on your interests, you can attend a general .NET user group or (in many cities) a more specialized group that focuses on any number of technologies ranging from Biztalk to XNA, and that’s only within the Microsoft space. The tempo of the group will vary based on the people that attend, but almost all of them feature a chance to do some networking and free learning from people who actually use the technologies they are talking about, with no sales pitch or marketing to deal with. Some even provide pizza and beer too.

More of a Linux, PHP or Apple fan? Chances are you’re still covered. If you can’t make it to an in-person meeting, or can’t find one that interests you, we now have the option of Virtual User Groups as well, something would have been considered science fiction by most of the people I met at the TRS-80 user group back in 1983.

If you’re interested in finding a group in your area, or maybe even starting up a new one, go visit http://www.ineta.org and take a look at the user group locator. I’ll spend a lot more time talking about INETA (The International .NET Association) in my next column, but that link should get you started down the right path.

What about Code Camps?

Code Camps are a much newer creation. The focus is still primarily on the local developer community, but at a larger scale. Think of it as a mini-conference typically held on a Saturday, with no attendee fees. Many of these events have a huge selection of sessions to attend, and the entire event is organized under the same “no marketing / no cost” banner as most user groups. For a short list of upcoming events, be sure to check out Table 1 below.

For even more user groups, plus Code Camps and other events, you should also point your browser to http://www.communitymegaphone.com.

Before I wrap this up, I’d like to add that no column on community was ever written in a vacuum. If you are running a user group or have an event coming up, or know of some unsung community heroes, I want to hear about them! Drop me a line and tell me all about it.