Dugnad i et møterom

The Spirit of the Dugnad – Support Your Local Meetups!

Mark West 
28. mars 2014

One of my favorite Norwegian words is dugnad. It's one of those words that doesn't directly translate to English but for any non-norwegian speakers this word refers to voluntary work undertaken by a group of people.

An example - recently my children's nursery had a dugnad where all the parents donated a couple of hours to do small jobs around the building – things like fixing doors, painting walls and disposing of rubbish. Working together to improve ones local environment really gives you a sense of community. It can even become an addiction!

This dugnad spirit also extends to the IT community. Other the last few years the rise of meetup.com has led to an explosion of technical events for geeks like you and me.  At the time of writing this blog I can choose to attend an AngularJS course, an Architecture Course with Tom Gilb, or even learn functional programming by subscribing to an Elm course!  And whats best – all of this is free!  Imagine that!  At many of these events you even get free food and drink!  Admittedly the food it is all too often pizza, but remember that the meetup organizers are more focused on the technical content of the meetup rather than the culinary preferences of each individual attendee!

Bouvet Architect Gareth Western
Bouvet Architect Gareth Western presents ERESS at the recent Camel Meetup in Oslo

In addition to meetup.com we are lucky enough to have Teknologihuset here in Oslo.  Here you have a modern and central location for your event.  They can arrange for your event to be streamed on the InterWeb and even help tidy up after you are finished!  If you haven't used them, give them a try.

We truly live in a Golden Age with all this free stuff!  With so many options, it's tempting to assume that it is always going to be this way!  But you know what?  It takes time, money and above all effort to keep this machine working.  So heres a couple of things that you can do to support your community and ensure that it continues to grow.

1. Respect the RSVP contract!

Have you ever RSVP'd that you'll attend a meetup and not turned up?  Perhaps you had a good reason.  Kids get sick, you have to fix a critical bug in your software, or the bus breaks down.  Or perhaps you just couldn't be bothered that day.

Most meetups I have been involved with have a 20%-40% no show rate.  This is demoralizing for the organizers and also for those presenters and course holders who have used time and effort to create the content of the meetup!  In addition we often end up throwing away surplus food.  Thats just not cool.

As I said, there are plenty of good reasons for not turning up.  But "can't be bothered" isn't really good enough.  Please respect the RSVP contract. If you need to cancel, try and give the organizers fair warning.

2. Take time to give constructive feedback!

If the event was great, make sure that organizers know.  Thank them in person!  Give them kudos on social media!  Give the event a good review on meetup.com!  If the event wasn't up to your expectations, say so.  Your feedback helps us arrange better events!  But remember to be constructive and above all, polite.

3. Contribute ideas!  

As a meetup organizer, I love it when people come to me with a idea for an event!  Especially when it's something like "Hey Mark, Simon Brown is holding a course for us in Oslo next month.  Shall I ask him to hold a free workshop while he is here?".

We organizers often burn out because we run out of ideas, or we get tired of being the primary force behind events all the time.  Help us out!

4. Start up your own Event!  

Got an idea for an event?  Maybe you want to build a life size Terminator model using Arduino (if so, talk to Simen Sommerfeldt, who is working on the head)?  The threshold for setting up an event has never been lower, thanks to meetup.com and Teknologihuset!  Do it now!

Well thats all for now.  Perhaps you've got other suggestions for how we can support our local meetups?  Or maybe you disagree with what I written in this blog?  Please feel free to contribute to the discussion!

Thanks for reading!