How to build a sustainable Ruby on Rails user community

sofia ruby on rails communityBuilding a community is definitely not rocket science. However, it requires a certain level of dedication and persistence. It requires commitment – and the desire to plant trees under which shadows you don’t expect to sit.

We, at Code Runners, help build Sofia’s Ruby community by organizing regular Ruby/Rails meetups open to both junior and advanced practitioners, and supporting the local Rails Girls chapter in introducing and educating new and diverse participants in Ruby on Rails.

For roughly a year now, we have been organizing the local Ruby/Rails community meetups. We’ve had some inspiring and informative talks from speakers throughout the community, and we are eager to see the meetups grow and evolve.

There are already some great reviews summarizing the hows and whys on organizing a successful meetup, written by the guys at DCruby and Chicagoruby. What we’d like to add to the topic is the three ingredients that a successful meetup simply can’t go without.

First: Talks.

Content is king. Having meaningful talks is a great way to have constant attendance. Providing them means respecting your audience and valuing their time and attention. We try to have two short talks with varying complexity – usually at least one that is beginner-friendly and one that is more advanced.

Second: Discussion.

Opinion is the one thing that everybody is certain to have. Sharing others’ experience with technology saves time and effort, and helps build a more objective and diverse view of a topic or a technology. It’s best to have someone moderating the discussion, so that it keeps concise and to the point; they can also help imply a reasonable time limit.

Third: Snacks and drinks.

Meetups are usually after working hours, and offering a bite is a good way to keep the hungry around for a while after the formal part is over. Offering a snacks or drinks helps create an easy and informal atmosphere for networking or simply unwinding after a long day’s work.

Another large milestone is the Rails Girls Sofia chapter.

The team behind the event has made four events with a total of over 300 participants happen. However, their work continues all year round with the meetings of a small but dedicated study group.

Members of the Code Runners Ruby on Rails team have volunteered coaching to both the Rails Girls events and the study groups in Sofia, helping participants with their first serious meeting with technology, and hopefully guiding their journey after it.

May brought some good news to this small community of learners. A month ago, three teams were finishing their applications to become part of the Rails Girls Summer of code. The Summer of Code is a three month program aimed at Rails Girls participants, who have worked independently after the event. The program gives the participants scholarships and connects them with coaches and mentors to work on an open-source project, helping them cross the gap to job-readiness.

Also, as a further reverence to the community, became a coaching company to one of the teams, offering them workplace at our office and coaching from our pool of Ruby on Rails developers. By mid-May, one of the Sofia teams got the news that they were approved to become a part of the program. For team Rails Enthusiasts, Sofia and Boriana, the summer of 2015 may turn into a pivot in their careers.

This opportunity would not have been possible without the from the Ruby/ Rails community. In the first place – the global community, that saw the benefit in organizing such a program and connected the dots to make it happen. And secondly, the support of the local community – all coaching companies and coaches who volunteer with their time and expertise to give back to the juniors and beginners. A community that we are proud to be a part of.