- We’re creating official local freeCodeCamp study groups.
- We have new event management tools right here on the forum, so we can move away from managing groups on Facebook.
- We’re creating more resources for study group leaders, and will be available to help mentor study group leaders.
In 2015, the freeCodeCamp community started a bold experiment. We invited people all around the world to create Facebook groups for their cities, then meet in person to code together.
At first people met in coffee shops for coffee-and-codes. Then some study groups took it to the next level. They found permanent venues through local libraries and local governments. Some even approached local companies as sponsors to provide food for their events.
More than 2,000 study groups formed in every city from Abu Dhabi to Zurich. Some met monthly, and some met weekly. Some put together local conferences and hackathons.
There were no rules. Each study group was its own laboratory, where people would try different approaches to see what worked best for them.
Some approaches worked better than others. And from this primordial soup of study groups, best practices started to emerge.
Best Practice #1: Keep It Free
Things work best when you remove money from the equation. This simplifies the process of running a study group. No bank accounts. No taxes. When no money is changing hands, there’s no need to maintain a ledger or expense out people’s receipts.
And when events are free, everyone can attend - regardless of their socioeconomic background.
So a new motto arose among study groups: Keep it free.
But at the same time, running in-person events costs money. Food costs money. Drinks cost money. Having a venue to meet in costs money. So how do study groups keep it free? By finding sponsors.
The most prolific study groups have managed to find local companies who will pay for pizza and drinks, or open up their offices after hours to host events.
In exchange, sponsors can be listed as the sponsors of the event, and start the event with a 5 minute talk about their company and any job openings they may have. This is a common practice for other tech events in big cities, and it seems to work well for freeCodeCamp events, too.
In the beginning, a study group may not yet have landed a sponsor. This is OK - it just means the study group will need to meet in public spaces. Study rooms at the local library work great. And local cafes work well, too. Everyone can just buy their own drink, so no money changes hands between participants.
Best Practice #2: Keep It Local
Many study group events take place on weeknights after normal working hours. Getting accross town during rush hour can take a long time - especially in big cities. The longer a person’s commute will be, the less likely they will make that commute.
We’ve observed that instead of just having a single study group in each major city, it works better to have lots of study groups - one for every major area of the city.
For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are freeCodeCamp study groups in:
- downtown San Francisco
- Santa Clara
- San Jose
And there’s plenty of room for additional study groups as well. The closer an event is to the place where people live or work, the more likely those people will come to the event. So keep it local.
Best Practice #3: Leaders Mentor Leaders
When a study group’s sole leader starts a new job or has to move to another city, the study group may end up meeting less often as a result. So it helps to have several leaders in each group.
Some study groups have reputations for helping dozens of people in their community get their first developer job. Rather than be victims of their own success, they have adapted to this by mentoring one another. We call this approach Leaders Mentor Leaders.
While many other chapter-based organizations have complicated approaches toward leadership - with chapter officers and officer elections - we’ve chosen to keep it simple.
We generally trust that people who step forward to help lead study groups have good intentions. Leading a local study group isn’t the most glamorous thing you can do with your time, but it is great way to help people in your community. And our study group leaders largely reflect that ethos.
Since being a study group leader isn’t a competition - but rather a collaborative effort - study group leaders can freely mentor one another as peers. And in the most prolific study groups, they do.
This way, when one study group leader has a major life event - like getting a new job - other leaders can step forward to continue planning events and finding sponsors.
There’s no shame in saying: “I am a bit overloaded right now. Can someone else handle the next event?” A robust study group has lots of study group leaders ready to help one another out.
Moving study groups off of Facebook and creating official study groups on the freeCodeCamp Forum
We are moving the freeCodeCamp study groups off of Facebook.
We’ve always gotten some flack for using Facebook to organize these study groups, and this has only gotten worse.
Many study groups have adapted by creating groups on Meetup.com. But Meetup.com is expensive - even with nonprofit discounts. And it’s yet another service people need to sign up for and remember to check.
So we decided early on that the freeCodeCamp community needed its own events platform. But we weren’t quite sure how to build it.
Then we realized that the freeCodeCamp forum - which already gets millions of visitors - could be augmented to provide for event management.
Not only this, but the forum could provide reddit-style sub-communities for each city. And the forum already has robust moderation and direct messaging tools built into it.
So I spent the past few weeks talking with study group leaders from around the world and learning about how they run their study groups. And I walked them through our new tools and got their feedback on how to improve them.
I’m thrilled to announce that the new official study groups won’t be on Facebook - they’ll be on the freeCodeCamp forum.
Each official study group will get their own subforum. They’ll be able to create events, share photos from events, and have in-depth, threaded conversations about their local developer community.
Trying to put together a team for a local hackathon? Ask people in your city’s subforum.
Got an old laptop that someone might be able to boot Linux on? Give it away in your city’s subforum.
Trying to find the best coworking space for your new remote job? Ask on your city’s subforum.
Here’s what these events look like on the forum:
Events have all the functionality of a normal forum post, but they also allow for a time, location, and RSVPs. They have buttons to add the event to your calendar, view a map, and view the list of people who have RSVP’d for the event.
And just like a Facebook event or a Meetup.com event:
- people can have threaded discussions about the event. Want to carpool, or ask if someone can bring a projector? You can ask right on the event thread.
- Did people take photos during the event? The event page is a perfect place to share them.
- Did someone accidentally leave a cable behind at the event? Mention it on the thread, and everyone who RSVP’d who has notifications on should hear about it.
How to apply to become an official study group and get your city’s subforum
Just fill out this web form.
Then I will email you about meeting with you and your fellow study group leaders for a 30-minute Google Hangout so I can learn more about your study group, and answer any questions you may have.
Feel free to ask any questions you may have about all this by commenting on this thread.
Thanks, and happy coding!