I’m finally putting more into writing for my elaborate plans for the Chicago AWS user group. I started off some thoughts at the beginning of December, so I’m adding to that list.
First off, my pride of late 2017: the ChicagoAWS.com website. More than anything I wanted to save myself from typing and anyone asking me the frequently asked questions. A static site is easy enough for me to manage (thanks to these guides on AWS at least). I also really wanted a place to put the code of conduct. Thankfully, there hasn’t been a conduct-related issue at an AWS event (but ask me about the Pizza Thief some time), but I wanted to be more clear about setting expectations in 2018.
I get a fair amount of people asking me to help them either find a job or find someone to hire. In the past I rolled my eyes and thought “not my job!” but an easy solution is to just put people in touch with each other directly!
Slack for the group is definitely under-utilized, but it is a good option for communicating in realtime during events, a message board of sorts for jobs, and an “ask experts” channel to tap into collective knowledge. I don’t see it being a busy Slack group, but it gets me out of the way of people who’d like more ongoing group interactions.
No more meetup. Eventbrite!
I was considering this at the end of 2017, but the Jan event solidified my decision to dump Meetup. Each host company, their building, and their security team is different. I think it’s really important to keep the venues on rotation, but a big headache is getting attendee lists of full names to building security 24 or even 48 hours early. Plus, there are ALWAYS people who want to walk up the day of.
Meetup has a field in their old UI (that’s a whole other rage-blog about their UI changes) that lets me ask people a question when they RSVP. I’ve always put something along the lines of “what is your full name (for building security only)” but only sometimes get full responses. I had a few folks tell me in Jan that they’d RSVPd with their full name, but neither of us had any record of it! So frustrating for everyone.
Plus, I have no insight into who is RSVP’ing and how to get in touch with people. Meetup only has the options to email groups (a random grouping of members, too) or use Meetup Messages to communicate. I image few people have the meetup app on their phone, so if someone is stuck outside security at an event it’s pretty close to impossible to get in touch with me.
My answer: eventbrite for all AWS ugorups. Yes, another sign up. It’s not as easy to find as searching meetup groups, but honestly I want to keep folks to come back to the same events rather than all new people. For now my solution is to create 2 events and post the list to RSVP on Meetup, pointing to the real RSVP on Eventbrite. Still far from perfect.
New RSVP policy: 2 weeks or nothing
Comparing notes with other ugroup leaders in Vegas, Chicago has a pretty major drop-off rate. In 2016 members soared, up to 3,500 Meetup member, but only about 40% show up. It’s a shame when venues can only fit 100 people, over 200 people RSVP, but some of people who are in the ‘yes’ group don’t show while waitlist people miss out.
My rememedy, also suggested by the Germany ugroup leader, was to start RSVPs 2 weeks before. That way people don’t just hit ‘yes’ 2 months early and never think of it again. Hopefully between Eventbrite and the 2 week policy more interested members can come to events!
Emphasis on IRL
Another point that came up in Vegas was the emphasis on real life value of the user groups. Some groups are online only – South America has a huge and very active Spanish speaking online group. Other groups in Chicago have well-made videos and livestreams of events. I always get questions from people about slides and presentations after the fact.
But, there is clear value to showing up and talking to people that a video can’t do. AWS has excellent tutorials, FAQs, and videos for getting started. I am emphasizing the value of real, human interactions in 2018.
Topics and feedback
At the end of 2017 I put out a survey for the group. It’s the first time I’ve asked for feedback online. If someone can’t or doesn’t want to talk to me at an event, how will I know what they want to hear? The simple Google survey was mostly to set a baseline.
I did find things I expected: folks prefer mid-week evening events in the Loop. Short talks are better than 1 long talk. People also want more hands-on interaction, bleeding edge topics, and use case topics.