Amanda and I just got back from a month of living in Seattle. We had a blast and are still coming down off the caffeine high. One thing I looked forward to was experiencing Seattle's legendary tech community. I wasn't disappointed.
Then I came back to Huntsville :(
Despite all the tech, there isn't much of a tech community in Huntsville. There are people here who design and build software every day, but no community has formed. The thing is I see the potential for one everywhere I look.
A lot of steps towards building a community have been taken over the years. For example, Huntsville has several great dev groups. Off the top of my head I can think of NSHuntsville, HuntFunc, and hsv.rb. I also saw a brand new MongoDB group start up this week.
These groups form an important foundation, but they're geared towards learning and consuming information. There's nothing wrong with this, it's necessary, but I think building a community also requires connecting people who just want to create things.
Now, you can't put a bunch of people in a room then expect them to start creating. Well I guess you can but I don't think it works. What I think does work is to create an environment where people who want to create useful things can mingle and make connections. Sometimes a connection leads to a new open-source project or even a company.
In Seattle, people have lots of opportunities to mingle. We need more opportunities here.
What I envision is an informal, weekly, after-work, hack time. No real group or organization is needed, just a place to come work with other people who are working on things. There won't be presentations, no group projects, not even a person to facilitate. Can't make it one week? No worries, come next week. Ruby Developer? iOS Developer? Designer? It doesn't matter. Just come work and see what happens.
So, in an effort to start something I reserved the upstairs area at Sam & Greg's for this coming Monday (3/12) night. I'll be working there from 6-9 (probably on Pakyow) and I'd like to invite you to join me. Bring your laptop and something to work on. Free wifi is provided. They have beer, pizza, gelato, and the best cup of coffee in town. It'll be fun.
I look forward to meeting you, having good conversation on tech and community, and maybe even getting some work done. In the meantime feel free to email me or find me on Twitter with any ideas or questions you may have.
Hope to see you there!