For those who want to start a Pils & Programming

A friend of mine told me that they’re planning to start a Pils & Programmering and wondered what tips & tricks I had to give. Here I’ll try to share some of our experiences, give tips and hopefully some inspiration. First some notable documents:

  1. A Norwegian article that provides some historic backstory. We started Pils & Programmering October 2011 to be a nice excuse for coding on a Friday evening but also as a space for practise, socializing and for entrepreneurial connections to form. 
  2. A github makefile for Pils & Programmering. After the first Pils & Programmering groups started showing up nationally and internationally we created this document as an attempt to anchor our vision.

tl;dr? -> Gather as many it-interested people as you can, be nerdy, be social, create! :)

Lessons learned after 1.5 years of runtime and over 50 meetings

  1. The “storefront”. We created a facebook page along with a facebook group. The Facebook page provided us with a public face while the fb group provided a backchannel for people to converse in and share stuff. Furthermore having a fb group allows you to create events where you simply invite everyone in the group to the event. Remember to set the group event privacy to public so that people outside of the group would see that event. Arguably we’re currently quite dependant on FB. We’re therefore considering repurposing pilsprog.no to be a aggregator for all the PilsProg facebook pages. So far we’re just trying to keep things lean.
  2. Take pictures during the event (and tag). Yay for video as well. Taking pictures, posting them on your Facebook page and tagging friends helps build reputation showcasing the event for the participants’ friends.  Pictures help lower the barrier to show up.
  3. Create events well ahead of time. This is an area we’re trying to get better at and we have yet to automate it, even though we could just do that. Creating events ahead of time gives people time to figure out if they can as well as figure out whether or not friends are headed there.
  4. Ground ideas in single individuals, we call them project owners. Over time we realized that we kept getting great ideas but they suffered when we got too busy and when there were no clear leader for that project. We created the idea of project owners as a person that is responsible for planning lightning talks, hackathons or some similar project. There will be many ideas so try to be laidback and give new people a chance to contribute by giving them small actionable tasks so that they feel that they’re contributing and investing in the movement. :)
  5. Welcome the new people. Very important. As you start having meetings new people will be showing up wanting to take part. They’re your guests. Shake their hand, make them feel welcome and help them realize that we’re just hanging around and no one needs to prove anything. Include them in the nerdy conversations and ask questions about what they’re working on or planning to work on.
  6. “Ver seriøs, men ikkje alvorleg.” In other words be earnest about the endeavour and make sure you keep it playful. Create a safe space for crazy ideas to pop up and for people to step up and try to realize some of them. And also for people to ask their  questions and for people to share knowledge.
  7. Finally, again relax. You might not get that much work done on a session of Pils & Programmering we realized that and we also realized that that is okay. Being social is a goal in itself. :)

Future plans

Recently we’ve founded Kompiler.no which is a formally registered foundation with basically the same goals as Pils & Programming. We want it to act as an umbrella for tech events in Bergen and perhaps expand it from there afterwards. Essentially Kompiler allows us to formally apply for funding so that we can host bigger events. 

We’ve had three instances of Friday Night Lightning an event of lightning talks where people got to present things. Videos will be showing up. :) May 4th we hope to host a hackathon.

We want to keep lowering the barrier to entry. To do that we’re planning to create some codeacademy inspired events which are events in which we just focus on helping people get through one of the tracks on codeacademy.com. By giving people a chance to have a look at the assignments from the comfort of their home and realize that it is not so hard we hope to get a lot more people showing up and coding.

Questions, concerns, comments? :)

Gl hf!

One thought on “For those who want to start a Pils & Programming

  1. Choose a time and an avenue and stick to it
    While we don’t always remember to create events ahead of time people are used enough to the time and avenue that they meet up anyway (the core group at least).

    Spread the word on all occasions
    I often speak about pilsprog. Not just to IT-students and IT-professionals, but to just about anyone (I know Nils also does this). Now this word of mouth has had some interesting consequences. Firstly people whom I’ve never even met are starting to organise pilsprog groups. Secondly people I’ve never met before, EVEN NON IT-PEOPLE, have often heard about it (and generally have a very positive attitude to it).

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