Very difficult and very interesting: IT communities on TechTrain

    Last year, we held the TechTrain IT festival in St. Petersburg. In addition to reports, sponsorship activities and the like, there was another important component: the stands of various IT communities. Usually these communities organize meetings for a narrower circle of “their own”, but here they encountered a large and variegated audience, others watched and showed themselves.

    This year we will hold the new TechTrain even larger than last year. And this time we want to bring together even more communities. Therefore, if you are involved in any of them, this post is for you: you will understand what participation means for communities and whether it suits you. And if you are not involved, you can better understand what to expect at the festival.

    What does community participation in TechTrain look like? There is a stand, and what exactly is happening on it depends on the imagination and efforts of the community itself, a variety of options are possible:

    • Communicating with Community Leaders
    • Round tables
    • Games (for example, Code in the Dark layout blindly)
    • Trivia
    • Reports (directly at the stand or at a special Demo Stage)
    • Merchandise Distribution

    What are the communities to do all this, what kind of experience are they learning and how satisfied are they? To answer these questions, we turned to them ourselves: we asked representatives of the three communities that were at the first TechTrain last year.

    Dotnetru Group : First, tell us about the community itself: have you existed for a long time, what exactly are you doing?

    Anatoly Kulakov : The community has existed for about four years. At first it was St. Petersburg, but about a year later the Moscow one appeared, which can be considered the appearance of DotNetRu as such: we call it “the union of all .NET communities in Russia”.

    The goal of DotNetRu is to search for new active cities and leaders, organize the .NET community and popularize .NET: gathering meetings, writing articles, gathering news, joint activities, projects, master classes, hackathons - everything about .NET. Group : Why did you decide to participate in TechTrain, and what were your expectations then?

    Julia Tsisyk: In general, the whole community exists, because all its organizers cannot sit on the spot at all - I want some kind of movement. And TechTrain was a great opportunity, firstly, for all of us to personally meet (we are from different cities), and secondly, to do quite a large-scale activity.

    We just really wanted to do this, and only then we began to think about why we might need this. After TechTrain, we got some exhaust in terms of increasing the community, but much less than from the DotNext conference. When Tolya spoke from the stage “Listen, guys, we also have a community” on DotNext, a lot more people came to us. But TechTrain allowed us to tell other communities that in general it is possible to unite - as it turned out, this is rare. Besides us, in Russia there are not particularly united communities, all are scattered, even St. Petersburg - Moscow.
    After the TechTrain, we had our first field reports: the guys from Moscow went to Saratov, and the speaker from Kazan to Moscow. Thanks to the fact that we personally met, it all began with us.
    Anatoly: This event was probably even more useful for us than for others. Although others were also very pleased.

    Nikita Danilov: It seemed to me that all communities are like that - all over Russia there are a lot of people, a lot of motions. And on TechTrain, it turned out that we were hyperactive. It was interesting for me to see how other communities work. Well, I believe that the popularization of .NET is also important: we put .NET in the brains of young people. Group : What exactly happened at your stand?

    Anatoly:We made an almost full-fledged program for both days, with the exception of slots, when our .NET speakers spoke in large halls: we had a lot of activities, starting from round tables and ending with competitions and games. We stocked up with a lot of gifts, interesting questions for quizzes, drafts for discussions and so on. It seems to me that there was a full-fledged track of a full-fledged conference, I am almost sure that almost no one else did this.

    Nikita : We had two round tables on the effectiveness of the programmer, we tried to think together and discuss how to be more effective in order to enjoy the code more without spending too much time.

    Julia : We also figured out on the go what we can do - this was not included in the schedule.

    Anatoly: We even had a poetry contest.

    Julia : Initially, I was against him, I thought it wouldn’t stop at all: harsh programmers would come and say “What the hell, what verses”. But in the end, brought so many essays - I did not expect at all. For example:
    The programmer has a huge class.
    A huge cycle in the class.
    And the scientist programmer walks.
    Everything walks around .NET in a circle.

    It goes to the right - it starts up a bug,
    To the left - “Feature!” Says,
    There are miracles - the user is wandering around, the
    Head is waiting for the release to sit.
    And in what we are good fellows: we had very non-standard souvenirs, so they came to us even just for their sake. Group : And which of this diversity did the audience receive the best?

    Julia : In my opinion, a very cool topic is round tables. The format of the stand let us down a bit: it was hard to hear, I had to scream. But in general, as a movement on the stand, this is the very thing, as it makes it possible to talk to a large number of people at once. Presentations at the stand are less convenient, especially long ones.

    Anatoly : In a constant hum, it is difficult to keep the viewer for more than 10 minutes.

    Julia : And the screen does not allow you to make a presentation so that it is visible to absolutely everyone. This is still not a hall, and there are many difficulties.

    I am for souvenirs, because people need something to attract. Those who did not know about .NET would hardly have come to our booth if, for example, we had no balls hanging.

    Anatoly : And we specially invited a very cool photographer, and we got great photos .

    From the pictures you can easily determine the scale: there are pictures of our contests and quizzes, where there are so many people that they could not fit into the frame. Group : When there are so many different movements, what does the life of those who organize all this look like?

    Yulia: You’ve been at the stand all day, almost do not have time to listen to the reports. If you really want to go on some, you ask the guys at the stand in advance so that they do not touch you in this slot, but they can also pull back. You count your presence at the conference based on the fact that you will hang out at the stand, and not listen to the reports. This is not a plus or minus - it is just such a feature.

    Of course, the preparation here is more complicated than the usual mitap, but there are so many of us and everyone is so cool that it did not seem to me that it was very stressful. Yes, it takes time to prepare, think over the schedule, find those who will speak, and so on. But even without this, we usually live like this.

    Anatoly: If you don’t go into details, this is certainly hell, where you ride a bicycle, it burns, and everything around you burns. But it normal.

    As a result, for us it was a separate challenge. We are already used to doing local events, and we understand how this happens, and here is a global event, people from all over Russia need to get together, synchronize, prepare together, find hotels, somehow spend interesting time together, entertain others and ourselves - for it was definitely a challenge for us.

    Julia : Tolya was more difficult because he was from St. Petersburg and was the "host". In addition to organizing work at the stand, he also organized our leisure activities outside the conference.

    Anatoly: There was a lot of interesting things, and this work was a pleasure - this is just the case when you try and get a result that is many times greater than efforts. It was great - and the preparation itself was excellent, and the event was excellent, and the results were gorgeous.

    I was convinced of our team a hundredfold: before that, I had never worked with them, we did not assign any crucial things to each other, and the result delighted me immensely, I did not expect this. I think we have rallied much stronger than before. Group : What would you recommend to other communities that are thinking about participating in the next TechTrain?

    Yulia: Exactly participate. If you have doubts, probably there is some kind of moral readiness to participate, otherwise you would not have thought about it from the beginning. If you have never tried to participate in such events, it is worth trying at least once.

    As for the movement, I am still at the round tables: if they are not on a narrow specialized topic, then everyone can participate, because everyone loves to try and argue. Attract a large number of people.

    And we need some kind of chip on the stand, which will distinguish it from all the others - maybe even outwardly.

    Bruno Gelb bruno_gelb (SPb Reliability Meetup, ex-PiterPy Meetup) Group : You in the previous TechTrain participated with one community, and on the new you will already be with another. First, tell me about both.

    Bruno : PiterPy Meetup , what I did with the guys before is the St. Petersburg meeting on Python and the development world around, about everything that can worry and be a problem for the developer or developer in Python. He is very cool, and in many ways this is the flagship mitap in St. Petersburg - in terms of frequency, audience, experiments, level.

    And my new mitap is on Site Reliability Engineering : SPb Reliability Meetup. It is for devops, infrastructure engineers. All those who write a lot of code, but not the application code, but the infrastructure one. People who are responsible for monitoring, clusters, servers, clouds, containers and loads. Usually we make classic meetings with reports, but we try in other formats, for example, we recently made a brunch, it went very well:

    And soon we will start the workshop, they always go with a bang. Group : What were your impressions of TechTrain?

    Bruno: This was probably the first time for PiterPy Meetup when we made a stand in a format where you need to stand and do all kinds of activities, give out prizes for more than one day. It was a very cool experience, and I personally realized that a stand is directly a serious thing that you need to plan, write a script directly by the hour and minute, plan activities, and seek prizes in advance.

    We did not do this, but it was necessary. Lessons learned. Group : What exactly was at your stand?

    Bruno : We cut the game, though not ours. They, as usual, did not have time to complete their poor planning. But we found a game on Python on the Internet where you need to go through the dungeon, kill the orcs, and do all this using Python code. It was fun, people sucked in.

    It looks good, it looked cool on plasma, and even people who had never programmed in their life wrote a few lines of code. In my opinion, such a retraction at a completely zero level is fun.

    We also traditionally played our videos from our mitaps - with funny subtitles, because YouTube generates funny texts when automatically recognizing text. Even my own memes on the topic of subtitles under the clips quickly appeared - also quite a team building for the org team.

    As practice shows, all this comes in well and attracts: people see the video on the plasma, they approach, they begin to penetrate. We talked again, dragged everyone: “Pss, man, do you want a little python?”, Talked about the language, evangelized. We even managed to gang up our friendly communities - Django Girls, PyLadies.

    But then, in fact, we didn’t do much activity, basically we went out on charisma, on communication. But, it seems to me, the second time you can’t pull it out like this, you need to plan. Group : To the words “pulling at level zero”: do we understand correctly that, from your point of view, the festival is fundamentally different from the mitap by the diversity of the audience?

    Bruno : Of course, there are more students at such large events, more random people, and that’s good. Because when you cook only in your swamp, you will not drag new ones.

    But at PiterPy Meetup, too, came a lot of outsiders - business, HR, any. And that was cool: he has a focus on involving, and not as it happens, “you don’t write in our language, why did you come to us, leave and generally.” Sometimes it comes as a joke, sometimes more seriously, but this attitude has never been propagated in the projects that I do. In the very same SPb Reliability we are glad to everyone at all, we all call and plan to do so on TechTrain too. Group : Were there any tangible results, like new people in telegram chat, following the results of participation?

    Bruno: Yeah. In my opinion, plus 30 people or more even. The effect was noticeable, the influx of newcomers is cool and cool. And the chat itself is animated, because everyone is discussing this big event, most of the root community members go there.

    I hope that with SPb Reliability it will be the same. This is a direct event for us - we announce at all our sites when we go a certain number to a certain event, for example, TechTrain. Group : How does the preparation look from an organizational point of view, how much work is there?

    Bruno : If you do well, the amount of work is large. This is preparing a large stand for a large event, just like a large conference.

    There are four of us at the SPb Reliability Meetup now, I plan to grow the team to about 6-7 people, and gradually we need to board all the stuff, and so on, so we will spread this load. Regarding how it looks - we have a standard, we conduct it as a project. There is a conditional PM, which (like people with experience of mitaps) sometimes I turn out to be, sometimes Vitaly Levchenko ( antarx ). There is a distribution of tasks, there is a dashboard where it all shares, there is agile - not with sprints, of course, but agile in the sense that we try, watch, try to get some rest and do something else further. It’s like a project for which, however, they don’t pay money, but it needs to be done. Group : At the event itself, the booth occupied all the time, or was it possible, replacing each other, to see something else?

    Bruno: Naturally, we are replacing everyone, because otherwise it makes no sense to go somewhere and prepare so much that we don’t even get high on reports, communication and other things. I departed from the panel discussion to conduct, for example. Look at other people's stands and get to know each other. Group : What do you want to finally recommend to other communities that can now reflect on participation?

    Bruno : What I said about the stand: it must be directly done, done. And I highly recommend everyone to participate.
    As they say, “if you are not involved in politics, politics is engaged in you”, and in IT the same thing: if you are not visible at festivals and conferences, if you have neither stands, nor activity, then you will not get fresh blood, the community will not develop and you will not go far.

    Therefore, we must go everywhere and stir up everything!

    Peterjs Group : Introductory question: tell us about the community itself.

    Mikhail Poluboyarinov : PiterJS exists since May 2014, we are organizing monthly meetings. In addition to TechTrain, they took part in other events - IT Global Meetup, HolyJS. Group : Why did you decide to participate in TechTrain, what were your expectations, and what was the reality compared to expectations?

    Michael : I remember, we discussed for a long time whether we would participate, and then thought about the program. In the end, they decided not to make presentations, some workshops and the like, but instead make an entertaining thing. In my opinion, it turned out a curious and useful experience.

    Andrey Gurylyov: Yes, it was fun. I liked that finally the audience could see not only HR-stands. Our goal is completely different, and people come to us like to a fair, they have fun here and that’s it. No one owes nothing to nobody. I really liked the format. Group : Tell us more about the “entertainment thing”.

    Michael : We did the Code in the Dark contest, where two people sit down, they have layouts, there is a console where they type HTML with CSS, and they need to make this layout as similar as possible without seeing the result. This is all sent to the server, and the server checks everything pixel by pixel and determines who has the most match. There were prizes: we won two tickets at the conference for the first and second place, plus consolation prizes in the form of a merch.

    When the event itself took place, we turned on the music, a large crowd of people gathered around us, and everyone watched it. It was fun. True, others complained that we were too noisy. Next time there are noisy stands like us trying to set up so that they do not interfere with the rest.

    It's funny that Vitaliy Fridman from Smashing Magazine, who attended the conference as a speaker , agreed to participate in Code in the Dark . Vitaliy is like that - he is for any movement. I come to our booth, I say: now, at such a time there will be a demonstration performance, Vitaly Fridman will take part. Everyone was delighted. Accordingly, we need rivals.

    Andrew: Everyone was afraid to compete with him because he was a star, but in the end there was a “humanization of a star”: it became clear that he was also a man. Group : Did he eventually win or lose?

    Michael : Unfortunately, he made one typo in the code and lost. Well, it happens to everyone. If not for this print, he would most likely have won. We specifically for this competition chose a particularly complex layout with many elements (even the time for it was given more than the standard 15 minutes), it was no wonder to make a mistake there. Group : What did your activity look like before the event, and during?

    Michael: Since it was a new experience for us, at first we were looking for an idea. When we decided what “Code in the Dark” was going to be done, the preparation began, a code base was created, and it turned out that on the day of the conference the last commits were still pushed to fix some things.

    We understood in advance what equipment we needed for the stand, contacted the organizers, and we were provided with it. We arrived at the event early to connect everything. Six people could have walked from the community; as a result, there were five of us there most of the time.

    Most of the time we could leave the stand (it was important that at least someone stayed there and could talk). But specifically, at the time of the events, all our guys were going there, they helped, they prompted something. People gathered around, they asked what it was, how to participate and the like, we answered them.

    Andrei : We answered all, relatively speaking, “according to the pattern”, and for us it was very strange at first. “Well, I already explained why I have to explain it 50 more times.” But after the 51st time it was even fun. Group : Have you somehow calculated the results of participation - for example, how many people have led to the community?

    Michael: Indeed, there were people who immediately joined the community (I won’t name a specific number). But more importantly, people came up who didn’t know anything about us, but now they know, and they don’t join right away, but they can later. I think the growth after such an event is extremely difficult to calculate, because it works for the most part in the future. In general, I think that it was useful, we declared ourselves, there were quite a lot of students.

    Andrei : For me it was useful primarily because we told the world that we are not only a community with mitaps, but we can also go out somewhere with a stand. We declared this to companies that can invite us (whether it be conferences or something else), and other communities that never stood with stands, and when they saw us, they understood "why not." Group : Now, based on your experience, can you tell other communities about participating in TechTrain 2019 or another similar event?

    Michael : I can only say on my own. Firstly, to participate in such an event you need to understand whether you need it and why. Such an event may be useful for attracting new blood. At an event with thousands of people, there is certainly an audience that you have not yet reached.

    Secondly, you need to think over the program for this event. Definitely you need to cook something, and not just come with a stand, sit down and sit, spinning some videos. If you want to be interesting, if you want to attract attention, you need to take care to plan the program.

    Andrew: First of all, participation with a stand is free conference tickets for standners! Well, in fact, TechTrain is an inexpensive event, developers do not get so much to deny themselves such pleasures.

    But it’s also a cool move. And if you, as a community, are doing something solely out of pragmatic interests, then you need to think very hard and figure out the approximate possible exhaust, which is very difficult to evaluate. And if for fun you fit into the movement, then there are a lot of people, there is someone to talk to.

    This is like an ordinary conference, where we come not only to listen to reports, but also to communicate with colleagues. But here you will have a “special status”. When you communicate with people from the stand, they look at you differently, communicate with you differently, you are not “this particular developer from this company” for them, but a representative of the community, and this changes you in the eyes of people. This is also fun.


    What conclusions can be drawn if we compare the responses of different communities?

    On the one hand, participating in such a way as to get the most out of the event is difficult. It took a lot of effort, and the community should have been ready for active teamwork. So the decision on participation must be taken consciously, understanding what you are going for.

    On the other hand, the people who invested these efforts do not regret the time spent at all and believe that the case was clearly worth it. They turned out a vivid story that was remembered by both themselves and the TechTrain participants. For them, it became an opportunity to see colleagues in the community, and their main audience, and people “from the outside,” who may also be interested and drawn in. The process has advantages here (the two days themselves were rich and interesting) and the result (the community became more widely known). In general, participating with maximum efficiency is “very difficult and very interesting”. And as a result, all respondents want to participate in TechTrain 2019.

    If you also thought about participating (or know those who should have thought) - the TechTrain website has a special page for communities where you can apply for participation.

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