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Welcoming OpenHatch affiliated events

by Asheesh May 17th, 2013

OpenHatch is a community of people who care about free software, diversity, and outreach. For years, we’ve hosted an active Events mailing list where organizers of free software outreach events, hackathons, project nights, and programming meetups have traded tips, personal stories, and strategies for bringing diversity and newcomer-friendliness to our communities. As a way to indicate what we have in common, and to encourage organizers to have more conversations with each other, we’re inviting outreach events to flock together as OpenHatch-affiliated events.

If you run a newcomer- or diversity-oriented outreach event, we’d love for you to join the Events list and introduce yourself! If you want to dive right into being an affiliated event, read our recommendations and sign up here. You’ll join the Chicago Python Workshop, RailsBridge Boston, PyStar Philly, the Boston Python Workshop, and others in a growing community. In the rest of this post, I’ll share some history and what has shaped my thinking about outreach events.

Testing ideas and helping them spread

In September 2010, I organized the first Open Source Comes to Campus event, held at Penn and pictured above. In many ways, it was great success; thirty undergraduate students, with healthy race and gender diversity, got together to learn how to get involved in open source. But the experience left me wondering how to sustain a long-lasting community, not just provide a flash of excitement. The experience of teaching, but not being sure if the attendees would follow up, reminded me of my experiences teaching at Noisebridge and at Hopkins.

Reflecting on this, I read about another successful outreach event, the RailsBridge Open Workshops in San Francisco. Inspired by their success at building diversity into the local Ruby Meetup, I asked if Karen Rustad (now an OpenHatch board member) if she wanted to attend a RailsBridge workshop and write about her experience. She did, and armed with her event notes, I assembled a team in Boston to try to clone it for the Python community there.

I wasn’t part of the Boston Python user group yet, so I joined and went to my first meeting. There, I shared my ideas and asked the organizer if we could make it a Boston Python event. He agreed! We found enough staff to make the workshop happen, and after the workshop, the organizers shared notes on what could make it work better next time. Since these outreach events are part of the main Boston Python user group, when our volunteers are tired, they can rest, assured that attendees can continue their learning through events in the Boston Python user group.

Over the past two years, the staff have put on seven intro workshop events, crafted a new Intermediate Workshop format, and blended into the main user group’s project nights (aka hack night) to make those events more newcomer-friendly. The event has helped attendees find community members and career opportunities by bringing them into the Boston Python user group.

When talking about the event at PyCon 2011, I met a great number of people excited about doing similar things in their home towns. Over the past two years, I’ve been honored to be able to answer questions from some of the organizers of those events. What has thrilled me is seeing those organizers form into a community. On the Events mailing list, people share information and experiences to help each other benefit and get the word out. And beyond the list, event organizers email privately, trade staff, and make friends.

Independent events with a shared commitment

RailsBridge Boston, the Boston Python Workshop, PyStar Philly, and other events share a commitment to diversity, outreach, and reflection. They’re run by independent groups of enthusiastic organizers. Like RailsBridge San Francisco that inspired us, they operate within existing communities, a strategy that helps their organizers avoid burn-out. They, along with the Chicago Python Workshop, the Columbus and Indianapolis and Dayton Python Workshops, are the first events to don the OpenHatch affiliated event moniker.

Together, we’re learning how to make our events better and better. On the mailing list, Marina shared her notes from the GNOME newcomers tutorial; Catherine Devlin showed us her new interactive Python learning framework on top of IPython, and Mako Hill wrote about evaluation metrics for Open Source Comes to Campus. Shauna analyzed sign-ups between two Open Source Comes to Campus events to find out if emailing attendees with a welcome note makes them more likely to attend. The organizers choose their own curricul and teaching tools, sharing notes so we can all benefit.

Together, we have a passion for measuring our successes and failures, reflecting on our events, helping each other set and achieve our goals, and doing great publicity to bring attendees to workshops and grow our communities.

You can join in

If you care about diversity and outreach, and want to run an event like this, you can get a head-start. Join our community by subscribing to the Events mailing list and introduce yourself. Read our recommendations and sign up, if you like, as an OpenHatch affiliated event. It’s a sign of your commitment to the ideals that have helped these events succeed, and a signifier that you’re interested in sharing notes, setting and measuring your goals, and willing to be mentored by other affiliated event organizers!

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