What makes a successful (PHP) usergroup?

Yesterday I met a friend that is also organizing a usergroup. And at one point he referred to his user group as “not that big”. And when I remember correctly that also meant “not that successful”. There are only about 20 people coming to each monthly meeting. And that’s by far not as many as there are in Amsterdam…

That made me think!

I’ve visited some usergroups during the last two or three years. And having a group with 20 people in a meeting was – at least for me – a large audience. Most of the groups I’ve been to had less than that. And they are great usergroups that have a strong local community and great people in them.

So what actually makes a successful usergroup, I asked myself. Well, I don’t really have an answer, but it can’t be the sheer number of members. And how do you count the members of a usergroup? Do you only count the regulars? People that come to at least half the meetings in a year? Everyone that ever attended? Using the metrics from meetup doesn’t really make sense as they count everyone that ever registered for an event of a usergroup. So I’m still a member of the Las Vegas-Usergroup as I once visited one of their meetings… That somehow doesn’t seem to make sense in my eyes.

Sadly some companies make participation in their usergroup-program dependent to the number of attendees of a usergroup. So the more the better… (Yes, I’m looking at you, JetBrains!)

But isn’t the fact that there is a usergroup much more important? And doesn’t the fact that some people invest time and effort into regularly organizing a meeting for fellow programmers mean that it is successful? That at least some people get something out of it? And that doesn’t have anything to do with the size of a group!

And while it might sound more interesting to be member or organizer of a large usergroup (like AmsterdamPHP) the members and especially the organizers of small usergroups need our encouragement to keep up their work and to foster their enthusiasm!

So from me:

Thank you to all usergroup-organizers for your work! It is a success!

Or what do you think makes a usergroup successful? Feel free to leave a comment!