Lightning Interview #1: Martijn Verburg on Starting and Leading a Java User Group
This is the first of what I hope will become a series of interviews with members of the Java community. By calling them "lightning interviews," I mean that they'll be brief and to the point, "short takes" focused on a specific topic that's relevant to the broader Java/JVM community -- the interview equivalent of Lightning Talks.
I'm hoping that by making the interviews brief (three questions), it will be more readily possible to do lots of them. People are busy, and I've found that asking someone to respond to a longish list of questions can result in their never finding the time to respond. Another benefit of the "lightning interview" approach is that the interviews are also quick reads, something you can easily fit into a short break from work.
Martijn Verburg (@karianna) is co-leader of the London Java Community (LJC), a speaker and author (think "Diabolical Developer"), and an Adopt-a-JSR and Adopt OpenJDK organizer and evangelist. He's also a JavaOne Rock Star and a Java Champion. In his spare time, Martijn works as CTO at jClarity.
1. Why did you decide to start and co-lead the LJC (London Java Community)?
Martijn: There are approximately 50,000 Java/JVM developers in London, and there was no central place for them to talk to each other and share their ideas and love for the technology. That just seemed bizarre to me. Many developers that I talked to were also pretty miserable in their day jobs. We wanted to bring inspiration back into their technical lives.
2. If someone wants to start a JUG, what obstacle that they might not think about in advance would you recommend that they prepare for?
Martijn: "If you build it, they will come" doesn't work in all cultures and all geographical locations. The sheer amount of time and effort you need to put in upfront in order to build a community that sustains itself is often overwhelming!
3. Once a JUG has been started, it needs to acquire a core membership, and some corporate sponsorship is also quite beneficial. Do you have a few comments about sustaining and growing a JUG in relation to these areas?
Martijn: Keep the events fresh, varied and interesting. We have a large and diverse membership base and having just the standard talk once a fortnight doesn't cut it anymore. So we run code and coffee, a book club, code shares, regular talks, hackdays, a small open conference, etc., as well as regular talks/presentations.
Be wary of sponsors. They must be held to the same high standards as any other technical member in your community. That means no product pitches, no unsolicited mail outs etc. The good sponsors understand that by being part of the community they get far more loyalty and warm leads than if they're seen as a cynical outsider.
[Editor's Note: Originally, I was going to call these "Flash Interviews"; after further reflection, I decided that calling them "Lightning Interviews" was better, both to avoid confusing search engines into thinking the interviews are about the Flash technology, and to associate the interviews with the Lightning Talks that are often featured at technology conferences.]