Let's Make it Official - Upgrading freeCodeCamp's Local Study Groups

Let's Make it Official - Upgrading freeCodeCamp's Local Study Groups
0
#1

In short:

  • We’re creating official local freeCodeCamp study groups.
  • We have new event management tools right here on the forum, so we can move away from managing groups on Facebook.
  • We’re creating more resources for study group leaders, and will be available to help mentor study group leaders.

In 2015, the freeCodeCamp community started a bold experiment. We invited people all around the world to create Facebook groups for their cities, then meet in person to code together.

At first people met in coffee shops for coffee-and-codes. Then some study groups took it to the next level. They found permanent venues through local libraries and local governments. Some even approached local companies as sponsors to provide food for their events.

More than 2,000 study groups formed in every city from Abu Dhabi to Zurich. Some met monthly, and some met weekly. Some put together local conferences and hackathons.

There were no rules. Each study group was its own laboratory, where people would try different approaches to see what worked best for them.

Some approaches worked better than others. And from this primordial soup of study groups, best practices started to emerge.

Best Practice #1: Keep It Free

Things work best when you remove money from the equation. This simplifies the process of running a study group. No bank accounts. No taxes. When no money is changing hands, there’s no need to maintain a ledger or expense out people’s receipts.

And when events are free, everyone can attend - regardless of their socioeconomic background.

So a new motto arose among study groups: Keep it free.

But at the same time, running in-person events costs money. Food costs money. Drinks cost money. Having a venue to meet in costs money. So how do study groups keep it free? By finding sponsors.

The most prolific study groups have managed to find local companies who will pay for pizza and drinks, or open up their offices after hours to host events.

In exchange, sponsors can be listed as the sponsors of the event, and start the event with a 5 minute talk about their company and any job openings they may have. This is a common practice for other tech events in big cities, and it seems to work well for freeCodeCamp events, too.

In the beginning, a study group may not yet have landed a sponsor. This is OK - it just means the study group will need to meet in public spaces. Study rooms at the local library work great. And local cafes work well, too. Everyone can just buy their own drink, so no money changes hands between participants.

Best Practice #2: Keep It Local

Many study group events take place on weeknights after normal working hours. Getting accross town during rush hour can take a long time - especially in big cities. The longer a person’s commute will be, the less likely they will make that commute.

We’ve observed that instead of just having a single study group in each major city, it works better to have lots of study groups - one for every major area of the city.

For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are freeCodeCamp study groups in:

  • downtown San Francisco
  • Berkeley
  • Oakland
  • Santa Clara
  • San Jose

And there’s plenty of room for additional study groups as well. The closer an event is to the place where people live or work, the more likely those people will come to the event. So keep it local.

Best Practice #3: Leaders Mentor Leaders

When a study group’s sole leader starts a new job or has to move to another city, the study group may end up meeting less often as a result. So it helps to have several leaders in each group.

Some study groups have reputations for helping dozens of people in their community get their first developer job. Rather than be victims of their own success, they have adapted to this by mentoring one another. We call this approach Leaders Mentor Leaders.

While many other chapter-based organizations have complicated approaches toward leadership - with chapter officers and officer elections - we’ve chosen to keep it simple.

We generally trust that people who step forward to help lead study groups have good intentions. Leading a local study group isn’t the most glamorous thing you can do with your time, but it is great way to help people in your community. And our study group leaders largely reflect that ethos.

Since being a study group leader isn’t a competition - but rather a collaborative effort - study group leaders can freely mentor one another as peers. And in the most prolific study groups, they do.

This way, when one study group leader has a major life event - like getting a new job - other leaders can step forward to continue planning events and finding sponsors.

There’s no shame in saying: “I am a bit overloaded right now. Can someone else handle the next event?” A robust study group has lots of study group leaders ready to help one another out.

Moving study groups off of Facebook and creating official study groups on the freeCodeCamp Forum

We are moving the freeCodeCamp study groups off of Facebook.

We’ve always gotten some flack for using Facebook to organize these study groups, and this has only gotten worse.

Many study groups have adapted by creating groups on Meetup.com. But Meetup.com is expensive - even with nonprofit discounts. And it’s yet another service people need to sign up for and remember to check.

So we decided early on that the freeCodeCamp community needed its own events platform. But we weren’t quite sure how to build it.

Then we realized that the freeCodeCamp forum - which already gets millions of visitors - could be augmented to provide for event management.

Not only this, but the forum could provide reddit-style sub-communities for each city. And the forum already has robust moderation and direct messaging tools built into it.

So I spent the past few weeks talking with study group leaders from around the world and learning about how they run their study groups. And I walked them through our new tools and got their feedback on how to improve them.

I’m thrilled to announce that the new official study groups won’t be on Facebook - they’ll be on the freeCodeCamp forum.

Each official study group will get their own subforum. They’ll be able to create events, share photos from events, and have in-depth, threaded conversations about their local developer community.

For example:

  • Trying to put together a team for a local hackathon? Ask people in your city’s subforum.

  • Got an old laptop that someone might be able to boot Linux on? Give it away in your city’s subforum.

  • Trying to find the best coworking space for your new remote job? Ask on your city’s subforum.

Here’s what these events look like on the forum:

Events have all the functionality of a normal forum post, but they also allow for a time, location, and RSVPs. They have buttons to add the event to your calendar, view a map, and view the list of people who have RSVP’d for the event.

And just like a Facebook event or a Meetup.com event:

  • people can have threaded discussions about the event. Want to carpool, or ask if someone can bring a projector? You can ask right on the event thread.
  • Did people take photos during the event? The event page is a perfect place to share them.
  • Did someone accidentally leave a cable behind at the event? Mention it on the thread, and everyone who RSVP’d who has notifications on should hear about it.

How to apply to become an official study group and get your city’s subforum

Just fill out this web form.

Then I will email you about meeting with you and your fellow study group leaders for a 30-minute Google Hangout so I can learn more about your study group, and answer any questions you may have.

Feel free to ask any questions you may have about all this by commenting on this thread.

Thanks, and happy coding!

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#2

This is great to hear!

Will the existing facebook pages be closed? What if someone creates an unofficial Free Code Camp group? Will they be asked to shut it down and use the new site? I am aware of one local group ran by a boot camp which barely even mentions Free Code Camp in the meetings. They have their own curriculum and use FCC’s brand recognition to recruit unsuspecting campers into their own boot camp. They have been riding on FCC’s success for over 2 years.

3 Likes
#3

Great news!

I filled up the form. However, I am not currently the leader of any local FCC study groups. Should I reach out to them and have them sign up the form as well?

#4

Awesome! Shared this post with my local fcc group. I have a question though:

Once the study group is on this forum how would one go about joining it? Would we have to know about it beforehand? Will there be a grand list of locations visible on the forums? That might make it look a bit cluttered.

Regardless, nice move centralizing everything on this one website. Looking forward to the future :+1:

#5

Hi Quincy!

Thanks for creating Forum groups for local study groups.
I would like to keep freeCodeCamps local entities (FB group & meetup.com “group”).
Because they are good platforms for me to invite newbie people from all over the city to join to the freeCodeCamp local community.
Newbie people who didn’t meet with the freeCodeCamp curriculum / program, they can be informed about it by a created event on Facebook / meetup.com.

I agree that we should communicate primarily on this Forum, and we can create event for our local group but I would like to keep our event public and “promote” as a Facebook / meetup event too, and get newbie people in this way too. It’s a kind of mission for me :slight_smile:

What do you think about it?

#6

Great question, Randell.

One of the reasons we’re moving these groups off of Facebook is because we don’t really have any quality control on Facebook. People can create groups and we don’t even know they exist - much less have the ability to close them.

Instead of trying to micromanage Facebook groups, we are going to encourage existing freeCodeCamp study groups (the legit ones created by people in the freeCodeCamp community who want to help other people in their community get together and code) to sticky a note at the top of their group letting people know their group has become official and is now located on the forum.

These Facebook groups will continue to exist and some people may continue to use them - as with Meetup groups - but the real action will be over here on the forum.

3 Likes
#7

If you are filling out the form then you are a de-facto leader of your study group. The person who may have created a Facebook group years ago is not necessary the leader in practice (many of these groups were created by people who got busy but didn’t take the time to appoint a leader to succeed them).

The other leaders in your study group don’t need to fill out the form since you’ve already filled it out, but I would like to get them on the call with us as well when you and I meet in the coming weeks.

#8

Yes - we are going to have a list of every study group on the forum. The forum is about to get a lot bigger!

And we are working on a variety of ways to make sure people in the freeCodeCamp community know that these study groups exist in their city. Discourse has a powerful API (it’s a Rails app, and you can just put .json at the end of any forum page to see it in JSON) so we will be able to build all kinds of tools around this.

Discourse also has ElasticSearch built in, which is a powerful search engine. And all of this is indexed by Google - more people arrive at the forum from Google than anywhere else, so people who type “coding clubs Boston” or similar queries into Google may discover these study groups that way, too.

3 Likes
#9

There’s no need to delete your group’s Facebook page or Meetup.com group (if you are OK with continuing to pay Meetup.com’s fees).

The forum is merely the official place where these study groups are organized - I encourage you to continue publicizing your study group and your events wherever you see fit.

In time, I am confident that the local study group subforums will get a lot more organic visitors than Meetup/Facebook do - especially once we better-integrate the study groups into freecodecamp.org’s curriculum itself.

1 Like
#10

@QuincyLarson Are you improving the forum’s ability for more traffic? As it is I noticed routinely that the forums is having trouble with the current traffic it already receives.

#11

Yes. These outages have become fewer and fewer, but we are still working to eliminate them completely.

1 Like
#12

All great news. Very happy to be part of this and to contribute :smiley:

#13

I’m co-organiser of a group that originated from a FCC fb group and expanded to include all coding interests with people working on whichever projects/tutorials they want.

Would it be ok to have an official study group for those members who want to follow the curriculum?

#14

As long as the group is city or neighborhood-specific, then yes. You can fill out the forum: https://freecodecamp.typeform.com/to/mtuHuu

1 Like
#15

This is great, I just filled out the form. I recently moved to the Kitchener/Waterloo area in Ontario, Canada and the admins for the local freeCodeCamp facebook group are inactive so I had to start my own coding meet up on meetupdotcom.

1 Like
#16

This is great Quincy, and I am going to be a part of it. I will fill out the form so as to get connected to a group in my immediate community or create one.
Thanks.

Franklin

1 Like
#17

Thanks Quincy! NYC is heading into the forums. I can’t wait to see how you’ve built this! Looking forward to a new tool.
~Victoria

1 Like
#18

Hi Quincy. I think this is a great move and worth the effort and work to set things up for the FCC study groups. I am curious as to the Meetup fees you’ve mentioned. I’ve been using Meetup for the past year now and I’ve yet to be charged or asked to pay for their services. Is there some aspect of the service that I’m missing that requires payment?

1 Like
#19

@tedstark It costs money to have an account to be able to create the meetups for a group. Once the account is setup, other users (authorized by organizer) can create meetups (for free) and users who RSVP pay no money either.

2 Likes
#20

Well, how about that. I had no idea. Thanks for the clarification.