Boostrapping Infrastructure Coders

Earlier this year, David Lutz and I were discussing the lack of an infrastructure as code meetup in Melbourne. We sat down and mapped out our vision for the meetup:

  • Regular meetup - Monthly meetups, held in the second week of every month.
  • Technology agnostic - No preference on tools. We want all conversations, from concept to implementation.
  • Fresh, relevant content - Being techno-agnostic, this also keeps the content fresh so we had to ensure it is relevant to the meetup.
  • Interesting venues - Bad venues can break a meetup. Ensure that the location is comfortable and central to the members.
  • Minimal sponsorship - Sponsorship is great, but it doesn't mean editorial control. We will accept sponsors, however no sales or marketing talks.

Having established our vision, we needed to prove if Melbournites wanted such a meetup, so we created an Infrastructure Coders meetup and promoted it via Twitter. We had a great response, but it wasn't enough. We approached the Evan Bottcher organiser of Devops Melbourne for a short speaker slot to promote Infrastructure Coders and within a few days we doubled our members.

David and I soon realised we had reached critical mass, so we had a discussion around hosting the meetup. We required a hosting strategy that allowed the meetup to remain free for members; bootstrapping the meetup ourselves, we decided we would find a host for each meetup. The host would be an organisation in Melbourne that recognised the relevance of infrastructure as code, with the value being - we organise the meetup and speakers; they provide food, drinks and a space. Hosts are given a speaking spot, provided it is on topic and it is an opportunity to promote their company. We needed to test this concept, so I approached to host the inaugural meetup.

The date was set, drinks were purchased and food was ordered. The first meetup was small and informal, so we took the opportunity for everyone to introduce themselves and what they wanted out of Infrastructure Coders. Afterwards we retired to the kitchen for dinner, where discussions on infrastructure as code continued. We marked the meetup a success and David immediately organised the second host, 99designs.

So what did we learn from this experience?

  • Have a vision - What is the goal of the meetup? Where do you want to take it?
  • Know your audience - What does your audience want? What will they take away from your meetup?
  • Validate your meetup - Create an online space where people can register their interest. We used (pricing available here), but other online event tools, such as Eventbrite would work too.
  • Market your meetup - Twitter is a great way of getting the word out. Register an account for your meetup and decide on an hashtag. Go to other meetups and promote your meetup.
  • Gather feedback - Feedback will allow the meetup to improve organically with your audience. We have had some great, our members really enjoyed going into workplaces of companies in Melbourne. This also allowed the employees of that organisation to stay back and listen to a few talks before heading home.
  • From the initial concept to now - we have hosted four meetups, two scheduled for the upcoming months and I am having discussions with organisations for meetups which will book us out until early next year. In addition, I have had discussions with Scott Lowe, to start Infrastructure Coders Denver.

If you are interested in hosting Infrastructure Coders or starting a new meetup, please get in touch.

Matthew Jones is an operations engineer, living in Melbourne. He is one half of Infracoders.

Follow him on Twitter or find out more about him.