a women-focused users group: the very, very beginning

I mentioned nearly a month ago that we were starting a group whose goal is to get more women involved in open source. We had our first group meeting this evening.

We decided on a “chaining” strategy for invitations – no broadcasts on mailing lists we aren’t subscribed to, and people should feel a bit responsible for the folks that they bring along. The accountability for group participation is one thing that I feel strongly about, and there was rough consensus, so looks like that will stand for now.

There was some talk about maintaining at least 50% women in the group. Ultimately, I don’t think a percentage will matter if we have a strong group identity. But it got me thinking – what are the elements of this group that will keep me interested and will continue to draw women in? And then, what can I do to help maintain the group’s identity and goals?

One idea I had was the socratic seminar. Another was a goal of 100% participation in every meeting. During today’s meeting, three of us mentioned that we’d gone to a series of user group meetings without ever saying a word. What I like about the 100% participation goal is that combined with a socratic seminar, it would be radically different from other user group meetings I’ve been to.

For structure, I thought we could have our show-and-tell, followed by an hour or so of group work, and then a post-group-work sharing. I think that the sharing piece is key. And if we keep ‘em short – and timed – I think it could be a very interesting.

We’ll see how things go. I offered to talk next month about the temporal database stuff I’ve been working on with Jeff. I asked for five minutes and thought it would be a nice jumping-off point for a smaller group to run off and work on database stuff for an hour. We’ll see if I can make a 5-minute presentation that is useful about temporal data.