The Phoenix Drupal scene is an interesting beast, and it’s changed a lot over the past 3 or 4 years. When I moved back to town, the Phoenix Drupal User Group was meeting in a Scottsdale coffee shop monthly, only rarely having a set topic, with a handful of attendees, and only a few of them regulars. Lately, we’ve been meeting in downtown Phoenix, with topics published in advance, still with only a handful of attendees, but more than half of them showing up regularly. That’s a positive trend, but I'm still hoping we can grow the size of the group, and I think we’re on the right track.
For the last 2 months, we’ve had a “mixer” after the formal meeting, and that seems to be making a difference. After a 45 minute to an hour presentation and (usually) technical discussion, we head over to some place with appetizer and drink specials to just hang out and talk shop. I think it’s added an element that’s been missing: socialization.
We’re all social creatures, even those of us who work in technology (though, on average, some of us may be less social than the norm), and there’s just something nice about kicking back and relaxing with friends who do the same sort of things that we do every day. That’s the sort of activity that really builds community. For me, it’s the social elements that have always made my DrupalCon and DrupalCamp experiences so great, and I’m really pleased to see our local DUG moving more in that direction.
Going forward, it looks like we’ll be moving our meetup date from the fourth Tuesday to the fourth Thursday of each month, to better accommodate staying out a little late at the mixers (and to stop being at the same time as the azPHP meetup). We’re also planning to move the meeting location back to Tempe, which will hopefully make it easier for some of our members to attend. (There is a lot of Drupal use at ASU.)
So if you haven’t been out in a while, or you haven’t made it to a Phoenix Drupal meetup yet, there’s never been a better time. It turns out that a technical topic and a low-key social mixer are a great combination, and hopefully that will lead to community growth as well.