A friend invited me along to a Rails installfest being run in Melbourne by Reinteractive. It’s basically a meetup for Rails n00bs so they can get the environment installed and running on their machines. After installation, they had a simple blog example project to build to get us started.
It’s a good idea. One of the barriers to entry is installing and configuring things like ruby. Going down the rabbit hole of installing package managers that install package managers that install ruby that installs gems can be very confusing. The documentation on these things often assumes advanced knowledge, making it unapproachable for new users. By gathering people into a room with free pizza, they can get over the most difficult part with the help of mentors volunteering their time.
Another benefit is meeting new people in the community. When I was in science, I went to a number of scientific conferences where I met lots of people from across the country and the world all working in the same basic sphere. Of course I’d seen a lot of their names before as authors of papers I’d read - but being able to talk face to face and exchange ideas in a relaxed and informal environment really helps scientific collaboration and pushed our research forward. I’m sure dev community meetups help in the same way and I look forward to going to more of them.