Bahamas .NET User Group's first meeting is tonight and I'm using my little pundit here to document some pre-game thoughts for posterity. So that I can compare notes to the post-game show.
If I were to be honest with myself, I'd admit that the lead-up to this has been more frustrating than exhilirating. I simply have no clue what is going to happen tonight, but not entirely in a good way.
I've sent out several e-mails to people and organizations that might want to attend. (That's not including the mail-outs to the people that were nice enough to register for the group. That's been the only concrete evidence of any kind that people are interested in attending.) With one exception, all of these e-mails have remained unanswered.
The exception was from someone who said no one at the organization was interested because they work with computers all day and they have no interest in doing it in the evening as well. A common enough response, albeit a somewhat misinformed one. The assumption is that they have better things to do with their time than learn about software development. Fair enough. It remains up to me to encourage the social aspects of the group rather than the professional ones. Frankly, I'm just happy I got a response because it means I now have an actionable item on my to-do list.
Part of the anxiety comes with not knowing how many people to expect (which is a symptom of the unanswered e-mails in some respect). The only confirmed attendees I have are myself and Dave Noderer. More on him later. And neither of us are exactly qualified to discuss the nature of software development as it applies to the Bahamas.
A couple of other general attitudes I've encountered. One was summed up succintly by someone who has lived and worked here most of his life: Bahamians aren't good enough for Bahamians. The problem being Bahamians, while a very proud group, do not have confidence in their fellow citizens to pull through on things like this. Unfortunately, even in my limited experience, there is evidence supporting this line of thought. One of my goals with this group though was to reverse it. Or prove it wrong.
The second attitude I've come across is an overwhelming sense of protectionism in one's intellectual property. Bahamians seem to be overly secretive about their ideas for fear that someone else will steal them and make money from them. This doesn't really lend itself to open discussions about software techniques. Again, a problem I've recognized and have grandiose plans to counter.
I know there are some Bahamians reading this, most of whom don't actually work in the Bahamas anymore. When I first started planning the group, I was excited about the possibilities. I still am. The country remains an untapped resource with unique potential. Realizing it will be, by my estimate, a multi-year process. But it'll be a fun process.
Back to Dave Noderer. He represents a group of people that has shown unwavering support and encouragement for the initiative. Namely, the outsiders. That is, people from other groups, Microsoft, INETA, various sponsors, even colleagues and passing acquaintances. I have received nothing but praise and inspiration from them. Granted, a few of them are probably thinking ahead at attending a possible code camp in the Bahamas...
Dave, in particular, has been nothing short of stellar in his support, providing me with tips on managing, passing on info on sponsors, and even flying into the country for the night just to attend the first meeting. It's because of people like him and others like him that I've even stuck it out this far.
Depending on how things go tonight, I have a couple of back-up plans on how to tweak the direction of the group. Try to my nature, I remain optimistic. Optimistic that there are enough like-minded individuals to sustain the group in some form. Optimistic that the issues I've come across are behavioral rather than cultural.
And optimistic that Code Camp in Paradise will happen in early 2009.
Kyle the Rose-Coloured