Cafe con Linux
This is a form of "local community bootstrapping" that I (FabioOlive) am attempting where I live. In summary it is a very simple and easy way to start gathering people interested in Fedora and Free Software where you live, and organize them into a local community.
Imagine that you used to live in a place where your LUG organized kick-ass events every few months, and then you move to a place where there is hardly anyone who heard about Linux. If you are like me, you'll want to get something going right on!
About the Name
I call those gatherings "Café com Linux", which is a pun on "Café com Leite", which is the Brazilian Portuguese form of "Coffee with Milk". The idea comes from gathering in coffee shops, where you might go with friends to chat and have a "Caffe Latte" or an espresso, or maybe a "Linux Latte"? :)
I chose to name this page "Cafe con Linux" because Spanish is more easily recognized around the world than Portuguese. Feel free to call your own gatherings Linux Latte, Café au Linux, etc. :)
We are all a global community, we have many virtual ways of keeping in touch, we know where to go to find stuff and study/use/develop. We have large celebration-like events that we go to and see people from around the world or from other states. We shake hands, drink and discuss Free Software stuff. This is all fine and works great for established communities, and might even motivate new people where those events happen (assuming they didn't go there just to collect free swag and take pictures).
IMHO the real motivation for new people to start using Free Software is to see real people using it and talking about it where they live and work, and not great Free Software celebrities giving out talks at large events once a year. If a friend of yours uses Fedora, you might find it interesting to experiment and see what happens. If a friend of a friend uses it and you suddenly see them talking about it, you might get interested. They are real people, they are right there and you know them, so you can simply ask how that thing works and get started.
I believe organizing Café com Linux gatherings is a great way to kickstart a local community of Free Software enthusiasts, to get people used to discussing it, experimenting, learning and spreading the word about it. When you have enough people that you do not fit in the coffee shop, hey! How about starting larger events such as workshops in a school or university? It starts small, just like a Café com Linux. Get in touch with the coordinators of the institution you think would host such an event, get some people to present talks about Free Software things they like, and you're done!
How it Works
First of all, find a coffee shop in your area that is calm and has wireless internet access. It should already be somewhat common for people with notebooks to show up there and have coffee while hacking their computers. If your group starts getting a little large at some point, do talk to the managers and explain what you are doing and why so many people gather there. They will likely approve of it, since you will be bringing customers in. Perhaps you can even get them to reserve some space for your gathering.
Select a day of the week and a time in that day where you are most likely to remain free from work, study and other regular life activities in the near future. If you are the one organizing it, chances are the group will rely on you initially to keep it going. A time a bit after normal working hours is usually best, since people may already be familiar with the notion of leaving work and drinking a beer or coffee with friends. :-) Picking a specific day and time and sticking to it is easier for people to remember when the group is just starting.
Select a theme for each meeting. This is more likely to motivate people to show up than "go see the nerds". Moreover, it ensures you are going there to talk technological and Free Software stuff, and that everyone will learn something by going there. It could be anything, and with time the group can start discussing the theme for the next meeting when finishing the present one. Talk about cool desktop stuff, about installing and removing packages, about efficient usage of the shell and shell scripts, about programming. Just meet regularly and make sure people understand there will always be something new to talk about, or something interesting to revisit and learn more.
When you have a place, a day and time, and a theme, tell all the "local world" about it. Tell your friends, colleagues, co-workers, random people in the streets. Print out little ads and leave them at the coffee shop or somewhere else. Blog and tweet about it. When you get some people to show up the first time, they will tell their friends and so on.
When the time comes, be there with your lappy and a very Fedora look in your face, so people will recognize you and come to chat and sip coffee. :-)
What If Nobody Shows Up?
- Pick up the menu;
- Order some great coffee;
- Enjoy your coffee!
Seriously, be patient and do it again next week. :-)