Learning by meeting people

In my day job I’m a full-stack .NET developer. In the past I mainly learned new concepts in programming by reading books, blog posts, watching video tutorials (i.e. Pluralsight), listening to podcasts and visiting conferences. Lately I started to expand my horizon by meeting people face to face. This turned out to be very rewarding.

These kind of meetups, which often take place in your spare time, are a very efficient way of learning to think outside the box. Meeting other developers in person – in an informal setting – enables me to interact directly: Asking questions, as soon as they pop into my mind (everything from “what was that keyboard shortcut?” to “Stop, I did not understand what a monad is”).

Here is a short resume of some the meetings I’ve been to in the last couple of weeks.

Softwerkskammer - Mocking Frameworks


  • Open for all: yes
  • Audience: Software developers (PHP, Java, .NET, Ruby, Python, etc)
  • Audience size: 10-15
  • Time: 3h
  • Action: Code Kata

I learned: Object Calistenics; cool and simple kata; Cool croud!

Make Night - Arduino 101

Health Hackers Erlangen

  • Open for all: yes
  • Audience: Nice mix of medical researchers, a few physicists, some software developers
  • Audience size: ~20
  • Time: 3h
  • Action: Arduino basics with different sensors, organizer provided kits for everybody

I learned: The organizers want to accomplish something. Real medical research supported by “hackers” (RPi, Arduino, etc). Very interdisciplinary!

JUG Nuernberg - Dropwizard

JUG Nuernberg

  • Open for all: yes
  • Audience: Software developers
  • Audience size: ~10
  • Time: 2h
  • Action: presentation & discussion

I learned: Wow, very impressive framework. I was really fascinated by the so called devops features (healthchecks, logging, etc)! Wish there was something similar in .NET!

Hackerkegeln DATEV - Scala Kata

  • Open for all: no (internal company event)
  • Audience: Software developers (C/C++, JS, Java, .NET, COBOL, etc)
  • Audience size: ~10
  • Time: 4h
  • Action: interactive Kata in Scala

I learned: Scala is a cool language! Learned pattern matching (now also available in C# 7). Very relaxed audience ;-)

Thanks to Latti for the invitation!

MATHEMA Freitag - Microservices

  • Open for all: no (internal company event)
  • Audience: Software developers
  • Audience size: ~20
  • Time: 6h
  • Action: presentations, discussions, interactive microservice setup

I learned: incredible cool tooling: Consul, Ribbon, Hystrix, Graphite, ELK

What to expect?

First time at such an event? Ask a lot of questions. It might be that you are the expert! If not: you are likely to find an expert. Or somebody will point you to a local expert.

One of the main differences between these local user group meetings and big conferences is that the audience size is a lot smaller. Everybody wants to share and/or gain knowledge at these meetings. The format is often very open: Sometimes there is no official topic for the event. Instead, people decide on the spot: “I have no idea how X works. Can somedody explain it?” – “Sure”. And then the knowledge transfer starts…

How to find meetings in your area

  • google <your technology> user group <your town> for example java user group london
  • Meetup is a plattform for meeting people face to face. Try it: https://www.meetup.com/
  • google Software Craftsmanship <your town>
  • Germany: Softwerkskammer
  • google Unconference or BarCamp in <your town>

What do you do to learn new technologies and stay up-to-date?

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