Joomla User Group Toronto -- The Journey
Holding a Pub Night "north" at the top of the Yonge subway line, in 2009 I ventured south to my first Joomla User Group Toronto (JUGT) event.
Concluding that Joomla 1.0 was the proper technology for my freelance consulting, I toiled away on Joomla sites for years, unaware of a JUG in Toronto.
The first "in person" Joomla event Alan Langford, our JUGT leader, went to was the Ontario Linux Fest in October 2007. Back in those days they used flat sheets of cellulose called "paper" to record the email addresses of people who might be interested in a user group. Apparently we'd been doing this for some time, capturing addresses from trade shows like IT360, using the same cellulose method. The people at the Linux show were Ian MacLennan, Joe Sonne, Jason Kendall, and Alan, who talked about getting something going as a Joomla Group. Everyone was pretty busy -- especially Ian and Jason with young families -- yet they agreed that starting "virtually" made sense. So Alan asked Ian -- the Keeper of the Paper -- to transcribe the information into a spreadsheet. In November 2007, Alan started the Google Group, mass inviting everyone who had expressed an interest.
By February 2008 JUGT had held its first meeting, at enVogue Computers, through the efforts of a fellow named Norman Di Pasquale. At this meeting, much time was spent discussing the next meeting. Every time the subject came up we got into a discussion of where, with everyone suggesting a location convenient to them. There was no clear intersection of these interests, so the discussion was circular. Several follow-up discussions also happened in Skype. The Greater Toronto Area is about the same area as Los Angeles, so everyone wants to meet closer to their own locale.
In December 2008, frustrated, Alan unilaterally declared a pub night at his local watering hole on January 15 (J!15), in part to mark the anniversary of the release of Joomla 1.5.0. Response was positive, people came with twelve in attendance. That's how Alan wound up in a leadership role. Throughout this process Joe and Ian provided lots of support, especially Joe who showed up for just about every event despite being the most distant.
In 2009, I walked into "Pub Night North" and breezed right by the Joomla booth. Most who attended were, and are, home based consultants. Not knowing anyone, and not being a "bar" person I nonetheless struck up conversations. When I left, I knew that this was a way to connect to the Joomla Project, and to other local consultants who specialized in Joomla. Although I do not participate in the Joomla Project directly, I participate through my local JUGT. Participation that started that evening at the top of the subway line.
Shortly thereafter, Jason headed a unique JUGT security seminar near the University of Toronto, on Harbord Street. We've not been back, I heard the venue closed since. By that time a few of us recognized each other, and we greeted the newcomers. Jason treated us to a post-graduate security seminar on Linux security. Very little was actually related to Joomla, which was itself an important lesson.
It took a number of Pub Nights for me to meet the one, the only, Joe Joomla. At a downtown pub, on the roof in the summertime, I stood up and introduced myself down the table. At the end was Joe "Joomla", and, incredibly, I told him I thought his site was confusing! This has led to an ongoing discussion over the years.
The JUGT Founders are active in the Joomla Project, keeping us connected to JUGT. The insights have been invaluable in understanding Joomla and the Joomla Project over the years. In what is an ongoing journey understanding the ever-evolving Joomla, my local JUG is an integral aspect of my journey. It is a pleasure to help those new to JUGT in their journey.
This year is very unique. An effort to broaden participation and events, we've formalized JUGT from a group that meets at a pub every month, to a group organizing themselves more formally, and meeting online several times a month for the first time. We are succeeding in bringing in a consistent broader participation, and holding more events. It's a journey!
Last fall we had the pleasure of having representatives from other area JUGs join our e-meetings, sharing with us their experiences of their JUG. Not having a dominant sponsor in Toronto, JUGT relies on the dedication of each participant, which promotes team work. This bodes well for our growth, as we band together to grow JUGT.