I noticed on Twitter this morning that I’d missed a recent meeting of a group called Tech Wednesday, at Birmingham Science Park, Aston:
“Free coffee and talking tech… Free coworking too!” sounded right up my street, so I kicked myself for having missed it and decided to investgate future meetings, with a view to attending. I clicked through to the @techwednesday Twitter profile, and saw the bio:
3rd Wed of each month 10:00am gathering of Dev’s, UI, UX, Web geeks to chat, network and learn from each other
Yes; definitely my kind of thing — I’m very interested in “UI” (user interface) an “UX” (user experience) issues and it’s certainly fair to call me a web geek.
Another click took me from the Twitter profile to Tech Wednesday‘s web page. Oh dear. Splashed across the page is a strapline ending “…must know their C++ from their SQL”.
It’s quite unlikely that someone with my background (I’ve made contributions to microformat, HTML5 and vCard specifications), skills and interests — and SQL/C++ ignorance — would be out of place at the event, so why make it seem so? Is this a case of something being written by a geek, without thinking about how it appears to others? Perhaps a little copy editing TLC, from someone with knowledge of marketing, is needed?
But that wasn’t the first thing I saw on the Tech Wednesday home page. It was this comment, from Jane Fisher:
Right there, in the middle of the home page. Immediately below the important “Check out Our Sponsors and Perks” link. Since October 2010. With no response. For over half a year.
Clicking through again, we see Jane’s full comment:
This was only my second visit and after having spent half an hour being totally ignored by all other attendees I gave up and left. It appeared all other attendees already knew each other and so stayed in cliquey groups where the topic of conversation varied between those that wanted to discuss tech and business and those who where just along for the free coffee, i.e. “oh we are supposed to talk tech aren’t we”.
There is no sign that anyone from Tech Wednesday (who are, no doubt, all volunteers with busy lives elsewhere) has done any of the following things, all of which I would have done in the circumstances:
- Check regularly for comments
- Answer any requiring a response, especially those which are critical, publicly
- Apologise to Jane
- Invite Jane to attend a subsequent event, and ensure that she is made to feel welcome
- Once Jane had — hopefully — enjoyed a follow-up event, and been won-over, ask her to post a comment saying so
- Make sure that there is a ‘meeter and greeter’ at subsequent events, to ensure that newcomers are welcomed, feel included and are introduced to established participants with similar interests (I’ve often performed this role at Birmingham Social Media Cafe)
- Solicit genuinely positive comments from other participants, to bump Jane’s critical one from the home page, in order not to deter potential attendees or likely sponsors.
Of course, TechWednesday don’t have to do any of the above; but if they don’t want to embrace newcomers, why promote the event publicly?
I’m stil not sure whether Tech Wednesday is for me. I’ll see how they respond to this post — which is intended as constructive criticism — and whether I’m still welcome!