As the events in Toronto get bigger, the chance that they’ll please all members of the community lowers and lowers. It’s just difficult to meet the needs of so many people through one event as the event grows and changes.
To start off, bringing up the issue that some people have with events that deviate from their regular schedules. Is it the deviation of the schedule that bothers people, or is it the fact that the event is changing and growing? I put it out there that the problem triggered by deviation of a schedule, but actually a connected to the idea that when events grow and change, they have the effect of alienating people because of a loss of ritual that participants feel.
The focus shifts from the attendees of an event and their ability to socialize and discuss, to what celebrity the event is able to bring to their conference from one month or the next, or how many attendees they can bring in. But even though it might be the growth and change that alienates people, growth and change are also natural processes in an improvement.
So do people want an event that improves? Or do they really only want what they feel comfortable with: An event that stays the same?
Now, Third Tuesday Toronto should be at the front of your mind right now, but don’t get the impression that I have anything wrong with the event or its organizers. I am only using it as a reference in order to make these ideas easier to relate to reality. The ideas are however inspired by the problems I see other people having with the event. I feel like if I don’t bring up Third Tuesday, then the absence of mentioning it will give the impression that I am secretly trying to bash it. Not the case.
I have a couple thoughts, prompted by the recent discussion on the introduction of fees for Third Tuesday Toronto, on what might start to happen in the not too distant future. These ideas are taken from the open source world, and how developers deal with differences of opinion in software projects. I don’t want to repeat and do another blog post on what’s already been discussed, but look a bit ahead at what I see on the horizon.
In open source projects, once a project’s user base grows, more developers join the development team, and the software seeks to solve more difficult challenges. During this time, the risk increases that the wants of individuals will begin to differ from those of the majority of the project. In cases like these, what often happens is that projects will “spin off” from each other, and a one or more developers from the original project will take the existing code and start a new, separate project. The new project will then move in a different direction than the original, using different approaches to solve different problems for different people. This act of branching off can be messy and emotionally heated, but usually the end result is more choice for developers, and different products that better solve users’ needs.
During this time of branching off, what is created by both sides is a redefinition of what each project stands for. Each project will take a look at what their story is, such as Debian’s slogan “The universal operating system”.
When an event gets too big you might not get the same out of it any more, and the only way to be fulfilled is to branch off and start a new one that better suites your needs. But as much as everybody has their own opinions and personal preferences that might lead them to think of branching off and creating a different event, for how many of us are those feelings outweighed by fear of creating conflict in so local of a community.
In the end, how could there ever be a strong community without this sort of renewal?