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Season 5 Wrap-Up: Working to Empower the Virtual Coffee Community

Season 5, Episode 9 | June 1, 2022

In this season finale of the podcast, Dan, Kirk, and Bekah come together to talk about making hard decisions to ensure community support and stability. They also share how they're navigating technical and community challenges as the community grows.


Kirk Shillingford

Software Developer, and Community Maintainer at Virtual Coffee.

Bekah Hawrot Weigel

Front-end developer, and Org Maintainer at Virtual Coffee.

Dan Ott

Front-end developer, and Org Maintainer at Virtual Coffee.

Show Notes:

In this episode of the podcast, Bekah, Kirk, and Dan discuss the decision to pause new membership and what the maintainers are doing to progress towards opening the community up again. We share what we think makes our community special, how we're working to preserve that, and some of the challenges we're figuring out as we take steps towards reopening membership. What goes into the long-term strategy of making Virtual Coffee an intimate group of devs, optimized for you? You'll find out in this episode.

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Transcript:

Bekah:

Hello, and welcome to season five, episode nine of the Virtual Coffee podcast. I'm Bekah. And this is a podcast that features members of the Virtual Coffee community. Virtual Coffee is an intimate group of developers at all stages of their coding journey. And they're here on this podcast, sharing their stories and what they've learned. And we're here to share it with you here with me. Today is my co-host Dan and everybody's favorite maintainer, Kirk.

Dan:

Hello. Welcome to our season finale of season five. Um, as we traditionally do we have Kirk on to hang out with us because we all love Kirk very much. And, um, we are going to talk about some choices we made with, uh, with Virtual Coffee and some, feedback we've had over the last. A few months and, um, what we have going on in the future. So glad as always to have Kirk here. And, um, yes.

Bekah:

Yeah. And then we're going to start off this episode of the podcast. Like we start off every Virtual Coffee. We'll introduce ourselves with our name, where we're from, what we do and a random check-in question. We hope you enjoy this episode. Our question today is what was your favorite game to play as a team? My name is Bekah. I'm a technical community builder from a small town in Ohio, and my favorite game to play as a child. I mean, like, dude, go to here. Um, I really loved Otello, so I played a lot of Othello with my dad. Um, and then I'm going to go outdoor games. We also played a lot of kickback. And badminton in my backyard. So I can't really decide between kickball and badminton, but I have very fond memories of all of those things.

Dan:

All right, so you're going three games.

Bekah:

Yeah. Okay. I can do what I want.

Dan:

games?

Bekah:

You get one, Dan.

Dan:

Hi, I'm Dan. Um, you all know who. Um, my favorite I don't know. This is like when my

Bekah:

wait a minute. You said we, you all know who I am. have a first time listener Okay.

Dan:

time listen, mirror. But I'm Dan. I live in Cleveland. I make websites stuff with code sometimes end, most of the time, front end, sometimes backend. Um, I do a lot of other things too. And, um, it's all on my computer. I'm sorry, I'm having trouble today. Alright.

Bekah:

in the monthly challenge month for the elevator pitch. I think it would have helped

Kirk:

No, that's

Bekah:

refine your intro.

Dan:

I should have

Kirk:

angel word.

Dan:

I, uh, I make computer things. Um, so games as a child, um, we had this, uh, we had this board game called Omega Virus is the first thing that popped in mind. You would know who make a

Bekah:

virus. Yes. I like accidentally called Omnicon omega virus one time in public. And somebody was like, what?

Dan:

That's amazing. Okay. So that game was really fun. Um, I mean, I don't even know if it's a good game, but it had, you know, a guy that yelled at you and, uh, robots and stuff. And so it was, it was fun. That was the first thing that popped in my mind. So we played lots of games, uh, growing up. Um, but that one has a special place in my heart. For my one favorite game picking Omega Virus

Bekah:

I was the one I want to add another one. Number four, computer game, loved Monkey Island, and it's coming back and I'm so excited about that. So now I'm done. Go ahead, Kirk.

Kirk:

By so many thoughts. The thought of a trailer for a Monkey Island. It's so strange. It looks like the strangest game in the world. And then I said, of course, Bekah likes this Trex, um, games that I liked as a child is you're not leaving this table until you eat these vegetables jokes on you. I have a book the game. because me and my mom Played that a lot. And I won a lot, like. I can get to finish your shoe and I'm like, I'm just gonna read until we get bored. Um, okay.

Bekah:

not a real game.

Kirk:

It's a real game and I am the champion. Um, board games Risk is I know a lot of people hate Risk. I love Risk. I'm super into roll those dice, fighting those armies, you know, um, I love. Beaten up at Risk by like an 86 year old woman. And I sort of like dedicated six months of my life to revenge on the board game. Not, you know, um, so Risk is pretty big, um, computer games, there's this really? This is computer game. DX Ball. And it's basically just like glorified, like Pong. It was like super Pong. And if I get 200 levels, there were explosions and it was like a real, a lot going on there. I really liked that. That was really fun. And I also remember the age of seven. My mom got me like a Reader Rabbit. learn math on the computer CD 'cause that seemed like a great idea. And it immediately crashed our computer and never turned back on. So I don't know what the life lesson there is. Don't

Bekah:

a lot of reader

Kirk:

your children arithmetic. Those are my answers.

Dan:

I all right. I'm going to, I'm having an addition. I thought I remembered Wolfenstein on a computer game.

Bekah:

no, you're not

Dan:

Wolfenstein's awesome

Bekah:

Sorry, take it back. You're done.

Dan:

so I played lot

Kirk:

things you buy in this?

Bekah:

Yeah. Well, Dan's in trouble, so he doesn't get all of the things being punished. You get one.

Dan:

I don't know what I did.

Kirk:

no old game of a fellow or something.

Dan:

Othello that was pretty cool too. I liked the artists. I don't know if they all do, but ours had like a, felt the board you know. Okay. Alright, thought I had a really nice tactical feel to it that the pieces in the, in the field and stuff,

Bekah:

Yeah. I started playing it with my 12 year old, but then like one of the other kids got ahold of it. And so now we don't have all of the chips. So prom, backgammon, I like backgammon too. I

Dan:

I never learned how to play backgammon.

Kirk:

I had one of those chess boards. It was like chess on top and then back-end low. So below was just like, it was like in the lion king. Like just don't go there because it's bad.

Dan:

yeah, I played, played chess a lot and never played backgammon and never, I dunno. I

Bekah:

We have very cool backgammon soup. It was like a suitcase. It looked like a small suitcase and then we're like pop open. It was very nice.

Kirk:

the feed. My father, I, I only, I found the game. I pressed him every day for months and he would beat me every day. And so the day I beat him and then it was like the happiest day of my life. And then we kept playing until it was pretty even who would win. And then he was like, I'm not playing anymore. The whole point of being here is it all the way around? And that's pretty much the last time I played chess, did what I set out. So.

Bekah:

Okay, but we are not here to talk about games the entire time, although that might be a fun episode. So we put it out there to the Virtual Coffee community, what they wanted to hear about. And I think they wanted to hear about what we had as our back pocket topic. Anyway. So today we're going to be talking about our decision to pause membership with Virtual Coffee, the things that we've been doing and what we see for the future. So Kirk, do you want to give a little bit of a recap of where we're at?

Kirk:

Uh, yeah, I think how it can be sort of like summing up in, uh, the concise way. Um, membership incoming members has been caused with, um, the Virtual Coffee community for a couple of months. Um, this, the decision was not made lightly. We spend a lot of time thinking about it and trying to figure out if there was like another way to not have to do that, to sort of like get the desired outcomes. But I think we just realized the only way we were going to sort of keep things okay for our volunteers. And also just like give us the bandwidth to make things better for incoming members was to take a pause. Right. And is, is like one of those real, you know, sometimes like you just have to make priorities when you do not have internet resources. And that was a decision we made and I think it was the right one. I think we think was the right one. It's given us a lot of space to really go with like, Hey, when we opened back. What do we want to do? What do we want this to be? Um, think back to what our mission is. Think back to like what's working well, what's not working well, how can we empower the parts that are like really valuable for people, one of the stress points or the pain points that we can like reduce. So I think that's been good. And I guess there's a little bit there about having the ability to do that type of thing, being just like a friendly community, but also, you know, Not a service or a product or something. It makes it easier for us to say like, yeah, we can, we can still just like be us for a little bit before we start being loved with few people.

Bekah:

Yeah. And I think during the time, right after we decided to pause membership, we were nominated for most welcoming, new, most welcoming developer community, which we did win, uh, at the Deveraux awards, which was really fun. Um, but I know that that. You know, there, there's probably a hesitancy, like how can you be the most welcoming community and not be having new members at this point? And for me, I felt like it further. Ensured that we are a welcoming community because we're taking the time to figure out how we can best welcome people, how we can continue to welcome our existing members. And in the last year, I've talked to a lot of different, small community builders, and I've seen them, you know, folds or say like, Hey, we're going to start. Doing this because we're burnt out and we're just going to send everybody to Virtual Coffee and it's, it's like a house of cards, right? Like one small community folds. And then all of the people go to the next small community into the next. And so we wanted to make sure that, that we weren't falling with, um, with those other small communities, which I don't think that we felt that we were, but you can definitely see that coming down the line. So for us, it was super important. Be able to think through all of these processes. Exactly. Like what Kirk said, like, you know, what makes Virtual Coffee special? How do we preserve that intimacy and how do we scale that?

Dan:

Yeah. I don't really have anything to add. I mean, you both kind of hit all the, all the points that we were thinking about. I, you know, and our, our growth chart or whatever, we don't actually have growth chart. Like, you know, you can just, when you're in the community, you can get a sense of it. And it's, you know, It was increasing rapidly, you know, and, um, which is cool obviously in one, in one part. And we, we all fair, much want more people to be joining again, like we are all, I think, very excited about getting back to the place where we can open membership again. Um, and it's just a matter of, uh, building up our. You know, different resources building up our processes and figuring out some, some paths for how we want to handle things. Um, we have just, uh, recently, um, we took two steps. We did one thing where we were able to highlight our members that are, um, you know, giving back to the community by volunteering and in leadership positions or just helping out in different roles, um, on our website. So on a Virtual Coffee.io/members now, um, way who's, who has. You know, who's, who's actively helping with the community has a little tag, you know, based on what they're doing. Things like room leaders and, um, no takers and you know, the, our monthly challenge team and everybody else. Um, and then after that, we have been working last a little bit. Uh, I dunno, the last couple months, I guess, on. Describing better ways that people can, can join to help. Cause we'd been kind of just grabbing people mostly to, to help. And they've been, you know, everybody has been amazing. Um, but to support more and more people like we need, like if we're going to scale, um, the volunteers need to scale first before the, before the members, do you know that if you just take our, um, our coffee meetings, for example, um, We have a awesome team of room leaders and note takers, and they do a great job, but there's a limited amount of them. Right. And so that means there's a limited amount of people that we can actually have at the meetings. Um, and it's not that high, honestly. Um, and so the, so what we wanted to do, okay, how do we get more room leaders and also, um, hosts? So up until. Yesterday. So we're recording on, on Friday the 13th. And so yesterday was the first day that we had, uh, not a maintainer host, one of our calls. Um, MC sorry, I say hosted, this is why it's a, it's a bad name for it, but, but

Bekah:

we're also working on titles.

Dan:

right we're working on titles, but what I mean is, yeah, MC I always called host in my head cause, uh, that's what I think of, but the person who was running the coffee meeting, uh, that is talking to everybody and, um, and it was suits and she did an awesome job, but, uh, that, that sort of thing is we can't just. W we, we feel very strongly that we want these to be good experiences and they always are, but they that's that's because we put a lot of thought into, um, the MC stuff and the room leaners and everything like that. And so we need to make sure that people are supported and have. Okay. What they need to, you know, bring good experiences to all the other people. And so it's sort of like a top-down scaling situation for us. Um, and so that's one of the big reasons we needed to, we, we felt we, we should, we should be positive membership was, was that, um, and it's been, we've gotten a lot of, uh, good responses from people. Uh, I don't know if I actually said this out loud, but we made some, uh, some like documents and forms and stuffs to, to make it easier for you. To volunteer for us and for Virtual Coffee. So that was the, that was our next step. And that's been going well.

Bekah:

And I think that makes it easier for us, because like you said before there wasn't a clear process and even we'd have members like, oh, I want to help. How can I help? And so much of, because Virtual Coffee was not an intentionally planned community, it's always been like keeping up with the needs of the community. Excitement of the community and doing all these cool and fun things. And I think we've done a pretty good job of keeping up with processes, but, um, things like that, like what, what do we need help with? And I don't think that's something that's particularly a Virtual Coffee problem. I think that anybody who's running a community. If you don't have things set up, you like, you know that you need help, but it's like, how do I get people? How do I onboard them? What do, what do I really need here? And so like, pausing to take the time, to think through what do I need, what are the processes that need to be updated? Those are the things that are going to help you to scale down the road because it's set up. I can bring in a new, like for new note takers this month. I added to our organization and set them up with the documentation that they need and walk through the processes. Um, and I've, we've got a couple more volunteers, uh, that I reached out to as well, but all of that needed to be set up in advance. So when somebody says I would like to help, where can I help? There's a place to send them to.

Dan:

Yeah. And like, oh, it's just going to say. I think having more people, helps do things like we've, we've talked about adding a day for coffees, right. But we can't, you know, up until now, we've only had our maintainers being, um, kind of controlling those that do an empty first for these events. And while we're, we're just already spread too thin as it is. So, um, adding, adding them, see, like Suze is a big step for us and, uh, you know, I don't want to just do it Willy nilly. So like, just like Bekah was saying this, having all that stuff written down and having clear paths for people, um, it's turned out very important.

Bekah:

Yeah. And we, um, sent out a community survey or we had the community survey that we were posting in slack and during our Virtual Coffee meetings for a couple of weeks to get feedback from the community. And so we're also taking like, what, what does the community value? So we know that there are things that everybody values, but like really getting that down, having conversations, having maintainers Q and a. Allows us to get feedback and really think through what we're we're doing. Um, Kirk, do you want to talk a little bit about the results of those surveys? Some of the key takeaways that we.

Kirk:

What are the sort of like overarching ourselves that we. had. Um, first of all, generally positive responses, which is nice. Um, I don't know. It's just nice to not be told, like you suck. Um, so mostly positive. Um, a lot of it was like existing systems that people want maybe like a little bit more, you know? Um, and I think a lot of it was maybe just like a little more like fidelity and we talked about. If I want to volunteer, how do I do that? So there are a lot of people who weren't like, or they're new, or they're still sort of getting into things like how do I do more? Um, and making that really move transparent with people with something that seemed to resonate right now, we have a few sort of like key events that happen in the community. We have our lunch and learns. We have the lightning talk. Um, but we also have, I guess it's this concept that wouldn't be about like this coffee table groups, which are really just things started by the members where they saw like a need or a space for something they were interested in and they just self-organized and that's super great. And we like liked those things. Um, so there's a question. Okay. How do we support people who want to do this? Um, how do we, again, like avoid. Some of the pitfalls or some of the dangers of like doing a lot of volunteer work. Right. So it's like, if you want to do this group, what can we help you with? Like what support can we give you? What support do you need? Can we equip you to kind of like, have an idea of like how much effort it's gonna take, if you need to stop. I think it is like most important that if you need to stop performing role, Can you do that, communicate that in a way that is safe for you, comfortable for you like minimal pain points. Um, so there's been a lot of things like that. You know, basically just people saying like this stuff is going on here. I really like it. How can I get more involved? And then us figuring out a way to like, take people's enthusiasm and then like put them on a path to success for what they're going to do, which I think is super important, you know? don't know when I think of like what it comes down to with like these types of initiatives, it's you find two issues. Sometimes someone has a great idea, but the system's not set up for it so they can execute it and they get bummed out or they have idea and they sort of like go headlong into it and, you know, kind of like burn through their life force, like a Phoenix. Um, and neither of those is. So a nice middle ground and it, you know, I think this idea of sustainable leadership, I think is something that's really important to us. If you want to lead something, we want to help you do it, but in a way where you can keep doing it on your own terms and not feel like you have to because of other people or you have to, because it's like, you know, I want to do this while it provides value and joy for me. And then when I'm ready to stop, you can stop and that's okay. Um, I think that's the thing we've kind of gone over this community. We liked the fact that this is not a space where you have to come in. Perfect. You know, we like the fact that people can grow here is in space to grow through. Um, there's a space to make mistakes within reason. There's a space to practice things that you're not perfect, that, you know, a lot of times people hesitate on even things like why don't you learn? Just like, I've never, you know, I've never done speaking before, but if you haven't, this is probably the best space to give it a try. It's a non-hostile audience only is interested in just like supporting you as much as possible, you know? Um, So, Yeah. it's the, I was really validated by a lot of the, the survey responses kind of echo what we were feeling as maintainers. And everyone seems to kind of be on board, like making this, even though.

Bekah:

Yeah, Dan, do you want to talk through the things that you implemented to help support our coffee table groups?

Dan:

Yeah. I mean, we, I think the biggest thing, the first thing is just the, is just that the form and the stuff that we've been talking about a little bit is making it available. Just letting our members know that it's, it's a thing that they could do, you know? Um, and then after that, um, I've just kind of scratched the surface about supporting these groups on a technical level. Um, but you know, so one of the things was, um, was setting up a calendar system so that, you know, people can log in our members. I mean, our, the, the group leaders can log in and add their events, uh, you know, recurring events or one off events. And, um, then those events. Filter back out through our website and onto our events page. Um, and they also, I added a slack bot sort of thing that, well, we'll send reminders from that. Um, so we moved on from meeting place and, uh, are using that for our events now, too. Not just the special interest group stuff, uh, coffee table groups. Sorry. We call them the special interest groups for a long time. Um, but so, so, um, so yeah, so that was. This is like kind of step one, uh, is, is allowing, uh, our group leaders to sort of roll their own stuff, you know, so they don't have to ask us to add things to the calendar, ask us to add things too. So I can, it's like, you know, it's like reminders and things like that. Um, and, uh, and with, along with that, um, sort of copied the coworking room experience and made it, uh, so that we could. So our group leaders could use our zoom for events, um, which was another sticking point, because if you don't have a paid zoom account, then I think you were still limited to 40 minutes or something like that, you know, there's limitations for, for free accounts. And so having a central place that you can trust that we will have things to get taken care of and have some moderation tools in place, things like that. Um, so, so yeah, and then, um, I think, you know, next is going to be. Things more for general users to log in and be able to, um, maybe RSVP for events or add things to calendars, things like that. So that's coming down the line, but, uh, yeah, that's all that the, the group membership stuff is in place right now. So it's kind of, kind of exciting.

Bekah:

Yeah, I think it's been great. And like, I just want to share what some of our coffee table groups are. Just, so if you are listening, you have an idea. Um, we've got, uh, well, every Monday in slack and our announcements channel. All of the things that are happening this week. So it gives an overview. We've got tech interview study group where they go through job preparation materials, give each other feedback, answer questions. Um, and things like that. MIG, who you heard from this season is running the accountability buddies sessions, um, where it's, again, I think job focused or working on, um, projects, that kind of thing. We have the react group as well. Um, we have, let's see indie hackers and we've got a new one, which is, um, like a Virtual Coffee speaking group where actually Kirk, you and I are up first, next week is that next week or the week after what? We're giving short speeches. So we should prepare for those right.

Kirk:

Find out

Bekah:

It's in the calendar for sure. So I should write something. Um, I know I'm missing some of the other groups that we have going on there, but those are the ones that, that I can see right now and are coming to, um, My thoughts. So, uh, I don't know, just like a lot of really fun stuff in the VC speaking group, the Virtual Coffee we've revealed as VC, um, is a cool one. That's just started meeting this past week. I don't know if the last couple of weeks all kind of blend together. So we we've met fairly recently for the first time and kind of plan things out and things are growing from there. So there's always something that there's a need that can be filled or there's an interest like, honestly, I was thinking about like, okay, what coffee table groups would I like to see? And I don't know if this fits into a coffee table group, but, um, like, uh, I don't know what to call it. Um, Happy hour, happy hour special interest group. I kind of like falls outside of there, but like something low key, let's get together and hang out. We've done some happy hours or social hours before. Um, and just like seeing the community interact in those ways has been a lot of fun. But are there other groups that you two would like to see a virtual? Okay.

Kirk:

Um, you see this. I don't know if it's different from the happy hour group, but we've been talking about through, see karaoke for like for Elvin. Uh, and I'm I'm so done. Sit down. Um, there's uh, okay, so this is one that came up just yesterday. Actually I was talking who was I talking to people and we were talking about, oh yeah, we were talking about. we were like, where, if you were going to share your poetry and music, where did you put content creation is slightly different. It's not necessarily content, right? Like, it's just like, it's like art for me that I'm sharing with like friends. So then it's like, maybe that goes into, I think we have a, through a channel about crafts crap. Yeah. I'm not in it. Cause I thought it was about macaroni, but. Um, so yeah, maybe there, maybe there's like another space for that, but you know, that's those, those are the two that immediately came to mind, but I feel like there's a ton more like, I don't know. I think since the, since we get, we got past the, uh, the time of Brian making channel, we've been a lot more. Judicious about them. We made a channel for making channels, which I actually think has worked out pretty well as like giving people like a clear space to discuss wanting certain channels. Um, the, yeah, what I like about the special interest groups is like, we don't predict them. Right? The members, someone has an idea, they will typically like find some way to poll the community, you know, get feedback and like general random, if there's enough interest and people. Okay. They give it a try. And then like we, as the maintainers only come in, like, Hey, you're doing an awesome thing. You know, let's see if we can like help it out with yeah. Having a process,

Dan:

was that? What'd you say?

Kirk:

having a process for that is good. It's like some things ended up not being like, they just it's like. Like if we have external events, right. Which is where people can basically, you know, if they have a thing that's going on outside of the community, you've been always like put it in there. And a lot of stuff ends up like, well, this is probably just an external, um, coffee tables, or, but now I'm seeing special interest groups. Dan, what have you?

Dan:

Well, we call them that for like a year. And then we figured out coffee table groups, which I like, it's just, it's just the other one is stuck in my head. So.

Kirk:

Yeah. The key thing is that it's. By members for members. I think that's like the, sort of the core concept, you know? So. it's like an outside person coming in. Well, that's just like a seminar by the next external event. So if you're going to maybe expand it to everyone, then it sort of, you know, the ability to like, make sure it stays like VC oriented will be diminished. Right? Yeah. Sticking to the CRC. There's like all these other things you just can't control if it's not. So,

Bekah:

We have talked about some cross community collaboration. And I know that there has been some talk among our members. Like what if this small interest, oh, my, I did it now. Dan, it's all fault. Um, what if our coffee table groups collaborated with somebody else? You know, I had another, a community, um, a meetup like maybe Free Code Camp Philly, Meg was talking about join accountability buddies. And so there's definitely something that we're considering. And, you know, it goes back to like, what are the needs of our members and the leaders of those groups. So, you know, always talking things through and figuring out like, is this a good fit for our community? Um, is the priority of everything that works.

Kirk:

Yeah. We, you know, acknowledging that we can't be everything for all people. And also like we can't ourselves necessarily like handle like, like there's lots of good things that members might want or like, but we're just not equipped to provide those. So if there's like a great partnership with somebody else who is doing that, then that's awesome. Um, Brian, and all that comes to mind with like cfi.dev, you know, like consistent guest speakers, great quality talks. Like that's something that takes a whole team to organize and through all that consistent basis, we, you and I have the battle for that if he does. And so like letting members, I hate every two weeks, you're getting like a high quality thing that you can just check. Feels good. Like everyone seems both sides are sort of like getting something out of it. So if there's ways to do more of that, it's great. Um, yeah, but those do always require like extended. You just have to like work them out more because now you have to like check in that this other group are aligned with you. You gotta figure out timing. You gotta, you have your own cadence of work. They have their own cadence work. It becomes this thing. Um, you know, but. I don't think we're opposed to like anything that doesn't bring value for them in.

Bekah:

Yes, 100%. Um, so, you know, as we're working through all of this stuff, there's obviously still pain points that we need to solve. So I thought maybe we could talk a little bit about, you know, some of the things that we're still trying to work through and, and maybe some of the ideas that we have, or, um, just thoughts that we are trying to work through.

Dan:

Yeah. So I, excuse me, I think one of our. I mean, we've talked about some of the struggles and you know, some of them, when we're talking about why we, uh, pause memberships, um, with regards to having, uh, leadership support and things like that. But another side of that was, is just handling incoming members. Right. Um, so I think probably a lot of people have had the experience of joining some community at this quarter, a slack or a whatever, and being just overwhelmed or, um, not having any idea what to do or. Or maybe it's a little clear, but it's still just a huge community with a million channels and no personal connection for you. Um, and so. You put your name and, you know, you fill out the intro thing and say, hello everybody. And you know, some people react and say hi and stuff, and then, and then it's kinda right. Uh, I wouldn't want that to be, I mean, if, if that's what happens in Virtual Coffee that, you know, so be it for, for a person, but in general, we don't want that to be the case. Right. And so our, and this is why we've stuck pretty hard with our, how you joined Virtual Coffee is by coming. One of our coffees right first, before any slack invites happen, things like that. Um, one of the difficulties with that is, is it was a very manual process, right? Uh, the S you know, zoom has its own authentication stuff, and there's no way to have people signed into like a zoom account. All of the same account, otherwise. I mean, unless they were paid members, right? So if you were on a work zoom or something, you know that your work is paying for every single seat. And so that's obviously not a social press. So when you join a Virtual Coffees, zoom, you're just joining on your own accountant. You can fill out whatever details you want. There's no way for. Manage any of that, what that means is, uh, there's no autumn, there's, it's very complicated and possibly sometimes impossible to connect a zoom account with a person, you know, and whether they've joined or not before and things like that. And so our solution was just to have people fill out the membership form and, you know, we'd have a little link after coffee's and they would fill out the form and then we would. Uh, sensitively go and make sure that they actually came and then send them a psych invite, sort of all manually. Maybe we had people, our maintainers were just doing that. And, um, that was hard to, you know, I mean, that was time consuming even when there was just five people that, you know, joined that week. Uh, it took up time and we have more and more people coming, um, things like that. And so that's one of the challenges that I like to nail down is just like what it means to be a member, how to, how to join things. Um, you know, Uh, those sorts of topics, right? And then how can we, how can we keep the sort of intimate nature of, of joining Virtual Coffee, um, while supporting multiple members, uh, you know, more and more, a larger and larger group of people, and then also how to onboard them gracefully and things like that. Not overwhelm people and not, um, Car with them with, you know, a million channels and huge group of people that they don't know anything about. So that's, we we've, we've been talking a lot about that too. Um, over the past few months,

Bekah:

Yeah. And along with that, when you have more people, you're going to need more moderation. Right? So for us moderation, hasn't been a huge issue, but as you onboard more people and have a less of a personal relationship with every single person that comes in. It becomes a little bit trickier, right? And so you want to make sure that you're prepared for something that might happen and dealing with those types of issues, um, and making sure that everybody has access to the information that they need. Not everybody needs access to all of the information. And so providing each group of volunteers with that information, um, making sure that they're up to date and can communicate openly with each other when something. To be updated or changed is those are also priorities and pain points that we're trying to work through. Kirk, do you have anything to add?

Kirk:

Um, I think we should go back to trial by combat for a membership. I think we should go back to the old ways. Uh, now, no, I think you guys, uh, you hit the nail on the head. It was just thinking through things, um, being conscientious. You can only get so far, just kind of like going with the flow and eventually, like, if the flow becomes like a delusion, you kind of need to have, um, a plan. Uh, yeah. And it's just us sort of being a lot more thoughtful about stuff and kind of stepping back and saying, okay, if something works now, why does it work? Is there a way to like, quantify that so we can reference why new people can reference why. And like, we start building that up. Um, you know, we recently had like something in the maintainers with discussing and were like, Hey, is this in the code of conduct? And they're like, no, like we should probably like put it in there. Right. Just so we don't forget later if it happens again, there's like something that we can reference and go, well, we're not just making it up on the fly as we go along. Or, I mean, we are, but like the things that we want to keep, we're putting it somewhere where it can, you know, stay. Um, yeah. And there's something about like habits and traditions. If something is good and provides good value for you, you should like find a way to keep it. And if something is not providing good value for you, then like you should set it free, but. It's hard to do that if you're not keeping track of those things. So, yeah, but if we can totally I'm ready. Dan, are you ready

Dan:

I'm always ready.

Bekah:

Always always ready. Um, I, I think along with all this too, when we're thinking about these things, we also have to think about them on a much larger scale. Right. So if it works now, will it work? If we have 500 million. And the biggest, uh, Value of Virtual Coffee, I think comes from the intimacy, those small group connections. And so I say 500 people. And like, that sounds scary to me, but you know, there's potential for that. There, we would love to have as many people as we can, if we can replicate that same intimacy. And so trying to figure out how do you do that? If you add another coffee chat are our 500 people just going to. Suddenly appear in slack. I mean, they wouldn't suddenly appear right there. We'll be, we're not going to get 500 new people overnight. But that's something that we have to think about. Um, I don't think it's bad to have another pause and membership in the future. Now there are some communities that have opened membership as one, one month during a quarter or something, or one week they onboard. New folks who are coming into the community and otherwise they're closed. So there are a lot of different ways that you can build that into the process, give everybody a break, kind of like a vacation, um, to pause, breathe, think things through. Um, but you know, ultimately we have to be thinking about how do we replicate exactly what Kirk was saying is as good about this community as we scale as.

Kirk:

Yeah. There's something that's been bouncing around in my head a lot about like community size. And I have a working hypothesis, which is that I don't think community size is necessarily a problem. I feel like it's almost like a precursor, like having the community getting bigger can lead to other things. Like those things are actually the problem or like a lack of certain. But if you know what it is and you're prepared for it, I don't think it's like, so like obviously suddenly having 500 members would probably be a bad thing, you know, but I guess if there was an increase in faculty members over the course of like 10 years, like, I don't know if that's a bad thing. So the problem might not be the 500 members. It's just like, what does it mean when new people enter the group? Right. And we found, um, too many people in a once. Starts to get a little,

Bekah:

Dilutes the experience or something.

Kirk:

it gets, well, it gets a little, it's like more strangers in a rural and as much as possible we try and like remove the feeling of like strangers in a room, you know? Like, or it's like, this is like friend, I don't know too well yet versus like person that I, I just, I don't want to interrupt. Um, but we also know like having fresh new faces is just a way of, it just, it keeps things fun and it keeps things healthy. Um, communities are dynamic systems. People enter, people, leave people return and like being able to like handle all those steps of your journey as a community member is really important for like having a good for me, you know? Yeah, let's say we have like a thousand members, but we're probably not gonna have like a thousand people active at the same time. They'll come in waves. They'll kind of go. And it, it, you know, there's, I think there's a way of like living in that space that can feel really good. Like very quickly you figured out, oh, it's not so much. Zooms can have lots of people. As long as when people finally start talking, they're in like a small enough space that it feels comfortable. And that's how the Greek government started. Uh, So, and I think there's like similar techniques so we can grow. And not necessarily it's like, I don't know, this will become like a thesis at some point, but the key metric may not be total numbers, but sort of like, how are the people interacting with other people? Are they still getting a chance for like intimate moments with a few members at any given time? And we can make that work and we think we can make that work. We also think we can have like the greatest conference of all time. We have big thoughts.

Bekah:

Next summer. Um, I'm going to push back a little bit, Kirk, cause I disagree slightly with what you're saying. Um, I do think the total number matters and I keep going back to it's Dunbar's number that you can maintain 150 connections at once. And I think that. That allows for slack intimacy. So I think that we also have to think through two things here, right? We're thinking about like, what does it look like in the breakout rooms and Tuesdays and Thursdays, we like to keep it to eight to 10 people per. And I think that that is, that is good. Um, but I also think that having that small experience where, you know, people in slack is important and it is tricky for the reasons that you say, because people come in and they come out all the time, um, you know, somebody who is super active and then they get a new job and then you don't hear from them as much. Right. Or they can't participate anymore, which is totally fine. Um, so it's a. Constant flow of people coming in. So, you know, we might have, might say we have 500 people in slack, but we certainly don't have 500 active people in slack. But I do think that that idea of having 150 people says something for the intimacy of the group, it's like their extended network of people. You can go to an in-person conference and be like, oh, I know that person there from Virtual Coffees. So. I'm going to talk to them because I'm standing in this corner alone by myself. Um, maybe that was me. Um, but I would like to figure out, or I, you know, I think that we're missing. Progress towards figuring out how to maintain that intimacy in both places. So I think that maybe there is a world where we do have 500 people in whatever platform we're on, but can still maintain that like 150 person, um, asynchronous communication intimacy, as well as those breakout room communications.

Dan:

Yeah, I, I agree. And I think that to like, kind of combine what both of you were saying together, you know, it's like the large number, isn't the, isn't the important metric, you know? And I think that's the biggest, like thing that I love, what was Kirk was saying was like, if we. We aggressively don't have metrics. Um, but like if we did like that and it was possible, that would be the thing to measure on right. Is like, are our members making intimate connections? You know, our, our members, uh, um, like part, part of a group, you know, you know what I mean? And so, and I totally agree with you, Bekah. Like it's like it when you say, oh, it, the number, it doesn't matter, you know? You're going to like, the number does matter. Right. Um, and whether that 150 numbers is, you know, feels right or not as is probably up in the air, but like, it's, it's one of those things where it's, um, and this is why we pause membership. And this is why we're like thinking so hard is because we want to be able to keep the, to keep the intimacy and the, um, sort of shape of our community while. And that's hard and not a lot of people have done it and we think we can crack it. And I think we're pretty close, honestly. Uh, and, um, but yeah, it's, it's, and it's very important to us. Uh, I think, and I think it's important to our community members as well. Um, so I, you know, when you are on the outside of the community of Virtual Coffee, or maybe you're brand new member, it might not be as clear. Or maybe if you haven't thought about it, you know, and, and you just kind of along for the ride. Um, I know for my, at least personally, like sometimes I just don't, I don't think about why something feels great or like why something is because I enjoy it. You know what I mean? And that's okay too. I think it's okay to just enjoy things, but like, this is why we wanted to talk about this as, as the other side of the coin. And it's like, we use it so that we can help support it are thinking very hard about why, you know, And how we can do more. So, yeah, and it's, it's hard, but it's fun. It's also fun and very gratifying too. So

Kirk:

We are all

Dan:

I'm excited.

Kirk:

Yeah. So I'm just gonna, just going to set the tone by saying a bunch of buzzwords related to this scalability, continuous integration, continuous deployment. Because I can't help, even as we're talking about this and like, ah, like kind of feels like that other stuff that I talk too much about, um, it's, it's sort of, it's, it's the same, it's, it's a similar concept of, uh, there is a thing that you are a part of and you're working on and you know, if, if like the core concept is there and like the people are there and the energy is there, it grows and that's. But there are different problems at different sizes. And like part of keeping something going is knowing like, not just how to be the like plucky up and coming thing, but also how to be this sort of like miniature, ongoing thing. Um, and we're, we're at that point, which is a good point to be, you know, I don't know what the tech equivalent is. Series C I don't know the words. Um,

Bekah:

That's right. We're series C community.

Kirk:

That sounds fine.

Dan:

Capital C

Kirk:

You can tell the,

Dan:

or a capital C plus plus community

Kirk:

oh no,

Dan:

can see if I can get Kirk to yell at me about C plus plus again.

Kirk:

I didn't yell at you. Like And then I immediately thought of like thousand bucks at a time and like redo it back or, you know,

Dan:

Uh, man.

Bekah:

Dan you're derailing us. We have done so well. We, we recovered from the initial intro question and then we were we're good. And

Dan:

I have,

Bekah:

I'm going to break this up the end of the

Dan:

there is a set limit of the amount of time that I can be serious for the amount of time streets. Sorry. I feel like I'm proud of us too. I feel like we held it together for a long time and we had some good, uh, some good thoughts. But then Kirk started yelling at me about C++ and it all just went

Bekah:

didn't yell at you during this

Dan:

no, I heard him do it. Yeah. No, it's, that's what that's what happened. You here.

Kirk:

One.

Bekah:

Okay. Listen, I think the key takeaway from this podcast is Dan is the instigator in every, every one of these situations. Okay. Go back and listen to all the podcast episodes. It is Dan every

Dan:

Nope. There's always somebody else there. And there, the.

Bekah:

and it's it's you?

Dan:

on my own, I would get in no trouble. All right That's not true. I'll also, oh no, this will be out. This is going to come out in a couple of weeks. So we'll already have a couple, but Kirk and I are starting a new streaming series called TypeScript Tuesdays. And, um, so there'll be a couple of, so, so come find us on the Virtual Coffee stream on Twitch

Kirk:

I just want to be.

Dan:

IO, I think like that, but yeah. Um, I imagined that Kirk is going to be yelling at me a lot there too. So if you like hearing Kirk yell at me, he's holding his breath very aggressively right now. So, uh, come join us on Twitch every Tuesday as well.

Bekah:

Yeah. And I think that's something that we're working on too. Like, wow. Membership is closed. How do we provide? Nope, my brain stopped. How do we provide

Kirk:

spaces where we get to interact with people outside of the community.

Bekah:

yes. Value to the external tech community? That is what I was thinking

Dan:

Yes. Oh. And Bekah started that, uh, Twitter. That was Twitter chat. That's what you call it. Yeah. Yeah.

Bekah:

Yeah. So

Dan:

that go?

Bekah:

um, it went pretty well. It was fun. I have some ideas for some ways to update it. So, um, basically I took the intro question and the Backpocket topic and put it out there for a synchronous Twitter chat last week. Um, I did it on I think, a Wednesday. So that was prior to doing the Thursday. Coffee, and I'd love to be able to combine those two. So if we have related topics, then, um, what might work in the future is having an intro question, um, for people to get to know each other and including both of those conversations. And, you know, both of our, our members who weren't able to attend can engage in those and the external community as well. So we'll try it out for a while, see how it goes. And, um, hopefully people will find that.

Kirk:

I topics will never be related.

Bekah:

Correct. We're going to meet on Monday and we're going to figure it out.

Kirk:

My topics only exist to sow the seeds of chaos. And then I have to spend half a day feeling

Bekah:

you're Loki. I think next time we do this, we should, we, our intro question should be like, what, um, character, what super villain would one of the other. Co-hosts B. So like you would have to say Kirk's super villain character Kirk,

Kirk:

It

Dan:

okay, but we're saving, we're saving this for next time.

Kirk:

I'm putting

Bekah:

or unless you, unless you have it now.

Kirk:

putting the thought in your head now.

Dan:

about it. Wait doctor Dr. Doom

Kirk:

Yes. Wait, what was that tone? Whoa, whoa,

Dan:

I thought you said doctor who for a second and also be like doctor who, I don't think he's a villain.

Kirk:

Uh,

Dan:

Dr. Doom. that makes more sense.

Kirk:

I can, I can upset an entire fandom right now.

Dan:

I mean, go for it. I, I'm not a doctor do, I mean, I'm not a, not fan, but I'm not a fan either, so you're not going to make me upset.

Bekah:

only seen one episode of Dr. Who and I think mannequins came alive or something. And I was like, it was not for me.

Kirk:

We'll call themselves. and it sounds like children.

Bekah:

with little Cindy Lou? hold hands and sing

Dan:

Cindy Lou hooligan. Um,

Kirk:

What're we talking about?

Bekah:

What a great podcast this is. And we're glad that everybody has listened to all of season five. Come back for season six, to hear answers.

Kirk:

Um,

Bekah:

like our podcast, please give us five stars and write a comment to help other people find our podcast too.

Dan:

yes. If you write a comment, um, that, oh, I was going to say something. I don't want to prejudge the comments. Um, I was going to say, if you write a comment, that's interesting. We might read it on the podcast. Um, but like, don't make that, you know, don't let that stop you from writing a comment. Not interested.

Bekah:

we find every comment. Interesting. So write a

Dan:

we want to hear from everybody, so yeah. Uh, if you want to send us any questions that you'd like us to answer in the future or any, um, ideas for the podcast, things like that. Uh, we're always excited to hear, um, any feedback or questions or anything like that. So, yeah. Podcast at Virtual Coffee that IO or Twitter or slack or any of that stuff too. Um,

Bekah:

thanks joining us for season five.

Dan:

Yeah. Thank you.

Kirk:

Thanks for coming to my podcast later on. Podcasts. I let Bekah and Dan be on because I'm nice and I never yell.

Bekah:

Thanks for allowing us to be on your podcast, Kirk.

Kirk:

You're very welcome

Dan:

Kirk, I'll talk to you on Tuesday when, uh, arguing with you about text script.

Kirk:

hushed tones and.

Dan:

Uh, Thank you for listening to this episode of the Virtual Coffee Podcast. This episode was produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel. If you have questions or comments you can hit us up on Twitter at VirtualCoffeeIO, or email us at podcast@virtualcoffee.io. You can find the show notes, sign up for the newsletter, check out any of our other resources on our website VirtualCoffee.io. If you're interested in sponsoring virtual coffee you can find out more information on our website at VirtualCoffee.io/sponsorship. Please subscribe to our podcast and be sure to leave us a review. Thanks for listening and we'll see you next week!


The Virtual Coffee Podcast is produced by Dan Ott and Bekah Hawrot Weigel and edited by Andy Bonjour at GoodDay Communications.