Symposium 42 came into being approximately a year ago now, when the board was formed and the founding members were invited to join. It’s been a slow burn (too slow, we know) but we have been present as a group at several conferences, help each other out with technical issues, and we have our first real event coming up, in partnership with the community in Poland. More on that in a future post.
A large part of what was discussed when forming Symposium 42 was our membership.:
- What should be our criteria for inviting people to be members?
- Who should be the first members?
- How would potential new member be identified, what was the process?
I wanted to say a little more about this, especially given (spoiler alert) that we are now setting up to expand our membership.
Who Do We Want?
The first part was pretty easy – We wanted to show appreciation for people who made our community, who helped all of us. Unlike other communities that existed when we formed, we wanted to not just recognise the technicians (all the recognition clubs did that and had done for decades). We wanted to also recognise those who worked, often behind the scenes and with very little public appreciation, on creating events, running user groups, making things happen so that the technicians could then share their knowledge. Its damned hard to present on APEX if there is no event to present at!
We also decided that we would only recognise those that we felt had proven they were good at what they do, and who were sharing with others because they wanted to. That last bit is a bit hard to clearly quantify. When someone is organising a conference in their spare time and is not being paid to do it (in fact, often organisers end up spending their own money) it is absolutely clear they are doing it for the community. It is less so when the person is presenting but they earning a living from the technology, and even more when their job role is community outreach. But those of us in the community know when someone is not just doing their job but they really do want to help people, and go that extra mile (unless of course they can just fake sincerity really well). In the end though, it is a bit of a judgement call and we might not always call it right. Bottom line, we want to be there to highlight and support those who give to the community.
The other thing we decided was that it was quality not quantity. Producing vast amounts of average content is not going to get you an invite to SYM42, but 2 or 3 really good articles a year with supporting evidence & test cases is far more likely to get our attention. Similarly, going down the pub with your mates every month and calling it “London Oracle Beers” is not in the same league as organising a national conference.
Where Do We Find The First?
Who should be the first members? SYM42 sprung from a group of international speakers & conference organisers who were getting together for a Zoom call with drinks once a week when we were all confined at home and many of us discussed the embryo SYM42, even before we even had a name for it. All we knew was we wanted to do something. . This zoom crowd were a pre-made founding group This group was then extended by each board member nominating 3 or4 people and us arguing about whether we should ask Derick join. We didn’t ask Derick. We asked most of the others.
Interestingly, not one of the people invited to be founding members said no. I have to say, the board found that affirming and a little humbling. We had to make it work.
This final part of Membership was by far the trickiest. How would we identify other people we wished to invite to the club? And how would we try to ensure they were deserving and not just a friend of a board member? We were not going down the Points route, we decided that very, very quickly. We also felt that some people who are no longer that active probably deserved recognition for past efforts.
As soon as we had finished asking the founding members, the board kept saying to each other “we should have invited her/him!” There are loads of good people out there who deserve as much recognition as the current members.
We also decided it was not going to be just the board identifying people. That would doom the group to being a clique of the same people.
A large part of what SYM42 is aiming to do is to recognise people active in the community, be a bit of a self-help group for those who put all the effort in, but also to be standard-bearers for spreading and sharing good knowledge. And all the current members are people doing those things already.
So it makes sense that the best people to identify new member are the members – and that is what we are doing.
As of right now, we have opened up the door for any existing member to nominate new members, and they can do so on the members-only section of the SYM42 web site. They just fill in a form with basic information and on a regular basis the board will review all nominations.
The nominator has to justify the nomination, give reasons why they feel this person is contributing to the community. They may be asked to discuss the nomination further with the board, they may not. The board will then, as a group, make a decision. No one board member has the right to veto-in or veto-out a nomination. A decision will be made and fed back to the nominator. The board is not obliged to explain the decision, SYM42 is basically a private club. But if it is felt there is something positive for the nominee if we explain the decision (and they know they have been nominated) then of course we will explain. After all, we exist to build people up, not kick them down.
Of course, the person might not want to be a member, and that’s absolutely OK! Some people really dislike this sort of thing, seeing it as elitism (which, to be fair, by its very nature it kind of is). Others might be blighted by imposer syndrome and not feel good enough. Others will simply see no point to it. We are just a club, in the great scheme of things it’s no big deal. But if you are asked to be a member, whether you accept or not, you know there is a bunch of people who do all this community stuff, know what is involved, and appreciate what you do.