It's an idea that has been bouncing in my head for months now.
I had reached unprecedented playground fatigue levels (where the sufferer is overcome by feelings of despair at the mention of a playground) and due to the nature of my work had little or no contact with any local hackers/rubyists/geeks.
I love local user groups, I actually started down the path to coding in one such group, in this here city. We didn't call it a user group, we didn't have internet (it was Fidonet, BBSs and 2400 baud modems back then) and we drank mostly retsina but the spirit was the same.
It is astonishing how long one can procrastinate and even more astonishing how easy and fast one can organize a user group with fellow geeks.
I started by tweeting a question. The answer led to rubyst.es a greek ruby community site, which unfortunately seems to lack any activity (still waiting on the approval of my registration guys). After a bit of ominous silence and a feeling of dread - currently very familiar in Greece - I reframed my tweeted question and this time I got pointed to ruby-hellug.
It's a mailing list so I fired an email and forgot about it. Or at least tried to. It took exactly 25 minutes for the first email to reach me. Apparently there
iswas no Ruby group in Thessaloniki, GR.
James Gray (James Edward Gray III as I know him ;) ) offered the final push the next day in response to an email for help. Essentially "just do it and get the newbies in, you won't regret it".
It was June 22nd. The thessaloniki.rb founders meeting (meaning we went out for beers) took place on July 7th.
thessaloniki.rb #1 (meaning we talked about Ruby and then went out for beers) took place on July 12th.
Reception was very positive. The list has 15 members already, which - taking into account that it is the middle of the summer and traditionally things are super slow here - I consider a huge success.
We even have swag: Our group counts as it's member the first and (currently) only GitHub employee in Greece ( Petros Amiridis in a league of his own) and GitHub rocks when it comes to community support.
Also Avdi Grim of Exceptional Ruby fame was extra helpful when I asked him to essentially ripoff his book and make a presentation - not only did he give permission, he offered a generous discount to the group as well. A thousand thanks to you Avdi!
Thanks are due to City College and George Eleftherakis for kindly allowing us to use their space.
We have a group, we have a GitHub repository, a twitter hashtag (#thessrb - works on so many levels: thess for thessaloniki, thess=='you want' in greek, so thessrb=='you want ruby' etc.), ideas and apparently voracious appetite for learning.
At a time of great hardship and uncertainty meeting a group of intelligent people with energy and drive to learn, help each other and move forward is priceless.
See you all in September!