Today I had the pleasure of participating in a rare meeting of the Ethiopia GNU/Linux Users Group at the iceaddis co-working space in Addis Ababa. In all the years I've lived in Kenya, and all the times I've been to Ethiopia, I've never heard anything about Linux or open-source software groups in the community. But alas, they do exist! I enlisted the help of some friends in Addis and planned to arrange a meeting the next time I went to Ethiopia.
Much to my surprise the Linux Users Group has been in existence for a few years, and even has a fairly active mailing list (albeit a bit off topic!). The list is active enough that, when we sent word of the meeting, several people replied stating interest and one actually showed up to the meeting!
The meeting was small, short, and sweet. In addition to our one Internet person, I brought a few of my Addis friends and colleagues. Seven people taking time out of their Saturday to talk about free, libre, open-source software and community. Not a bad start!
A Good Start
I opened the meeting by giving a brief background of the Nairobi GNU/Linux Users Group; from a few of us trading hashtags on Twitter to regular monthly meetings, an active mailing list, lively IRC channel, democratically managed website, etc. On second thought it wasn't very brief, but I'm sure it was entertaining and insightful. ;)
We talked about some ways to ramp up the group:
- Networking with other groups like Ubuntu ZA and Uganda LUG
- Different formats for users group meetings, like alternating between informal and giving presentations
- Raising the profile of Linux and free, libre, open-source software in Ethiopia
- Creating a community of people with common interests who can tip each other off about job opportunities, go rafting down the Nile together, recommend books to each other, etc (seriously!)
- Relationships with other users groups in Addis, like the Meteor.js group
Generally, I drew parallels between the early days of the Nairobi GNU/Linux Users Group and the current state of the Ethiopian group in Addis. My advice was for them to create a website and draw on social media to drive users to their mailing list to keep discussions going.
Eyob's GitHub Shirt
Here's a shoutout to Eyob, who saw the message on the mailing list and bothered to show up. I had brought a GitHub shirt with me to give out and it just seemed right to give it to him!
Hopefully that's motivation for people to show up to meetings from time to time! Also, I think he might be the first one in Addis with a GitHub shirt. w00t?
Linux Users' Couches
I joked that I'd like to be able to take a road trip from Addis to Cape Town and sleep on Linux users' couches in cities all along the way. It's a bit of an oversimplification, but the point is that we're building networks. Whether you're looking for help on your Ubuntu machine, trying to find potential employees to manage your servers, or just need a place to sleep in Pretoria, we are building networks to connect people.
Thanks to everyone that came to the meeting. Stay tuned for the next one! So long, and thanks for all the ቡና!