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Author: Manuel Lemos

Posted on:

Categories: New site features, PHP User Groups

The PHP Users Group ranking is an initiative that is aimed to highlight PHP user groups that have more active members.

This article explains how it works and what can you do to lead your local PHP user group to have more and better activities for the benefit of the PHP community in general.




Contents

* Introduction

* The challenge of keeping PHP user groups alive

* Advertising PHP user groups

* Handling inactive user groups

* PHP user groups ranking

* Help your PHP user group raise in the ranking


* Introduction

PHP is a language totally driven by the PHP users. Unlike other languages and platforms, such as Java and .NET, PHP does not have a big company behind it with deep pockets and millionaire budgets to market the language.

PHP was spread by its users. Over time PHP user groups have been doing an extraordinary job in promoting the PHP communities everywhere, so local PHP users get more support in their local idiom and progress faster in their careers as PHP developers.

Many PHP user groups organize meetings and events that help PHP users learning more and make valuable contacts that they often use to get in touch with more experienced and helpful PHP developers.


* The challenge of keeping PHP user groups alive

Despite some PHP user groups attract many local PHP developers, most of the work is often done by a small number of volunteers that strive to keep the frequency of the user groups activities.

Most of these volunteers work on the group activities for free, just for the love of keeping their PHP community alive and kicking.

However, for many of them it is not possible to keep spending time and effort organizing the user group activities voluntarily and continuously for a long time. Most of them have their families and work duties to which they need to give priority.

Unfortunately, it is not unusual to see user group leaders dropping off. They need to hand over the leadership to others.

Therefore, it is fundamental for keeping user groups alive, to get as many active members as possible, to eventually rotate the user group leadership between different members. When this does not happen, many user groups end up dying.


* Advertising PHP user groups

The best way to keep user groups alive is to advertise them. I mean tell the world that the user groups exist and they need to sign-up more active members that eventually will assume leadership roles in rotation with other members.

That was the reason why I decided to launch the PHP user groups diffusion initiative in 2004.

http://www.phpclasses.org/blog/post/36-PHP-User-Groups-diffu ...

After having witnessed the practical death of my local PHP user group due to the shortage of members, I figured that other PHP user groups around the world were probably having the same issues struggling to survive.

The idea is simple. The PHPClasses site is visited by many thousands of PHP users around the world. If they tell the site from which country they are, the site orients them right in the login welcome page to join a local user group.

The site takes user group submissions from their leaders. Every time an user logs in the PHPClasses site, the site shows the active user groups of the user country in a map.

It is a simple way to advertise PHP user groups that gives them great visibility and does not cost anything to anybody.


* Handling inactive user groups

This initiative is only helpful if the users are lead to participate in groups that are alive and the users are active. Leading users to inactive user groups may not be helpful at all.

One way that the PHPClasses uses to try to verify if the user groups are alive is to check if the user groups page still exist and it is still about the PHP user group that was submitted.

The site does this verification by checking the existence of a link pointing back to a page in the PHPClasses that lists PHP resources for the users of the same country of the user group, such as PHP jobs, PHP professionals, PHP user groups, and PHP Classes all for that country.

Besides the verification purposes, it is also an helpful page with information for PHP users of the group country.

If an user group is detected to be inactive, the responsible user is notified to fix the problem in the group site. This is also helpful to help user groups fixing issues in their sites that they were not aware.

While this verification method has been helpful to detect whether a listed user group is still alive, this method is far from perfect. Some groups never take off despite the verification link is present.

There are also some users that submit fake user group sites to get advertising to their blogs or businesses. I thought of manually banning those fake submissions but I realized that I could never evaluate all submissions because often the submitted sites are in idioms that I do not understand. It is also not viable for me to manually verify every site because they are so many.


* PHP user groups ranking

A better solution to automate the verification of the user groups activity is to evaluate the number of active users. Fake user group submissions do not have active users.

Therefore I decided to provide a means to let users of the PHPClasses site tell on which PHP user groups they participate.

Obviously, this will not count the number of actual users of the groups because not all members are registered in the PHPClasses site. But the more PHPClasses users tell they belong to a certain user group, the greater it is the evidence that the group is real and is alive.

With this information of the number of active users, the site computes a ranking that helps lowering the exposure of fake user groups, in benefit of real user groups by making them appear listed first.

The site has in place measures to detect fake site accounts and discard them in the counts made for the PHP user groups ranking.

The top user groups world ranking is listed in this page:

http://www.phpclasses.org/browse/group/top/

If you look at the list of user groups of each country, you may notice that it is already sorted according the group overall ranking position.


* Help your PHP user group raise in the ranking

The PHP user group ranking should help motivating user group leaders to encourage more members to participate in their groups. The more active members a group gets, the greater is the moral compensation for the user group leaders.

The first thing an user group leader can do is to tell his members that now there is a PHP user group ranking which is aimed to help active user groups to get more visibility in detriment of inactive or fake user groups.

To make it easier to spread this PHP user group ranking, a new domain was registered to list the ranking. It has a name that is easier to remember. This page contains links to the pages in PHPClasses site with the user groups of each country.

http://www.phpusergroups.com/

Then you can tell the members of your user group that are also PHPClasses users to go on the site and tell which group they belong. That can be done going to this page.

http://www.phpclasses.org/group_member.html

Users can tell they they belong to more than one PHP user group. However, only one group can be ticked as the main PHP user group.

You can also tell them to register specifically as members of your group by passing your user group alias in the URL like this. Replace the php-group-alias by the alias of your group.

http://www.phpclasses.org/group_member.html?group=php-group- ...

Another way of getting your users there is to tell them to click on a link that says "I am a member" in the listing of the user groups of your country.

Finally, I would like to clarify that this initiative was never meant to compete with any other initiative to promote PHP user groups. The more advertising your user groups get the better.

As many of you know, there are other PHP user group promotion initiatives. It should not matter which initiative leads more users to the user groups, as a long as it helps to keep alive as many PHP user groups as possible.

As a matter of fact, if you would like your group to get as much exposure as possible, I would like to encourage you to also register your groups in these other sites for similar purposes.

Some initiatives of the PHP group to promote user groups
http://wiki.php.net/usergroups

The oldest directory of PHP user groups
http://www.phpusergroups.org/

Recent local PHP user group directory in the Zend site
http://www.zend.com/en/community/local-php-groups


I have more ideas to promote user groups, but for now I lack of time to implement. Things will come as time permits.

If you know of any other directories, initiatives or you also have more ideas to promote user groups, feel free to tell about them posting a comment to this article.

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Comments:

1. phpusergroups site - Alex I. (2010-01-14 08:46)
phpusergroups.org seems to be dead... - 3 replies
Read the whole comment and replies


Trackbacks:

1. PHPClasses.org: PHP User Group Listing (and Rank) (2010-01-14 09:14)
On the PHPClasses.org blog today there’s a new post from Manuel Lemos looking at user groups - how to keep them alive and what you can do to rekindle a faltering group...


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