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Debian local groups BoF summary, and next meeting time

Below are some notes from the Debian local groups BoF at DebConf20, put together by Francisco M. Neto and Laura Arjona Reina among others.

Since the session at DebConf20, we have been keeping in touch on #debian-localgroups, and already held one follow-up discussion meeting there.

Our next meeting will be on Friday 25 September 2020, at 18:00 UTC.


# Debian Local Groups at DebConf20

The BoF session about Local Groups in Debian, which took place on Saturday 29th August, generated quite a bit of discussion both in the live stream (recording at https://meetings-archive.debian.net/pub/debian-meetings/2020/DebConf20/50-local-teams.webm), in the session's etherpad (https://pad.online.debconf.org/p/50-local-teams), and in the IRC channel. We have published a blog post about this: https://bits.debian.org/2020/09/debian-local-groups-debconf20.html but you can find some more details in this message.

The BoF video call had Moray Allan, Jonathan Carter, Paulo Henrique de Lima Santana, Elena Grandi, luna, Jonathan Bustillos, Antonio Terceiro, Laura Arjona Reina, Cristoph Biedl, Nattie Mayer-Hutchings, Sruthi and tvaz.

## Pandemic situation

During a pandemic it may seem strange to discuss offline meetings, but this is a good time to be planning things for the future. At the same time, the current situation makes it more important to encourage local interaction, since travelling longer distances is more difficult than before.

## Reasoning for local groups

Debian can seem scary for those outside. Having a previous connection to Debian - especially to people directly involved in it - seems to be the way through which most contributors arrive. But if one doesn't have a connection, it is not that easy; local groups facilitate that by improving networking.

In India, new DDs got into Debian through their connection to local groups, which showed their importance.

In Brazil groups started in some states and expanded until coalescing into one single national group; currently there are some groups in specific cities (Curitiba, Brasília, São Paulo). They also started an initiative recently of intensifying their presence online, with regular streams with varied topic regarding Debian (non-developer contributors, interviews with DDs about their motivation of going through the process, the #fiqueemcasausedebian event). Regarding online events, it was also pointed out that, while not ideal, using more popular albeit non-free platforms like YouTube help reach wider audiences. There were a couple of related talks during this Debconf: "Introducing Debian Brasil" (https://debconf20.debconf.org/talks/105-introducing-debian-brasil/) and "Conheça a comunidade Debian Brasil e suas contribuições" (https://debconf20.debconf.org/talks/104-conheca-a-comunidade-debian-brasil-e-suas-contribuicoes/).

Local groups could also facilitate access to "swag" like stickers and mugs, since people do not always have the time to deal with the process of finding a supplier to actually get those made. The activity of local groups might facilitate that by organizing related logistics. Groups could also act as a "regional" entity in that regard, centralizing production of that kind of item for other smaller groups for which it makes less sense to spend time and resources to get things done. It was also pointed out that local groups were instrumental in facilitating t-shirt production and distribution for this Debconf (in India, Brazil/Latin America, South Africa and Israel).

## How to deal with local groups

Although there is a map of Debian groups, it is out of date. Sometimes groups are dead or didn't get enough momentum but stay listed while other groups are active but unlisted ("invisible"). Sometimes people just assume they "know everybody" and just meet privately and don't consider themselves as Local Groups.

Besides that, the wiki page (https://wiki.debian.org/LocalGroups) is not particularly helpful or friendly. In comparison, Ubuntu's "loco team" (http://loco.ubuntu.com) features a blog, a map of upcoming events and a Governance section with an elected council. Fedora (http://fedoracommunity.org)'s initiative includes separate roles ('promoters', 'advocates', 'ambassadors'). Other organisations also have their own schemes. The GNOME User Group Guidelines (https://wiki.gnome.org/UserGroups/Guidelines) are quite clear, and state directly what is required for a group, including an appointed representative, Code of Conduct and Guidelines for representing GNOME.

## How to define a local group

Naming of local groups is inconsistent; different groups have different names, from City/Country names to "Debian User Group" to "Debian Interest Group" and in some cases, amusing joke names. Group names don't necessarily need to be enforced; however, the way they are named and how they are listed on the website sets expectations with regards to what kinds of activities they involve. There is also the need for distinction between contributors and users in those groups, as in they are not expected to be exclusive to a "class" but involve a variety activities related to users or to contributors or to both.

What should be the criteria for a group do be listed?

 * Should they be exclusively related to Debian?
 * Should they use/advocate free software only?
* Group size should not be a problem (even a group with as few as 2 people should be considered)
 * Something else?

Even in a normal situation (outside a pandemic) it might be a good idea not to insist on regular meetings; groups should feel free to meet with the regularity they are comfortable with, even if that means only ad-hoc events. This is a different case compared to expecting regularity from maintainers/developers.

## What can Debian do to support Local Groups

Having a central list/map of groups is good (if up-to-date), but not enough. Having other ways of propagation and increasing visibility is desirable, like:

 * Having a central event history?
* Have wiki page entries be individual for local groups, or a more focused website
 * Host lists/wikis/IRC/matrix
 * Actively encourage formation of groups
 * Create a team to support local groups
 * Publicize events on social media/lists/etc
 * Should Debian spend money?

It would be nice to have a fancier website for local groups, but the most important thing is keeping information up to date. Doing a census of groups might be a step in the right direction. Creating an online presence for groups helps create a feeling of being a part of the group and enhances willingness to participate in offline meetings (when possible). An online presence would also facilitate contact in edge cases where groups with commonalities happened to be spread across great distances (e.g. Spanish Debian).

### Spending Debian money

 * Should money be sent directly to groups? (probably not)
 * Send "swag" (t-shirts, stickers, mugs, etc)
 * Other kinds of funding (catering, venues, travel expenses)

This brings up a lot of questions about which groups would receive funding (e.g. Debian-exclusive or not), how it would be spent, what form of evidence for proper use should be provided, and overall accountability.

# Continuation of efforts

Efforts shall continue regarding Local Groups. Another meeting was planned after DebConf; people were encouraged to list their names in the etherpad to be included in the discussion. Further discussion can also be had at the IRC channel #debian-localgroups, on OFTC.

# Links

**Some other relevant DebConf20 talks**

[Debian Academy: Another way to share knowledge about Debian]

An Experience creating a local community on a small town

Mi experiencia creando una comunidad locan en una ciudad pequeña

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