Debian Local Groups at DebConf20 and beyondOn Wed 16 September 2020 Written by Francisco M. Neto and Laura Arjona Reina
Translations: fr pt-BR
There are a number of large and very successful Debian Local Groups (Debian France, Debian Brazil and Debian Taiwan, just to name a few), but what can we do to help support upcoming local groups or help spark interest in more parts of the world?
There has been a session about Debian Local Teams at Debconf20 and it generated quite a bit of constructive discussion in the live stream (recording available at https://meetings-archive.debian.net/pub/debian-meetings/2020/DebConf20/), in the session's Etherpad and in the IRC channel (#debian-localgroups). This article is an attempt at summarizing the key points that were raised during that discussion, as well as the plans for the future actions to support new or existent Debian Local Groups and the possibility of setting up a local group support team.
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 than before to encourage local interaction.
Reasoning for local groups
Debian can seem scary for those outside. Already having a 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.
Local groups are incredibly important to the success of Debian since they often help with translations, making us more diverse, support, setting up local bug squashing sprints, establishing a local DebConf team along with miniDebConfs, getting sponsors for the project and much more.
Existence of a Local Groups would also facilitate access to "swag" like stickers and mugs, since people 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.
How to deal with local groups, how to define a local group
Debian gathers the information about Local Groups in its Local Groups wiki page (and subpages). Other organisations also have their own schemes, some of them featuring a map, blogs, or clear rules about what constitutes a local group. In the case of Debian there is not a predefined set of "rules", even about the group name. That is perfectly fine, we assume that certain local groups may be very small, or temporary (created around a certain time when they plan several activities, and then become silent). However, the way the groups are named and how they are listed on the wiki page sets expectations with regards to what kinds of activities they involve.
For this reason, we encourage all the Debian Local Groups to review their entries in the Debian wiki, keep it current (e.g. add a line "Status: Active (2020)), and we encourage informal groups of Debian contributors that somehow "meet", to create a new entry in the wiki page, too.
What can Debian do to support Local Groups
Having a centralized database of groups is good (if up-to-date), but not enough. We'll explore other ways of propagation and increasing visibility, like organising the logistics of printing/sending swag and facilitate access to funding for Debian-related events.
Continuation of efforts
Efforts shall continue regarding Local Groups. Regular meetings are happening every two or three weeks; interested people are encouraged to explore some other relevant DebConf20 talks (Introducing Debian Brasil, Debian Academy: Another way to share knowledge about Debian, An Experience creating a local community on a small town), websites like Debian flyers (including other printed material as cube, stickers), visit the events section of the Debian website and the Debian Locations wiki page, and participate in the IRC channel #debian-localgroups at OFTC.