Sometimes you build it, but they still won’t come


Photo: Markus Merz (flickr)

Last year when the Symbian Foundation was still being set up, we thought it would be beneficial to provide a physical meeting place for the sizable Symbian community in London. We decided to call this the Symbian Stammtisch, inspired by the table for regular visitors to German beer halls. The Stammtisch was, obviously, to be a regular meeting held in a pub, where people were free to come, have a drink and discuss Symbian.

Before launching the Stammtisch in September, to build interest we reached out to the usual suspects: package owners, bloggers, power users, application developers, service providers. We blogged, tweeted and email key people to build up interest.

Uptake was slow, but we were of the opinion that if we kept at it, running regular Stammtisch events and promoting, it would build into something bigger. Ten months hence, it is clear that this isn’t happening. The Stammtisch as we imagined it has proved to be a failure, and we have put it on hiatus for the time being. So what happened, and where did we go wrong?

Looking back, I’d argue the problem was that it wasn’t clear what benefit attending the Stammtisch provided to attendants. For events like Mobile Monday, you go there to network. To the various developer days provided by OEMs, you go to learn something concrete. Our thinking with the Stammtisch was to provide a more open forum, but still focused around a topic related to Symbian. While this was very valuable for the Symbian Foundation, community members did not see the same value.

There is a need for a Stammtisch like venue, we just need to figure out the right format.

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About Lars Kurth

Lars Kurth is a highly effective, passionate community manager with strong experience of working with open source communities (Symbian, Symbian DevCo, Eclipse, GNU) and currently is community manager for xen.org. Lars has 9 years of experience building and leading engineering teams and a track record of executing several change programs impacting 1000 users. Lars has 16 years of industry experience in the tools and mobile sector working at ARM, Symbian Ltd, Symbian Foundation and Nokia. Lars has strong analytical, communication, influencing and presentation skills, good knowledge of marketing and product management and extensive background in C/C , Java and software development practices which he learned working as community manager, product manager, chief architect, engineering manager and software developer. If you want to know more, check out uk.linkedin.com/in/larskurth. Personally, Lars has a wide range of interests such as literature, theatre, cinema, cooking and gardening. He is particularly fascinated by orchids and carnivorous plants and has built a rather large collection of plants from all over the world. His love for plants extends into a passion for travel, in particular to see plants grow in their native habitats.
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18 Responses to Sometimes you build it, but they still won’t come

  1. Jukka H says:

    Hi, please add link to RSS feed to your blog so noobs like me can add it easily 🙂

  2. teknologskip says:

    Done! Thanks for commenting!

  3. Tam Hanna says:

    Hi,
    as the CEO of Tamoggemon Ltd., I take offense at this statement.

    In (not exactly smartphone-friendly) Austria, our first attempt at a Stammtisch generated four visitors and multiple people (over 20) who were not able to come but wanted to, and promised to come next time.

    If the Symbian Foundation is not able to run a Stammtisch, it should not question the validity or format; but rather question the issue it itself has promoting its own event.

    Saying that “a concept sucks” is much easier than fixing one’s own implementation. This concept is popular – but the current situation of a company which once had a blue orb as logo and is now owned by people with difficult-to-access media lounges looms.

    We from Tamoggemon Ltd. remain committed to the format, and will continue to run it. We are furthermore happy to provide information on how to help promote the Stammtisch format.

    With compliments
    Tam Hanna

  4. Lars Kurth says:

    @teknologskip: at the CLS I participated in a session on local meetups & meetings and what different people experienced. I will need to go through my notes and go through some of the detail. I think what most of them had in common though was that they used meetup.com

    Also a few Europeans were at the session, and they all use meetup.com to announce those type as sessions, as well as their blog, twitter, etc. That sounds like a reasonable thing, from a letting people know perspective.

    I would challenge you to run an experiment and search for “Symbian” on meetup.com

  5. I know Kern uses meetup.com for his events. We should look into that. Meetup presently has 0 events with the word “symbian” around London. In fact, Kern’s event is the only event listed with “symbian” in the title.

  6. Victor Palau says:

    It is also worth pointing out that this issue is may specific to the London Stammtisch. The ones in KL and Helsinki where extremely successful.

    @Seb – I think your title is spot on, but maybe the message is not comming as strongly on the actual post. IMHO, the stammtisch is a way to enable an existing community (i.e. a group of people with common objective working together to achieve them) to meet up.

    I think that the Mobile community in London is already saturated with opportunities to meet and talk about Symbian.

    So instead of changing the format, I would say that our mission at Symbian-London is to identify local communities that would benefit from a face2face beer sponsored meet-up.

  7. Yes there are too many places to go. Every week there is at least one mobile meeting somewhere in London.

    And the message might have been a bit mangled, because I tried to keep the post short. What I’m saying is that the old Stammtisch format wasn’t working, so that is on hold while we figure out the format and audience.

    Also, I’m convinced the name must change. Britons simply can’t pronounce Stammtisch.

  8. Lars Kurth says:

    @Tam,
    I don’t think we are saying that the Stammtisch format generally not working. As Victor has pointed out, the issue we are seeing comes down to a combination of promotion (many events all the time), giving the meetings more of a purpose (rather than just getting together for beers) and the fact that in London England the concept of a Stammtisch is not known.

  9. Hi Sebastian,
    Thanks for the post.

    I think it is fair to say that the London Stammtisch did not gather the momentum and attendees originally anticipated when it was launched, but I don’t agree with your comment that “community members did not see the same value”. I’m one of the community and I found the Stammtisch useful! I met several Symbian Foundation employees for the first time through the Stammtisch meetings (including you). I think face to face meetings really help people work together so I see a lot of value in this type of meeting.

    Concerning promotion of future events, upcoming.yahoo.com is another site you might want to use.

    I think it would be good to understand more about the other stammtisch events around the world to see if the same things could apply in London. What did they do differently? Who attended? I think the Helsinki stammtisch started with presentations. Maybe that’s a good way to start?

  10. Tam Hanna says:

    Hi Folks,
    let’s look at it this way: if your audience is overloaded, you need to find a way to attract them. First, you however need to decide who actually is the ones you want to come to the Stammtisch.

    Look at why airberlin manages to kill our governmental airline: the governmental airline tries to serve everyone a little bit, whereas the private competitor goes “all-in” or nothing.

    Regarding the Language, I am not sure myself…

    All the best and thanks
    Tam Hanna

  11. Chris,

    I guess I was making a very sweeping statement that the community didn’t enjoy the Stammtisch. We had 10 or so non-employee attendants, many of them attending several times.

    There was value for some, but not for enough people. What do you think would make more Nokians come? How could a Stammtisch type event be of value?

    • I think more people would attend if
      – they knew other community members would be attending
      – they could learn something new from a presentation/demo
      – they could hear the latest news first at the Stammtisch
      – the purpose of the event was better understood

      I think the timing of the event should be in the evening (say after 6pm) rather than during working hours to avoid meeting clashes and allow a wider set of participants.

      Maybe other types of event formats should be considered as well..
      1. Technical meeting with “lightning talks” from companies working with Symbian like Accenture and Ixonos
      2. Talks targeted at phone users as well as developers – from SF Councils chairs or one of the SF spokespeople
      3. Milestone parties
      4. Discussion/review of symbian ideas relating to packages owned by London community members
      5. Panel discussions
      6. Hold a joint event with other london mobile events/user groups

      • I like these ideas a lot.

        Can it be that it is a mistake to have Symbian Foundation hosting these events? Maybe it would be better to let passionate community people like you drive this, with Symbian only supporting and promoting.

        In a sense, what we’ve done in the past is create a forum and expect people to show up, whereas now I think it would make more sense to support whatever event people have already decided to go to. That ties into your point #6.

  12. Tam Hanna says:

    Hi,
    I have to openly admit that the main reason why my event didnt burn was that Nokia was pushing the shit out of it.

    Palm had user groups, another large manufacturer currently wants to build some up – going to the manufacturers would be a very good possibility as long as you don’t ‘prefer’ any house…

    All the best
    Tam Hanna

  13. Rafe says:

    I did attend Stammtisch on two separate occasions. In both instances I was already in London for the day so it was an extra.

    I’ certainly agree that there’s a need for some kind of regular event, but it’s hard to say what the format should be. I wonder if a more formal series of events might not be a good starting point and then see if something more informal can be built from there? I think it might also need some active full time evangelists who also help promote / stimulate / run community and open-source initiatives.

    I suspect the advent of Symbian^3 and Symbian^4 devices will help stimulate more interest. Thus far a lot of what the SF has been doing is hard to grasp or demonstrate unless you’re quite deeply involved in the community in some way.

    • That’s a good point, it is very hard to grasp what the Foundation is doing, and what is going on with Symbian at the moment. Once we start seeing competitive S^3 devices interest in the platform should pick up again.

      So we should probably do an event around the N8 launch, whenever that turns out to be, when we can finally bring some hardware to the table. And I’d like to see this event led by someone from outside the Foundation, with our support if needed.

  14. Tam Hanna says:

    Hi,
    what about timing one to tie in with the Nokia World in London?

    If the people dont come to where you are, you need to go to them.

    All the best
    Tam Hanna

    P.S. If you need any help, let me know…

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