‘Community’ is one of those mercurial words that, in business, can mean everything and nothing. This post takes a closer look at some of the ways in which nearForm understands community as a core company value, and what we do in practice to make sure that theory becomes reality.
What does community mean at nearForm?
In the spirit of honesty (one of nearForm’s other core values): we’re still figuring it out.
Our co-founders, CEO Cian Ó Maidín and CTO Richard Rodger, started the company with the vision of a new kind of workplace that saw itself as much more than just the on-site staff. To their minds, anyone who helps the company is part of the company.
In the early months of nearForm’s existence in late 2011 and early 2012, Cian and Richard found gathering around them a growing team of people who were contributing to the nearForm story: not just the initial core team of employees, but also contractors, advisors, software developers they had got to know on Twitter, other developers who were contributing to nearForm’s open source projects (see more below), former colleagues who were enthused about the guys’ new venture, and last but not least, family and friends.
It was this initial, enhanced concept of ‘team’ that developed into nearForm’s still-evolving understanding of ‘community’.
As a family member of one of the co-founders myself, I felt a strong connection to nearForm from the moment that Cian and Richard first got the idea of starting the company. Their drive, determination and dogged pursuit of their vision was infectious. There were many late nights spent on the sofa, discussing everything about the company, from those precious first clients to what the company should be like in ten years’ time.
Unlike some family members of people who start new companies, I never felt on the outside, looking in; I felt part of nearForm from day one. When I became a nearForm employee, I didn’t feel like my relationship with the company was beginning—merely being formalized.
I hope that nearForm keeps figuring out what community means for a long time to come. It’s that continual openness to new ideas, new people, and new definitions of what the term means that makes the nearForm community spirit what it is.
Let’s take a look at some of the real-world manifestations of community at nearForm.
The open source software (OSS) movement epitomizes the concept of community in the software development world. The movement has its roots as far back as the late 1970s, but it was in 1992, when Linus Torvalds threw open the software programming code for his game-changing operating system, Linux, that open source began to come to the attention of the wider world.
nearForm is in good company in using and developing open-source code: today, some of the world’s most popular websites and tools are based on the open source concept, such as Wikipedia, Firefox and Project Gutenberg.
nearForm currently maintains two open source tools:
A third open source tool, nTrace, is in production.
Open source is a key part of the nearForm ethos. The company has open source in its blood; for evidence, look at the company’s account on GitHub. (GitHub is the world’s largest code hosting service.) nearForm software developers and architects are especially active in the area of Node.js – the open-source software development environment in which the company specializes – both in terms of contributing to the Node.js core code, and to many modules that are actively used by software people all around the world, every day.
This emphasis on the value of the global software development community, and the importance of sharing and openness within that community, is one of the ways in which nearForm is striving to be different.
There’s a clear gain for nearForm too, of course: its own open source tools are a key ingredient of the company’s ability to deliver projects rapidly, correctly, and on time.
It is written policy at nearForm to actively encourage staff members to pursue their own personal open source projects.
nearForm started running monthly meetups in 2012, shortly after the company was founded. The idea behind the meetups was to extend the spirit of open source into the physical world. nearForm currently runs two monthly meetups:
At these events, anyone who has—or would like to have—an association with or an interest in the Node.js or microservices worlds, or both, can meet, chat and exchange views and information in a friendly, relaxed setting. Attendees benefit by gaining new knowledge and insights, and making new contacts.
It’s not all about work, either. Coding can be a solitary pursuit. Socializing with like-minded people and discovering a fun side to software is a major draw for attendees, too. (The beer and pizza may be an added attraction.)
And no, it’s not all about philanthropy; nearForm also benefits from the meetups. The company gets itself known face-to-face among developers in the microservices and Node.js fields. The meetups also give our subject matter experts a chance to present their knowledge and ideas, thus showing the world what the company can do.
nearForm organises, runs and hosts the annual NodeConf EU, Europe’s only dedicated Node.js conference.
Why would a technology consultancy take on the mammoth task of running an annual four-day conference?
NodeConf EU started out in 2012 as NodeDublin, the first major Node.js conference in Europe. Our CEO Cian, a master networker and people person, conceived the idea of getting together as many of Europe’s Node.js experts as possible in one place in order to brainstorm and socialize around the technology they were all so passionate about.
Based on the success of that event, held in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Cian then persuaded Mikeal Rogers, owner of the NodeConf brand in the US, to let nearForm run NodeConf EU in 2013.
NodeConf EU now takes place every year in Waterford Castle, Ireland and is attended by global technology names such as PayPal, WalMart and Skype.
More recently, Cian decided that one annual conference wasn’t enough. On April 28th 2015, nearForm, in conjunction with Condé Nast and PayPal, is hosting the one-day nodeday industry conference in No. 1 World Trade Center, New York.
There are also whisperings about a possible new Node.js conference in Germany. Keep an eye on this blog for updates.
Speaking at events all around the world is one of the key ways in which nearForm reaches out and expands its global community. Experts from nearForm spoke at the following recent events:
- microXchg Berlin, Germany
- NodeHamburg, Hamburg, Germany
- CodeMotion Rome, Italy
- Node Summit, San Francisco
- London JS Conf, London, UK
- NodeJSDublin meetup, Ireland
- Microservices meetup, Dublin, Ireland
- CloudConf 2015 Turin, Italy
Education and philanthropy
nearForm is immensely proud to be a pro bono partner of CoderDojo, the global education movement that aims to enable every girl and boy to code.
nearForm was chosen by a team of CoderDojo foundation staff, champions, mentors, independent experts and the two CoderDojo founders to create a community platform that encompasses all web services for the CoderDojo community. Once completed, the community platform will be released as open source.
nearForm also recently made a donation to our local branch of CoderDojo for the purchase of weather station equipment. The equipment – which includes temperature and pressure sensors, and Raspberry Pi kits – will be used by the Dojo’s young members to build an automated online weather station for the local community.
As I said at the start of this post, our understanding of community at nearForm is evolving all the time. There will be more posts on this topic as that understanding develops and grows.
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