McrFRED The Story So Far

Thought it would be a good idea to do a quick McrFRED round-up.

Write up some questions I've been asked, what it's all about and how it's going so far. So, here we go.

For those of you who aren't aware, McrFRED or Manchester FRED, is a monthly event for Front-End Developers, that's held in Manchester, UK.

It's part of the 'FRED' movement, started by Chris Van Patten and Dennis Gaebel in Buffalo, NY. https://fredup.github.io.

Why did you start McrFRED?

There's a few reasons. During my career as a Front End Developer, I've mainly worked for large businesses, with large talented teams. As a result of this, I was never far away from a conversation regarding the latest technologies and discussing recent happenings on the web. Working for a much smaller team now with only one other developer, although there's a flourishing community I communicate with on the web I missed the immediate feedback and debating face to face.

I also love taking a peak into other people's workflow. It's awesome, when you see how someone else works and you have one of those 'Hang on a second… what was that you just did? Oh… you can do that!'. Awesome. I want to concentrate on doing cool stuff, so any possibility in eradicating a mundane repetitive task makes me smile.

Another reason, is that I was looking on /lanyrd.com (no longer online) and there's so many awesome things going on, but mainly in London, UK and America. Travel costs aside, often the ticket prices for these events and conferences are quite expensive. So from the offset I've wanted to make McrFRED as affordable and accessible as possible.

One of the main reasons that engaged my enthusiasm, was Edgeconf curated by Andrew Betts. For more info on this event I wrote a blog post for Absolute Media where I work, who kindly paid for me to attend: https://absolutemedia.co.uk/news/thoughts/213-absolute-at-edgeconf (Thanks also to my mate 'B' for putting me up for a few nights and some fun reverse engineering with the Philips Hue Wi-Fi Bulbs).

The conference was great, I was in my element, casually sat on a table with Remy Sharp (trying to listen in and peak at everything he was doing without seeming like a stalker) and hooking up with Paul Irish, Jake Archibald, Ilya Grigorik and Addy Osmani, to name a few. After this event I was thinking to myself, there should be something like this in Manchester.

After searching various meetup, event and conference sites, there were a few that appealed to me, mainly the Manchester WordPress Group ran by none other than Mike Little, who just so happens to be The Co-founder of WordPress. Also another relatively new venture called MancJS - a monthly JavaScript meetup in Manchester. These are both great, but it didn't seem there was anything specifically Front-End based.

How did you start it and get it going?

Firstly, I sent a tweet out asking about other events in Manchester and if anyone would be interested in this sort of event. Was amazed with how many and how quick the responses came in, really wasn't expecting it and I was getting replies such as 'When is it? Where is it? Do I need to signup?'. So after that I felt compelled to get on and get something going. Having never done anything like this before, I really wasn't sure where to start and everything I've done so far has been purely winging it, making things up as I go along and asking for people for as much feedback as they can give.

So I put a blog post up and sent it around on twitter and sent a few emails out regarding the sort of things that I thought we'd need to get the ball rolling. Fortunately the web folk of Manchester are awesome and pointed me in the direction of TechHub Manchester. Corresponded with Michelle at TechHub to discuss the sort of event I was after and how TechHub could help out, was then invited to come and see the space, which is awesome. Manchester is really lucky to have such a great place. Whilst there I also had the pleasure of speaking to the CEO of TechHub Manchester Doug Ward, top guy and sorted me out with everything I needed and more (beer and pizza!).

Next up after now having a few people who wanted to attend and a place sorted, what to talk about?! I'd never done a presentation before or spoke in front of a large group of people. Having watched a few videos that I found helpful I set about following a similar structure with my own take on things. Another thing I wanted to do following in the footsteps of other developers that have helped me out in the past, is to make sure that the events were filmed and all the slides were available after for free to everyone.

How much has it all cost and what've you gained so far?

For the first event I had a ticket system with a suggested donation of £3 using Eventbrite and managed to get a decent chunk of sponsorship and there ended up being no costs at all. As a result of this on behalf of McrFRED I donated £126.34 to Code Club, one thing to be aware of I found out when donating, is find out if you're donating to a 'registered charity', in this instance, Code Club are a 'not for profit organisation' so there was a fee for collecting and sending the money on.

The second event, this time rather than a ticket system, I invited people to comment on my blog, thought this would be a good way also for others to introduce themselves, check out each other's sites and get people to know one another. This time I asked for donations on my blog, but didn't get any at all. When I spoke to a few people it turned out they were more than willing to donate, but simply didn't know how. So again as this is all a learning curve, after this post I'm going to do a dedicated post on sponsorship and donations.

So far my costs have involved my time, travel costs, sending donations and buying some tapes to film the events on. Someone said to me 'What? You're setting it all up running it, you shouldn't have to pay for anything'. But the way I look at it, is I'd rather spend some money and get something going in Manchester rather than having to travel to London every month. For one it's cheaper and from what I've gained so far it's already been more than worth it.

One of the main things I've enjoyed from setting up McrFRED is discovering how many web developers there are, how talented everyone is and how willing they are to help. I recently met up with Dan Donald @hereinthehive just as I was starting McrFRED, he mentioned we're lucky to be an industry where people are so willing to help each other out and he's right. Dan is also running http://breakthepage.com which I'm looking forward to. It's also a great feeling getting feedback from people letting me know that the events have been helpful to them, helped them learn and been an enjoyable experience.

After the first event I put up a Google Form inviting people to give feedback and if anyone else would be interested in talking. Again amazed by the quick responses, very soon after the first event, the second event was ready to rock with Sam and Tom stepping up to talk. Both I believe were new to presenting, but both did a smashing job. Unfortunately during their talks the air con was on which meant the sound is pretty bad, so I'm going to get in touch with TechHub to see if they have a microphone, or where we can get one from for future events.

What's next?

It's hard to believe that there's only been two events, really am flattered by the overwhelming response so far and kind words people have sent over. The next event is going to be more of a workshop going over Git and GitHub.

Was also thinking to myself, Andrew Nesbitt does some great things on the web such as https://24pullrequests.com/ and Stu Cox, does awesome work on https://modernizr.com/, are both UK based and wondered if they'd be up for doing talks. After a brief chat the 4th and 5th events are now confirmed McrFRED Round 4 Stu Cox on Modernizr, McrFRED Round 5 Andrew Nesbitt.

And… I'd also like to take this opportunity to announce that Andrew Clarke, designer, author and podcaster of Unfinished Business is also confirmed. Man that guy is busy, but after some important discussion on beards it's now in the diary for January 30th 2014. So watch out for that one.

What can I do to help?

Communicate! Let me know what you want, what's McrFRED missing? What can we all do to improve and make it better?

You can do this in a number of ways, comment below, send an email to mcrfred[at]gmail.com, fill out the Google Forms for each event Google Form Event 1, Google Form Event 2 or if you're feeling adventurous take a fork of the https://fredup.github.io site and submit a pull request.

As mentioned before, donations and sponsorship would be greatly appreciated, both Andrew and Stu have kindly offered their time for free, but I'd at least like to cover their travel expenses.

Manchester TechHub are also setting up an open device lab, so it would be great to get some devices together for that and of course… it would be awesome to get some stickers sorted, seems like that's mandatory these days.

If you're reading this and unable to get to Manchester, UK and there's nothing in your area, think about setting one up! So far there's three 'FREDs'. For more information about them and how to get started check out https://fredup.github.io.

Thanks to Awesome People

Thanks to all the people that have showed support in this new venture, your encouraging words, sponsorship and donations.

Paul Irish @paul_irish

Proud of you for organizing this successful event. Your post-event coverage on your blog is also totally awesome. Few meetups do that but it's SUPER valuable. Nice work Simon. :)

Nicolas Gallagher @necolas

Thanks for the mention and the kind words! Nice job on the presentation; packed a lot in there. It's always interesting to see other people's workflows and maybe I should share some details about mine too. Thanks for taking the time. Take it easy.

Chris Coyier for the mention on https://shoptalkshow.com/.

Andrew Clarke for the mention on http://unfinished.bz/.

People who have sent me books they'd mentioned that I hadn't read.

@brazly for the design concepts and FRED branding.

@nrpilling and @jaikdean for taking photos at the events.

Chris from 3/4 Productions for doing a spectacular job at filming and editing.

All the sponsors so far:

Fred TechHub 24 Pull Requests Typeplate Gray Ghost Visuals Brazly 3/4 Productions CodePen Absolute Media Carbon Creative Reason Digital


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