Building a Better Community.

When I started Refresh Augusta in 2008, I had no idea what I was doing. (Hell, I still don’t.) In the past six years, the one thing I’ve learned is that running a group of any size and keeping its members interested month after month is a lot of work. Having the right tools makes it easier to make things happen.

One of the challenges I faced early on was creating a site that’d be able to capture a record of our past events and enable me to communicate future events with members. Early on, I had a basic static site that I manually updated from time to time. Then I switched to using WordPress + BuddyPress?—?a combination that worked well enough, but getting people to use the social network parts of it was a challenge. I posted recordings on Vimeo. I posted photos on Flickr and Facebook. Some of it made it onto the site. Most of it did not. Trying to manage all of this stuff as the only organizer wasn’t fun. I half-assed it.

Two summers ago, I killed the BuddyPress-powered site and started using Meetup. Paying monthly/quarterly for something I could potentially host on my own sucked, but I quickly came to the realization that I wasn’t ever going to have the time to build what I wanted on my own. has served our group well. Several members wouldn’t have heard about Refresh Augusta if not for Meetup. But in trying to appeal to groups of all kinds, it can’t and won’t be able to meet the needs of them all.

I’ve long admired what’s been done with the Atlanta Web Design Group. I’ve made the drive from Augusta to Atlanta countless times to hear their speakers. This past February, I even had the opportunity to speak in front of them. They’re using Meetup for their community only because viable alternatives don’t exist.

Here are some of the reasons I’m excited about their Kickstarter project:

  • As an organizer, I’m excited because of the plan to open source whatever gets built for AWDG. That could help me eventually create a website that better serves the groups I’m involved with.
  • As an out-of-town AWDG member, I’m excited because I’ll be able to access talks I’m not able to attend (when they’re able to archive them properly).
  • As a designer/developer and former full-time freelancer, I’m excited that those working on the project will be compensated for their time. If you had to choose between work that paid your bills or work that helped a web community, most of us would probably opt to earn money first, right?

Success in Atlanta brings greater attention to the rest of Georgia. Great things are being done in our state and cities like Augusta, Athens, Columbia, Savannah benefit from the exposure.

Contributing to the AWDG Kickstarter will help them grow and it’ll benefit groups similar to theirs far and wide. I’m in. Are you?