I don't hold that out as a real possibility, for a couple of reasons, and I'd like to discuss them here.
Indeed, it's a good time to share a "State of the Online ColdFusion Meetup", to discuss what you might (and might not) expect to see in the future, and what you can perhaps do to help.
CFMeetup has been a place for online presentations
So first, about the Online CFMeetup as a possible place to "take up the slack" if CFHour is indeed defunct, it's important to note that the Meetup (like most meetups and user group meetings) has been a place where folks can make presentations, like they would in fact at a user group meeting.
An advantage is that the CFMeetup is online, so folks who don't even have local user group, or can't get certain topics or speakers to come, could join in to see the talks online.
Real challenge in recent months getting speakers
That said, I have to admit that it's been like pulling teeth the past several months (really, about the last couple of years) to get presenters. I don't see that as a reflection on the CF community in particular (though surely some will).
Rather I see it as just part of a change in the broader IT landscape (and culture). User groups have struggled, and not just CF ones, as have conferences of various stripes. Even some long-form podcasts. Sure, there are some standouts in every niche, but there's clearly a sea change.
It just seems that many people want their information in different ways than had been traditional. They seem to especially want it in briefer chunks (more on what I want to do about that in a moment.)
I'm certainly still open to hosting presenters
So the meetup has gone quiet for some months. It's not dead, or dying. Let's say it's just resting. :-) And I'm simply waiting for speakers to express interest.
I've made pleas to specific groups, like the speaker lists of various conferences, and to specific folks when I may see a talk that I was myself interested to see online, or thought most would appreciate. There just have been few or no responses.
Thankfully, other folks do think to mention the CFMeetup to speakers they may be interested to see present to our group, and I sincerely appreciate that. This is your group after all, and with still 2700+ members, it would seem still to be of interest to all those who have remained members.
And it's of course also a great way to get some topic to such a wide audience.
Now, don't let it scare you, as a prospective presenter. You're never speaking to more than a few to several dozen folks live. But certainly hundreds watch the recordings (every show is recorded), and all 2700 members get an email telling them about the topic.
And a couple of folks have expressed interest in perhaps presenting after cfObjective or the other conferences or upcoming user groups, so we'll see. As always, the door is open for any topic that's on or related to CF/CFML.
CFMeetup as a discussion forum: not feasible
Finally, some have wondered whether the Online CF Meetup could be opened up to be less (or less often) about presentations and more of an open forum, whether as a roundtable with multiple guests, or perhaps letting several presenters offer shorter topics, or in letting attendees chime in. All that sounds great, and we've even tried them all at one time or another.
The biggest challenge is that because the meetup is VOIP-based (and the version of Connect we use does not allow phone calls, and other phone-based webinar solutions are not inexpensive), there is work required to set things up (in advance) for each person who may speak.
As with when there's just one presenter, I have to make sure they have audio on their computer, and that it works. And there are settings on both the OS (the mic must be the default mic before Connect is opened) and in Connect (or even Flash) that may need to be done. And then there are possible issues with volume, echo, etc.
Then there's the real chance that the speaker may sound fine in testing but then have problems once online, perhaps due to issues with their network connection, or something else running on their machine (or network), and so on. Or they may get setup with one machine and then be on another when it comes time to present, perhaps unexpectedly.
Again, I deal with all those issues and challenges with each presenter before they come online, or as they would arise (pretty rarely) during the session.
It's just not feasible to do that with a number of people in one session (and it's pretty much unrealistic to support at all for general audience members to randomly be given the mic.)
It just doesn't work well to contemplate opening the CFMeetup to serve a wider purpose, as tempting as that may be for some.
Now, some have wondered "what about a Google+ hangout?" but I really don't think it's an issue of Connect versus other technologies. Indeed, others have tried to organize various efforts to have many people on at once. Each (that I've seen) has run into challenges and tended not to go on for long beyond the first attempts.
The CFMeetup is not a podcast. That's a real opportunity for someone
Bottom line, really, a podcast is the right place for group discussion, and especially if it won't involve screen-sharing. And certainly someone could have a podcast that was more truly an open forum, perhaps allowing callers, whether by phone or VOIP.
And as I mentioned in the entry on the CFHour ending, if indeed the show really is done (and if not, it really was an excellent April Fool's prank), then maybe someone else might step in to fill the void by creating another podcast.
What about me? And is there really anything more to talk about?
I had mentioned in my last entry that I've toyed with the idea of creating a podcast myself, but that if I did it would be focused solely on CF server troubleshooting, which has been my area of interest the past 7 years. If I did such a show, I would not see it being about "what's new in the CF community", nor would I want to see it having a lot of banter or talk of "current events". Indeed, I'd want to keep the focus very much on CF server troubleshooting.
I know such "narrowness" flies in the face of the assumptions many have, that anything "specific to CF" is hopelessly myopic and that CF conferences (and perhaps podcasts and blogs) and certainly CF developers/admins simply must broaden their attention beyond CF in order to stay relevant/profitable/productive.
To be honest, I disagree. For one thing, all I do is CF server troubleshooting, day in and day out, and I'm "busier than a one-armed paper hanger" as the saying goes. I get new clients about every day. There clearly is a very large market of CF shops, and CF devs and admins in need of assistance.
And if most of my engagements are an accurate measure, the average CF dev/admin operates on having very little understanding of some pretty fundamental things about how CF/web servers/database servers work, how to most effectively solve problems, where to find good resources.
So as I mentioned in that last entry I see LOTs that could still be discussed and shared in the CFML community, for the benefit of the entire community (as folks go on to help each other), and it needn't only be "what's new and shiny".
My latest venture: a series of Youtube videos on certain CF topics
To that end, I also mentioned in that last entry that I have already started to create (last week, before seeing this news about CFHour) what I plan to be a very long series of Youtube videos, of just a few to several minutes each, just within the narrow space of topics relevant to CF server troubleshooting. I'm calling them "CArehart Quick Tips".
While the focus ultimately is on CF server troubleshooting, there are many topics I've done and plan to do that are of generic interest to any CFers and even those not using it.
I want to say more to introduce that series, but I'll do that in a subsequent entry here.
The CFMeetup: moving forward, and how you can help
So back to the state of the Online CFMeetup. It's still very much alive, if indeed "resting" at the moment.
Really, it's your group. Whether you're a presenter who can come on, or an attendee who can remind speakers of the opportunity, you can help control the vitality of the group. (You can point them to a a bit of a FAQ I prepared for prospective speakers some years ago.)
Again, there are still 2700+ members who clearly are waiting to consider watching any topics that may be offered.
I've always been torn about just stepping up and presenting often myself. I could, but I didn't want it to become "the Charlie show", and indeed that's one more motivation for my branching off separately and additionally into the Youtube videos.
But I'm happy to continue to organize the events, just as I pay for the Meetup.com hosting (it ain't free) and for the coldfusionmeetup.com domain, as well as spend the time in coordinating the meetings. I see it as a service to the community, and I'm happy to help. I'd welcome assistance in finding more presenters.
And I do want to thank the few folks who have so kindly made small contributions to the group. That and occasional encouragement at conferences and such is a motivator to keep going. I can appreciate how the CFHour guys and anyone doing a labor of love in the community can sometimes feel a bit discouraged, if it feels like lots of work with little direct reward.
We're all in this together.
Again, look for the next installment with more info on my new videos, as one more way to help spread knowledge within the community.