Building a community around the Google Developer Group (GDG)

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Krishnan, Co-Founder, Google Developer Group (GDG)

Together with three other enthusiasts, Krishnan pioneered the local gathering of Google geeks in Singapore not long after using the Google App Engine for his PhD in 2009. Members of the Google Developer Groups (GDG) are given privileged access to software emerging out of the Google labs so that they can tinker around and build their own applications.

Krishnan jokingly refers to his leadership of the GDG as his “ISR” — a play on “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR), replacing “corporate” with “individual”. Coordinating more than 60 events over the last few years has enlightened Krishnan on the art of building communities. He shares four key points:

1. Work in a team, not individually

“Google was clear that this group should not be a Rambo-led community because if Rambo goes missing, the whole thing collapses.” (Entrepreneurs will discover a similar philosophy among most investors who prefer investing in teams rather than in a solo individual.)

2. Let differences in opinion strengthen your team

“You do not need a team with like-minded ideas. It is okay for each person to have their own ideas, but it is important that you agree to disagree. When people have different thoughts, you get a chance to explore different aspects of community development.”

3. Take turns. Support each other.

“Just because one person wants to hold a workshop and the others don’t support it doesn’t mean you should dump all the work on top of that person. For example, if you have four people in the team, you can organize four different types of events that appeal to different interests.”

4. Know your audience. Help your audience know each other.

What makes a community? “If you notice the same developers coming regularly to the events, you have created a community.” With the regularity of a crowd comes an emerging sense of affinity and familiarity, and this is how a sense of camaraderie is born among total strangers.

5. Spatial location

Krishnan notes that Blk71 in Singapore has served as a magnificent meeting ground for the GDG, bubbling with the energy of connectivity. “When you tell people you are going to Block 71, no one asks which estate you are talking about! Everyone just knows where it is.”

Blk71 provides not just physical space, but a wide social outreach to other developers in their network. Krishnan remarks: “You can get a room anywhere, but it’s not just about the room, it’s about the people.”

As they say: people make a place! If you are interested in participating in the Google Developer Group, you can check out

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