Founding a local Linuxchix chapter

Linuxchix is a looseknit organization, and its local chapters which, like the "mother" organization, are completely unofficial tend to be looseknit, casual groups, too.

Most chapters are for regional groups so that they can meet or organise local chix events. However, you could also found a special interest chapter, or a language based chapter (such as a global, French language, chapter).

Local Linuxchix chapters are completely autonomous provided that your chapter observes the central aim of LinuxChix: "supporting women in Linux", and your chapter observes the "be polite, be helpful" rules. You can do anything you like beyond that.

Tips on starting a chapter

Following are some suggestions on how to found a local Linuxchix chapter. We think they'll help you find members and function well.

  1. Decide on your geographical size. LinuxChix chapters tend to be more successful if they have a wide net of potential members. Successful city-wide chapters tend to be in very large cities like Los Angeles, other successful chapters are region, province or nationwide. We suggest thinking about larger, rather than smaller, chapters. You can always have local meetings in your city within your chapter.
  2. Set up a mailing list and website.
  3. Once you have a few founding members, talk about whether you want your Linuxchix chapter to include males. Once you've made that decision, make your policy clear in any announcements that you make about your group.

Also discuss what you'd like your chapter to do:

Useful articles include:
The Linux User Group HOWTO, including the Founding a LUG and Maintaining and Growing a LUG sections; and The Recipe for a Successful Linux User Group by Rick Moen.

Foundations for a Successful Chapter

Run it as a benevolent dictatorship for a few months. Don't attempt to reach consensus on things like meeting times and locations. Ask for input, consider pressing needs (meeting locations near public transport, maybe you need to cater for people without cars or with cars, or with kids or with disabilities). And then make a decision. And announce it. And unless there's widespread dissent, which if you do a bit of asking, there shouldn't be, stick with it.

A particularly important decision is meeting times. Make it regular and have a schedule, so that people can plan around it. People can also organise social events at other times! Remind them of this, but if the aim is to get a group of regulars, you need to let them plan.

One or two people will be unable to make your meeting time. Invite them to organise alternative meetings, or organise social events or something. Most likely they will not, but if they do - great! If you have a set meeting time, people will be able to plan around it in a year's time, if you move it every month to cater for someone else, then noone can plan it into next year's schedule.

Have two or three meetings. Check that a core group is beginning to form - people who turn up to every meeting. This is a good sign. If you don't have this, you need to get it. Advertise more.

Letting us know

You must let us know that you are starting a LinuxChix chapter, in order to use the LinuxChix name. Do the following:

  1. [Optional] If you would like to use a .linuxchix.org subdomain, please contact us and ask for one. You will need to provide an IP address where you are hosting, or nameservers.
  2. Subscribe to the chapters mailing list so that you can receive any announcements relating to LinuxChix policy, and share useful info with other chapter heads. This mailing list is English language, and very low volume.
  3. Please contact us and let us know you are starting a chapter. You must give a public contact email address at the very least, if you have a webpage and/or mailing list give details of those too.
  4. When you are ready to go, write to announce@linuxchix.org and announce the formation of your chapter, together with your webpage, mailing list and first meeting, if you have any of these.

You are welcome to advertise all chapter meetings and events on announce@linuxchix.org as well as your own mailing lists and webpages.

Tips for leading a chapter

  • Accept that 80% if not more of all people involved don't want commitment beyond a mailing list and attending the meetings. This is the way of all groups. The attendees probably value other activities more. That's OK. You will do work on their behalf. If you don't want this, you probably don't have enough enthusiasm to run a chapter. That's fine, you have other stuff to do too.
  • Identify the 20% of people who can potentially help you run the chapter. Being able to say "This month, I'm not attending our meeting, I'm letting two other chapter members run it." is a good thing. The ultimate aim is to ensure that there is a core group of about five people, each of whom could ensure the chapter's survival. If after six months, it's just you, again, you have a problem.
  • Watch out for burn out. Don't burn out; delegate. Otherwise one day you'll just lose it and shut down all the mailing lists and swear off Linux forever.
  • At some stage, let someone else become the chapter head or co-chapter head. This is a really good sign that you've established a long lasting group.

Tips on getting the word out

  • Have a webpage. A webpage is a commitment free way to research a LUG (or anything). Potential members don't need to join a mailing list, or email anyone if they can read a webpage. Noone knows they looked at the webpage. There's a lower barrier to getting information.
  • Keep the webpage up-to-date.
  • It is possible to get linuxchix.org subdomains (such as sydney.linuxchix.org). These give a short, easy to remember domain, and are easy to redelegate if leadership of the chapter changes. Contact us for more information.
  • When listing meeting dates, include the year of the meeting. It is frustrating to go to a site and not know if the meeting listed for July 15th is coming up in a few days, or was July 15th 2000. Keeping a "last updated on " tag at the bottom of your pages can assist with this as well.
  • Actively advertise outside LinuxChix. The lists are high volume and some local LinuxChix may not be on them for that reason.
  • In particular, advertise to your local LUG. You may catch some flames for having a female group, or a group aimed at females but you have the chance of reaching interested women. You may also want to refer them to the Linuxchix Issues FAQ.
  • When starting up, or running events of particular interest such as conferences or installfests, issue press releases to your local tech media outlets.
  • If there are nation-wide linux lists in your country advertise there too. (Mention that people from other areas might like to start their own chapter - ask them to subscribe to the chapters list if they want to do that.) Advertise at local universities and schools (some universities have a women in computing or other similar groups).
  • There are also some activist groups (anti-capitalism groups are often anti-Microsoft) who are using Linux, and have large numbers of women involved. These people will not be in LUGs. Neither will many professionals, particularly with a bit of experience. If you can reach them through professional mailing lists or contacts, that is awesome.
  • Register yourself with lists of LUGs:
  • Optionally, register yourself with Linux-friendly vendors: