5 years of italiancpp

Time flies. Today of 5 years ago I officially launched this website to the world.

Happy birthday ++it 🙂

I believe that 5 years is a great milestone. When I started the community, from scratch, my network was relatively small and I didn’t have any previous experience in managing something other than a small project developed in the spare time with a few friends.

I didn’t care about the difficulties I would have face with, I was pumped for this new adventure and I just wanted to go live and put myself on the line.

A community is about people and I’d like to say thank you to all the people who have joined and supported the Italian C++ Community during the last 5 years. Some people have been very important for this tribe, in particular the staff members helping behind the scenes. At the very beginning I started with Franco Milicchio, Raffaele Rialdi, Stefano Saraulli, Alfredo Di Napoli and Davide Di Gennaro. Along the way other great people joined the group. It’s worth mentioning in particular Alessandro Vergani, Guido Pederzini, Marco Foco, Illya Dudchenko and Gian Lorenzo Meocci. Thank you all!

I would like to recall some numbers and important dates:

  • Website officially born on March 26, 2013
  • Public announcement on June 24, 2013
  • First public appearance of the community on February 26, 2014 at Community Days, where we looked after an entire track about C++. 50 people attended
  • First meetup on June 28, 2014, half-day + lunch. 30 attendees
  • Last event: “Italian C++ Conference 2018” on June 23, 2018. 200 attendees
  • Total number of events organized: 15
  • Total number of events attendees: 1040
  • Newsletter subscribers: 1000+
First meetup in Milan: June 2014 First meetup in Milan: June 2014 (30 attendees)

Italian C++ Conference 2018 Italian C++ Conference 2018, Milan (200 persone)

For the last 5 years, our commitment has been spreading around C++ best-practices and good resources, and connecting people with the Italian C++ ecosystem through the online community and events. We have organized events, given dozen of talks, facilitated workshops and produced articles and tutorials about C++, connected with other communities and events (not only about C++).

I feel like sharing some words about the story of the community.

When and why everything started

In 2012, while I was watching Going Native 2012, I started wondering why we didn’t use to have events about C++ in Italy. We had dozen of conferences every year about other topics but C++. We didn’t have any user group neither.

Then, a very “simple” idea started forming in my mind: “I want to organize an event about C++ in Italy”. My target was not so ambitious, I thought.

The first thing I asked myself was “What do I need to make an event?”. I thought a bit and then I answered “People”. That was my very first naive thought. That was true: events come with people. Management, logistics, money, badges, etc come afterwards. I needed to get people involved.

Then I decided to start something, with a low profile. I made two social groups, inspired by “C++ Enthusiasts” – a Facebook group that was really popular at that time and I made a Facebook and a Linkedin group about C++ in Italy.

“How do I call such groups?” I asked myself.

“What about ++it?” I thought.

++it, condenses everything: it recalls both Italy and the classical iterator name – a typical C++ concept. The prefix ++ is for both C++ and also for advancing such an iterator in a C++ish manner – as opposite to it++. “I like it!” It was love at first sight. Probably a rare case of me being exactly right at naming!

Anyway, we were at the end of 2012 and such groups did not achieve a resounding success. I used to share news and resources about C++ on the groups but they were missing something fundamental: Community. They were just cold groups. A Community is made up of people and relations. A community needs to be fed, continuously.

Dropping a few comments about articles and videos was not about building up a community.

A few months passed. At the beginning of 2013 I didn’t have time nor mind to think about my project: my mum passed away on Feb 2.

I took a few weeks for myself and then I gave me two options: giving up or turning around.

I chose the latter, as you know because you are reading this article.

I’ve always thought that, in a sense, my loss drove my commitment. Maybe my life needed to compensate, somehow.

Then I started, seriously. I put 100% of myself into the project, into the ideal.

On March 26th I bought the domain italiancpp.org.

Afterwards, I spent some time writing down a mission and setting up targets for my community. Although ++it has never been part of my job, I’ve took it professionally from the beginning. I think this point has been very important for the evolution of the community.

The community’s mission is:

  • spreading C++ in Italy by promoting news and resources;
  • involving and connecting people interested in C++;
  • supporting and helping beginners and students with C++;
  • easing relationships between companies and people interested in C++;
  • making events and meetups about C++. In a few words: **++it’s mission is to be the C++ landmark in Italy**.

The rest of the story might be covered in future articles.

++it Rejuvenation

I’d like to spend a few words on the massive “refactoring” I did in Summer 2016.

In 2016, after 3 years of experience with ++it, I developed a new vision on how to deliver contents and offer interactions to my tribe.

If you used to be a ++it user before that time, you remember we had a forum. Running statistics on the usage, I noticed it was more or less unused or visited mostly by beginners. But actually, people loved discussing in several other channels like facebook, emails, etc.

I started elaborating this idea of making ++it an aggregator of ways to interact. I coined the term interaction proposals: as a community leader, I basically offer to my tribe several ways to communicate, interact and build up relationships, all at the very same level. It’s up to them which one(s) to use, I cannot decide for themselves. My task is to make all such proposals at the same experience level. At that time, the forum was my first citizen choice. That was a mistake.

In addition, I worked a bit on setting up a more modern and engaging theme. The final result has been online since August 2016.

At the end, I got rid of the forum and then I disabled the registration of users (they can only subscribe Slack and the newsletter). I replaced the forum with a dedicated subreddit and put more effort and moderation on Slack channels. The forum is not the central point of the community anymore. In addition, I worked on a code of conduct.

Here are the activities and the interaction proposals of the community:

  • Social channels (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin)
  • Slack team
  • Subreddit
  • Articles
  • Newsletter
  • Job offers
  • Events, meetups and other social activities

Moreover, I set up a bit of automation among some of the channels above. This way all the interaction proposals have exactly the same rank and importance. People won’t miss updates just because they don’t use Slack, for instance.

For example, when I tweet adding the hashtag #news, a bot spreads the same content to Facebook and Slack. Also, the full stream of filtered tweet will be sent via newsletter at the end of the month. I could cover this automation in a future post, if you are interested.

Next plans

“5 years have passed. What’s next?”

You know, when you reach such milestones, you have to look at the future and set the next milestone(s).

Not being conceited, I think my originary targets have been achieved: ++it is the C++ landmark in Italy. I am glad when people tell me that ++it has been useful for finding job opportunities or important connections, when I read amazing discussions on Slack, and when students find help. Moreover, it’s very significant that companies ask my support for recruitment in the italian C++ ecosystem.

I have not mentioned that I have developed a simple program to help companies find C++ developers. If you are a company and you need such a service, please visit this page (it’s in Italian, though).

During the years, I have refined my original vision on ++it by introducing interaction proposals, I have previously described. From one hand, I have worked a lot on the platform/website itself by aggregating digital services and communication channels like reddit or Slack. However, I believe I need to put more effort on openness. Let me explain.

My next target is to reinforce the concept of ++it as an aggregator of activities and events not directly organized by our core team. Basically, ++it will help people make activities, meetups and events about C++ in Italy.

++it will patronize such events by flanking organizers and will offer visibility, network and advertisement. After 5 years we have experience and network to empower willing people who want to make C++ activities in our country. I feel lonely at doing monthly C++ meetups in Modena! Why not having meetups in Milan, Rome or Florence?

As I announced yesterday at the Italian C++ Conference 2018, the very first experiment of this model is the organization of the C++ Day 2018, expected for November 24th in Pavia, which has been in the pipeline for some months, driven by Riccardo Brugo and Federico Pasqua, willing students at University of Pavia. I’ve been supporting such good guys for some time but the biggest part of the job is on their shoulders. I will join the full organization during Summer.

Adopting this model, I imagine the following activities:

  • (at least) 1 event per year fully organized by the core-staff (e.g. Italian C++ Conference);
  • (at least) 1 season of monthly meetups set where I live (Modena, at the moment);
  • any number of meetups and events patronized by ++it but not 100% organized by the core-staff;
  • usual core tasks like managing the community, selecting resources and news, making the newsletter, etc still ~100% on me.

If you are interested in running events, activities or meetups about C++ in Italy, even small ones, please get in touch. ++it and I will be very happy to help and give support!

I have written this page (in Italian) with more details.

Italian C++ Staff in 2018 Italian C++ Conference 2018 Staff. From left: Marco Foco, Raffaele Rialdi, Guido Pederzini, Marco Arena, Illya Dudchenko, Alessandro Vergani, Gian Lorenzo Meocci.

That’s it for now! Thank you very much for reading. I hope to meet/see you in person very soon.

Marco Arena, founder and president of the Italian C++ Community