First of all, all opinions and information is. based on my view of things. It is based on my incomplete memories.
This week I want to write a bit about CocoaHeadsNL. It’s been a week of Corona/COVID19 news. AppDevCon has been postponed to September. And the CocoaHeadsNL meetup of this month has all of a sudden been converted to an online only event. Something CocoaHeadsNL has never done. On top of that, last week I had some late cancellations on my TDD workshop for iOS by Jon Reid.
Opinions vary. I don’t want to go too much into that. Let the experts provide the guidance we need. In the Netherlands that’s the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.
But it did trigger me to look back on what CocoaHeadsNL has become. And I think it is doing a pretty good job in achieving its stated goals (Dutch) in the notary document that created the non-profit CocoaHeadsNL.
Please be aware. This whole write-up will most likely go all over the place. I did not write this with any preconceived writing plan.
How did CocoaHeadsNL get started?
Other people have told me various things. All I know for sure is that it was very informal and in a very small setting. To my knowledge the first gathering calling itself CocoaHeadsNL was on December 10, 2008. Somewhere in Amsterdam.
How did I get involved with CocoaHeadsNL?
Peter Robinett (employee nr. 2 at BUNQ, he kept calling it Project Clear) was running CocoaHeadsNL when I happened to start attending CocoaHeadsNL meetups. It was during my time at ING when I was working on their consumer iOS app. Sleeping in a hotel 3 nights a week was getting very old very fast, so that’s why I started looking for things to do in the evenings. One fateful evening Peter casually asked if anyone was willing to help him run these Meetups, cause his current project was just taking too much time. Me and very few others raised their hand. By luck of the draw Peter pointed at me and agreed to let me help him with organizing CocoaHeadsNL. This was somewhere at the start of 2013. Then somewhere in 2013 Peter broke the news. “I’m moving to New York. You will get full control of CocoaHeadsNL. Ask me anything for the next couple of months, but I will be fading to the background very soon.”
I was surprised, flattered, and a bit scared and overwhelmed. How to run this thing? First thing I did was make an inventory of all the channels and mediums CocoaHeadsNL was using. To be able to do this I needed to consolidate things. So I took a gamble and put CocoaHeadsNL on Meetup. And it worked, I finally got some grasp on who called themselves a CocoaHead and was interested in our meetups. I did my best, but then I put out a call for help during a Meetup. Organizing CocoaHeadsNL meetups is fun, but too much work for a single person. Bart and Niels stepped up.
Becoming a non-profit foundation
Things settled down and slowly CocoaHeadsNL started growing. Close to 200 people. Companies were willing to donate their office space and drinks and sometimes food. Sometimes we asked, could you sponsor us, to help offset some of the costs we are currently carrying ourselves? The answer was always “No.” And every time when we asked further it was always a case of not wanting to run the risk of getting the transaction tagged by the Dutch Tax services as a work agreement.
How to fix this? Easiest was to incorporate CocoaHeadsNL as a legal entity. After some discussion we agreed that a non-profit with a stature that protects our ideologic goal of bringing software developers into contact with each other and with potential employers in a fun, non intrusive and open way based on the agreement everyone comes together to openly share knowledge and information.
I was working at Xebia at the time. I pitched my idea, would Xebia be willing to fund the founding of the CocoaHeadsNL non-profit? They agreed. Not only to paying all legal fees but also to allow CocoaHeadsNL to remain an entity completely unattached to Xebia.
So at Monday Februari 2 2015 Bart, Niels and me appeared before Notary Cornelis van de Griend. A few cups of coffee and a few signatures later Stichting CocoaHeadsNL was incorporated as a non-profit foundation.
CocoaHeadsNL in 2020
Lots of things have happened. Niels left. Marco and Jolanda joined. We started recording videos. And thanks to Marco’s enthusiasm they have been getting better and better. We also organized our first conference as a non-profit. The third edition of Do iOS.
What’s it like to organize CocoaHeadNL
Due to the COVID19 concerns we will be running an experiment this month. Our first online Meetup. We have no idea if and how it will work. But that’s the fun thing with CocoaHeadsNL. There’s always something new.
Looking back, I think CocoaHeadsNL has been one of the things that on the surface doesn’t “give” that much. But let’s see it got me in touch with other people, other opinions. And that combined with me getting kids allowed me to think broader. It allowed me to consider what is important for me. Due to my experience with running CocoaHeadsNL I started freelancing on the side. Have organized several conferences. Created an open training with the help of Jon Reid (maybe more will follow).
But best of all is the great many people I meet and see on a regular basis to have fun with, bounce ideas of and just have a good time. Also Bart and me have become very well attuned to each other. I provide the crazy ideas. But Bart is always there to talk sense in to me, point out the errors in my business thinking and sometimes he just tells me I did something stupid.
CocoaHeadsNL has made me a better person. And I hope my tenure as its chairperson can last a long time. See you at the next Meetup.
I was able to squeeze 9 links into this thing. :)