As a developer, I think it's really important to stay involved in the community. Attending local user groups, code camps, and conferences are a great way to connect and stay involved with other developers in your community - this is on top of the great content presented in the sessions at these events. These community venues are great, but a lot of times they only occur on a limited basis in our local areas - once a month for user groups unless you live in an area with additional user groups in a neighboring city and, in the case of most code camps and conferences, maybe once per year.
Code and Coffee is a great way to keep community going on a more frequent basis. This is typically an informal meet up on a scheduled basis - usually once a week - at a coffee shop in your neighborhood. Just about every coffee shop has large group tables, free wifi, and caffeine and you would be amazed at how much you can learn just by doing an hour or two of pair programming with other developers in your area.
The Dayton, Ohio Code and Coffee meet up is on Tuesday mornings at Caribou Coffee at The Greene. We typically start at 715am and finish up whenever the last person needs to leave. In the last several months, we have worked through EdgeCase's Ruby Koans and Sean Chambers' SOLID presentation as a group. The schedule is really informal (you can read that as "there is no schedule"), so who knows what is next.
If there is a meet up similar to this in your area already, I encourage you to get involved. Here are the groups I know of in the southwest Ohio area:
- Cincinnati - Bitslingers, Monday evenings at Panera Bread at Deerfield Towne Center (6pm) and Thursday mornings Panera Bread in Kenwood (630am)
- Columbus - Code and Coffee, Friday mornings at varied locations
- Dayton - Code and Coffee, Tuesday mornings at Caribou Coffee at The Greene, 715am
If there isn't a Code and Coffee group in your area, maybe there is a similar group of developers that meet for lunch or in the evening. If you still can't find one, why not start your own? These sessions are usually very informal, but one of the key things I would suggest is to keep it as open as possible. In other words, don't exclude people by making it a language specific group. All developers, regardless of language preference, should be invited to attend and get involved. We can learn a lot from each other by reaching across the language and technology boundaries.