JP's Website


The Rust Society

2024-02-09

What follows are some thoughts I've had swirling around in my head for a while.

Note that whilst I am (at the time of writing) a member of the Rust Leadership Council (the t-launching-pad representative) and a staff member at Ferrous Systems, I write this purely from my own perspective.

I belong, and/or have previously belonged, to a number of what I will call here societies. Perhaps they are a peculiarly British thing? I don't know. And anyway, Rust doesn't have one.

Let's unpack what I mean when I use the term society, via some examples.

The Cambridge and District Classic Car Club

The Cambridge and District Classic Car Club (CDCCC to its friends, and from here), is a club, centered around Cambridge, England, primarily catering to owners and enthusiasts of classic cars. That's a term that's not well defined, but their website says:

The CDCCC aim is to ensure that our members have the opportunity to use their classic cars whilst enjoying the company of the other members through events, displays and generally talking cars.

My parents helped found the club, long ago in 1995, and at times I have been a member, the IT Officer, the Membership Secretary, the Vice-Chair and the Chair. It is comprised of two groups - the wider membership, and the committee. You can join as a member by paying a small fee - around £20 or £30 per year. The committee includes a Chair, a Secretary and a Treasurer and these roles are outlined in a document called The Constitution. Various committee members jointly have access to a special club and society bank account, which is provided by only a handful of high-street banks but is free of charge to acquire and use. The committee is entirely unpaid and very often made up of retirees who have spare time to dedicate to the cause.

The CDCCC produces a monthly newsletter, Cam Chatter (for my money, the most genius name for a publication I have ever seen, relating to both the social content, the Cambridge-centric nature of the club, and a peculiar malady that affects the engines of older cars; it is also, sadly, something you should not attempt to Google for). Paying a higher price for your membership upgrades you from an e-mail PDF once a month to a printed copy. Whilst small - when I was there it was ran to 16 sides of A5 presented as a stapled booklet - the content was always entertaining and I have huge respect for the long-standing editor and the long list of correspondents who provide articles and photographs.

As well as your newsletter members can attend monthly meetings, usually held in a pub and themed around some sort of main event. My favourite of these was the annual grope, which is where items were placed in secret within black plastic bags, and you had to pass these around the room and make an educated guess as to the contents based on what you could feel through the bag. They also held more traditional quizzes, talks from guest speakers, and much more.

Further, they also organise a calendar of their own events (the annual Treasure Hunt being another favourite of mine), as well as group attendance at Classic Car Shows organised by event companies or other clubs. At such shows you might expect to see the Club Stand which comprises a gazebo, a table some swag to be sold and some membership forms to sign up new members. One committee member usually has the role to be the nominal owner of the Club Stand and take responsibility for moving it from event to event, and storing it in the interim.

So I guess this is primarily a geographically-defined social club, but themed around the ownership and enjoyment of old motor cars. It is, I think, a useful example of what I think of as a society.

The Jaguar Enthusiasts Club

The Jaguar Enthusiasts' Club (or JEC) is a similar sort of thing, but much larger, run by an actual legal entity with appointed Directors, and organised around a particular make of car (Jaguar Cars, of Coventry, England) rather than a geographic location. They are not run by the car company, but they do occasionally run (expensive) members events at the factory, and they might bring in a former designer or engineer as an after-dinner speaker. Maybe they get money from them - I don't know. Compared to the CDCCC, the membership fee is a bit higher, the magazine is an A4 glossy affair and the Directors who run the club qualify for certain expenses. They organise their own members-only events and run a large stand at the annual Classic Motor Show in Birmingham. They also support a large number of local groups (both in the UK and abroad), and so for a time I attended the meetings of the Cambridge Region of the JEC at a local pub. These local meetings had a similar feel to the CDCCC, except there was this parent organisation in the background and we didn't feel quite so bad if we hadn't personally submitted a magazine article recently.

The N Gauge Society

Another society I am actively involved in is the N Gauge Society. Similar to the JEC, it's a UK based national and international organisation, with a glossy publication and local regions. I belong to the Cambridge and Northants Region (it's a smaller club and so has larger regions) and we meet once a month to progress on our group project - a model railway. Incidentally, N Gauge comes from the fact that the model railway track we use is 9 mm between the rails. This makes it somewhat smaller than the more popular HO or OO gauge models you are more likely to be familiar with (with a track gauge of around 17 mm .... it's complicated). Like the CDCCC our region has a bank account, and we collect a subscription fee from members which we spend on the hire of a local community centre once a month so we have a space to work.

In case you're curious, it will be a 1950s-era model of an old brick works at Eye Green on the former Midland and Great Northern railway line between Peterborough and Sutton Bridge. It'll be about 7.3 m wide by 1.5 m deep.

So what is a society?

It's an organisation, often with a national or international umbrella which provides funding and support to more local regions. The goal is primarily social (in-person meetings, etc) and it involves an organising committee, small monthly or annual membership fee, and regular information updates in the form or a magazine or newsletter. More importantly, it provides a sense of group identity - that these are my people and I can look forward to spending time with them talking about our shared interests.

What does Rust have?

Rust, to the best of my knowledge, does not have a society.

We do have The Rust Project, which is focussed on the production of The Rust Toolchain, a piece of software that implements the Rust Programming Language. To join this particular group, you really have to be interested in not just the use of that tool, but in the production of that tool. With reference to the groups above, this is Jaguar Cars not The Jaguar Enthusiasts Club. But if Jaguar Cars was a bunch of people building cars on a Sunday afternoon in their free time. It feels like a place for people who want to make cars and talk about how to make cars, not talk about where you've driven them recently.

We also have The Rust Foundation, which (in their words):

an independent non-profit organization dedicated to stewarding the Rust programming language, nurturing the Rust ecosystem, and supporting the set of maintainers governing and developing the project.

It is not, as it currently exists, a social club. It does not offer individual membership. It has no local sub-groups and people do not organise get-togethers in the local pub in the name of The Rust Foundation. It does not produce a monthly magazine. It does, however, have a large number of corporate sponsors and it does very good things for The Rust Project with the money it receives from those sponsors.

We also have various Rust Meetups. These are more akin to the societies above, but they are not associated with each other. Instead they spontaneously appear when someone finally decides to put the effort in to make one happen. But, without a parent organisation, they can struggle to keep going. Certainly this appears to have happened to the Cambridge Rust Meetup that I started back in around 2017. Finding a venue is hard, promoting the event is hard, collecting money is hard, spending that money on food and drinks is hard.

We also have Zulip, Discord, Reddit, YouTube and Discourse (https://users.rust-lang.org). These occupy varying points on a spectrum in terms of their ties to The Rust Project (like being hosted on the official rust-lang.org domain, or not).

What should Rust have?

I guess what I'm yearning for is A Rust Society. A Rust Enthusiasts Club. An umbrella organisation for all the meetups, so that the both organisers and the members can feel like they belong to a larger whole. And so that the organisation of that meetup can be made more efficient by that parent body.

I want to go to the pub once a month and talk to people about Rust and the things they have written in Rust. I want to leaf through a monthly Rust Society Magazine (although This Week in Rust is a close substitute which I love dearly).

But I don't want to have to organise the bloody thing every time.

What next?

I have no idea. I am not founding this society and I am not organising another meetup. I'm just going to sulk.

You can find me on mastodon.