There I said it.
USER GROUPS ARE DEAD!
You probably think I am crazy. You are probably thinking about the 30+ IT pro user groups in Canada with 10,000+ members with monthly attendance at meetings surpassing 2500 nationally. You might then remember me being at some of these meetings as an attendee or a speaker and ask “what the heck is Rodney talking about?” I know Wendy Rogers (the Developer Marketing Manager) thinks I am nuts after she went on the record with the Globe and Mail the other day saying the opposite!
Now don’t get me wrong, I think the IT pro (and dev) community is Canada is thriving with more and more groups starting up, expanding by adding special interest groups, and growing the number of attendees at monthly meetings. Things are looking up for the community, there is no doubt in my mind about that.
Have I confused you even more now? First I say that user groups are dead, then I say they are thriving. Now before you haul me off to the asylum and throw me in a room with padded walls let me explain. My belief is that the term user group does not adequately describe the IT pro or dev communities in Canada. The first user group meetings I went to years ago was through the Winnipeg PC Users Group. It was a bunch of PC users gathering to talk about any and everything related to personal computing. Makes sense to call that a user group.
I was reading this article in the Sydney Morning Herald that someone forwarded to me. It states
“Computer club officials say their members are getting greyer and fewer in number as home computers become steadily more common and treated more like the telephone: always there, always on.”
The IT pro “user groups” in Canada are really (in my opinion) associations of IT professionals who gather together on a monthly basis to learn about new technologies, share ideas and experiences, and network. If you look at the title “user group” literally the term IT Pro User Group would fit better with the clients and end users you support who are “using” IT professionals.
Now it may just be semantics, but if we are proud to be IT professionals, we look forward to gathering monthly and “associating” with other IT professionals, does the term user group really fit? Does it convey the right image for the groups mission or its members?
So am I nuts? Do you agree or disagree? Do you run an IT pro “user group”? If so I challenge you to think about this and ask yourself, your executive and your membership if “user group” is the proper term or if IT Professionals Community/Association/Group fits better.