Your User Group Goals

Many of you reading this piece have likely been to a user group at some point in your career. Some may go every month, some may go a once or twice annually , and some may not have been for years. I also know some of you don’t have a group in your area, or perhaps not enough people for a SQL Server group, but I would bet if you are working in technology, there are enough people to have some sort of technology group, perhaps even an online book club.

Recently I was speaking with Andy Warren about his group in Orlando. He’s preparing to turn over leadership of the group to others, and he’s actually looking for comments on the docs he’s put together. I’d urge you to take a moment and think about your group and how you want it structured and check out what Andy has done. He’d appreciate comments on his effort, whether you are in leadership or just show up at meetings.

Our discussion, however, was on goals. What goals are appropriate for the group, and what guidelines should he leave for others. He’s tended towards goals of “more”, meaning more people touched, more attendance at meetings, more events. I’ve tended to aim for more ensuring you keep people interesting, inspired, and with some engagement, but not worried about size.

Whether you are in the leadership of a group, just an attendees, or wish you had a more interesting group of technical people to meet with regularly, what do you wish your group would accomplish next year? Are there things that matter to you for an organization outside of work that might help your career? Take a minute to think and leave me a comment today.

Steve Jones

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About way0utwest

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2 Responses to Your User Group Goals

  1. Allen White says:

    I’m stepping back into the leadership of our local group in Cleveland. My principal goal for the next year or two is to get more members actively engaged in the group, in whatever roles they’re comfortable taking on. We have lost a lot of engagement over the past few years, and so meeting attendance has fallen off.

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  2. Jeff Moden says:

    I’m in roughly the same position as Allen… engagement has been falling off. I believe it has to so with the same problem that is the true underlying problem with the PASS Summit. There is so much information out there on the internet that people no longer feel the need for even simple membership in any organization to get helpful information and they’re certainly not going to pay for the information. Both would require time on their part.

    Of course, there’s also the other underlying problem and it’s becoming worse. SQL is a very old computer language so it’s not on the list of “cool things to do” and, of course, every “knows” that SQL can actually do anything worthwhile and that it’s really “just a place to store data”, right? 😀

    I think that two of the fundamental problems with user group meetings, SQLSaturdays, and the PASS summit is that the fundamentals are no longer taught much and the quality of the sessions has taken a nose dive. An example of this is one session our group had about “Machine Learning”. First, the order of revelation by the speaker seemed almost at the level of random thoughts. The worst part of it was that not only did the example code provided not actually function to correctly solve the given problem, it didn’t even pass a syntax check and was totally devoid of instructional comments.

    To summarize, I think a lot of people have “learned” to not “waste time” at in person learning events because of all that.

    As for getting people to “engage” in the group as speakers, I’ve found it very difficult to do. We can’t even get people to participate in a “Lightning Round” of sessions (15 to 30 minutes for us) even when there are offers to help pick and develop topics, how to develop a slide deck, how to speak without shaking uncontrollably, and explanations on how such a thing will help them in the daily communications with others. They’re just not interested. It’s become much too easy to “Google for a ‘tube or article” which also seriously reduces their need to “be involved” with anyone else.

    Back when in-person meetings took place, we couldn’t even get people to suggest topics they’d like to see a session on. We’d ask at the end of a presentation and then get crickets and deer-in-headlights stares. Of course, it doesn’t help when supposed “expert” speakers on a subject make such lame presentations as I described above.

    There’s also the very strong aspect of the Kruger-Dunning effect that permeates the very fiber of our community and the over-arching (but seriously incorrect) idea that “Just because you can do something in SQL/SQL Server, doesn’t mean you should). Part of that may be due to the fact that there are probably 10,000 front-end “experts” for every person that actually knows how to spell SQL.

    Shifting gears a bit, welcome back Mr. White. You’ve been missed.

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