OK, so you don't have any vacation time left, and you're working today (or maybe you're not working and you love InformationWeek so much that you can't keep away). Regardless, I need your help. I want to know about your experiences with user groups: what you think of them, if you belong to any, and how much of an impact they ultimately have on the technology you purchase, use, and manage every day. But first, let me tell you about my experiences with user groups ...My most salient experience with a user group predates my time with InformationWeek, back when the IBM iSeries was still known as the AS/400, and I'd be sent all around the country every six months by the now-defunct Midrange Systems magazine to cover a 'little' show put on by the user group known as Common.
For those of you less familiar with IBM's beloved minicomputer workhorse, Common's role is to act as an outlet for devotees of the AS/400, excuse me, iSeries, I mean System i, allowing them to network, learn, and fill their pockets with some of the strangest marketing items ever concocted. (I still have a lime-green boomerang given to me by a company known as ROI Corp. The boomerang actually worked, but ROI's former domain name is for sale these days.)
One thing about the AS/400, I mean System i (I keep doing that), their users were intensely loyal, and for a time there was a fairly large vendor community that carved out a nice living selling applications and tools to help companies optimize the OS/400 operating system, DB2/400 database, and OfficeVision/400 e-mail, calendar scheduling, and document generation software.
Common shows, which would last the better part of a week, brought together one segment of IBM's customer base in big way. To this day, I believe it was the devotion of the users that allowed the AS/400 to survive IBM's eServer re-branding effort at the end of the last millennium, the one that turned the AS/400 into the iSeries, the s/390 mainframe into the zSeries (now System z), and the PC Server/Netfinity Wintel box into the xSeries (now System x).
Now, it's your turn. Tell me about the user groups to which you belong and the impact they've had on the technology you use. How influential, for example, are the Independent Oracle Users Group or International DB2 Users Group when it comes improving the security of those products or the development of new features most in demand by their users? Are user groups independent enough from the vendors whose products they address to give you an objective view of the technology? How has the influence of user groups changed over time?
Set aside those stale holiday cookies and the recently expired eggnog and drop me a line.