Originally Published: Sunday, 23 January 2000 Author: Kara Pritchard
Published to: interact_articles_lugs/Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

LUG Special Interest Groups

Just a few years ago, it was common to find several people within an existing Users Group, such as a Unix Users Group, who were interested in Linux and thus started a special interest group (SIG) within the group to discuss Linux. Today, Linux Users Groups have grown to become their own Users Groups focusing entirely on Linux. Has Linux become popular enough to start spawning SIGs of their own? Yes. I say they have.

The recent growth within Linux Users Groups, has started to attract a wide variety of members with a wide variety of interests. Groups have started to become challenged to provide content to please all these different types of members. More experienced members with Linux are becoming bored by the discussions of modem and printer problems by new users, and new members are being overwhelmed by discussions of kernel modules, programming, 3dfx development, cross platform architectures, and other advanced topics which are typically beyond grasp of the average new Linux user.


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Just a few years ago, it was common to find several people within an existing Users Group, such as a Unix Users Group, who were interested in Linux and thus started a special interest group (SIG) within the group to discuss Linux. Today, Linux Users Groups have grown to become their own Users Groups focusing entirely on Linux. Has Linux become popular enough to start spawning SIGs of their own? Yes. I say they have.

The recent growth within Linux Users Groups, has started to attract a wide variety of members with a wide variety of interests. Groups have started to become challenged to provide content to please all these different types of members. More experienced members with Linux are becoming bored by the discussions of modem and printer problems by new users, and new members are being overwhelmed by discussions of kernel modules, programming, 3dfx development, cross platform architectures, and other advanced topics which are typically beyond grasp of the average new Linux user.

What have some LUGs done to help with this problem? They've begun to create SIGs of their own within their group. On alternate nights, special SIGs, such as Perl Users, Newbie Night, and special training nights have begun to grow in popularity. These special nights are set to not conflict with regular LUG meeting nights, but to complement them in both content and scheduling.

Why bother? It's a lot of work, and for the group leaders, it seems to put that much extra on their schedules to come up with. Don't fret, your members, when allowed to focus on what their interests are will become more involved in the group discussions. Linux has provided us with so much new stuff each month, that trying to cover it all in one single meeting has become cumbersome.

I'll focus on the benefits of one such SIG, which I recently started within our LUG called Newbie Night. What is Newbie Night? It's a night fully dedicated to the needs and interests of new Linux users. What is Newbie Night's purpose? To present New Linux users with the materials they need and are interested in. This type of presentation keeps new Linux users interested in the group, and helps them to quickly catch up to the interest of the more advanced LUG members. Keeping new members interested in the group allows your LUG to grow. Also, being able to focus your regular LUG meetings on new Linux topics keeps your existing LUG members interested and returning to your meetings.

To make a SIG like Newbie Night a success, you have to structure your topic plans in advance. Create a 'lesson plan' that allows you to cover all basic topics of Linux to an extent that will allow a new Linux user to feel comfortable at a regular LUG meeting easily in six months (given you meet once a month). Repeat your general lesson plan ever six months, allowing new Linux users to come to your meetings and graduate as well.

Keep each meeting's topics at a level that every member, even the newest visitor without any Linux knowledge will benefit. This is most easily accomplished with a demonstration of a Linux install. Don't bore the members with a RH 6.1 install at each meeting, introduce a new distribution. Don't elaborate on each one, but as you're going, you can show existing users what other distributions look like, while showing new users how the install process works on Linux and how easily they can accomplish it too. If you can, have copies of the new distributions available for your newest members to be able to take home with them and use. You could even get these from the appropriate vendor.

For the next hour of your meeting, focus on a topic that's pertinent to new Linux users. For instance, spend a meeting about hooking up your periperals with Linux. Spend another on basic unix commands and text editors. Spend another introducing them to networking their Linux boxes. Keep them exciting, by spending a meeting on how to install programs, specifically Loki games, and using them on Linux. Break them away from Office by showing them StarOffice and other popular home tools.

Try to reserve 1/2 hour of ever meeting for open Q&A for new Linux users. This allows the new users to freely ask new Linux questions that they may otherwise feel uncomfortable asking amongst a group of more advanced users. Also during this time, if you have a member with laptop, or specific problems, with advanced notice you can have them bring in their equipment to the meeting, and provide a hands on example of debugging and troubleshooting for new Linux users.

If you have time, and if you know the topic, try to spend a few minutes at the end of the meeting introducing your members to the topic of the upcoming regular LUG meeting. Let them know what it's about, and how it will benefit them. If you have any tips of what they can read up on before they go, to benefit more from the presentation, be sure to let them know.

Following the above regimine leads to a very fast paced introductory course that is a service to all your new LUG members. With its recurring topics and repetitive courses, you'll always have something to offer even your newest members, and you'll quickly establish your LUG as one of the leading Linux community supporters.

I hope this information has spawned some ideas you can do with your LUG. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me or discuss is on the LUG Support Mailing list. You can join this list by sending a message to majordomo@linux.com with the message subscribe lug_support.





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