Tuesday, June 24, 2014

About User Groups

I'm hanging out in the middle of nowhere this week...Fort Riley, Kansas.  Here to visit my granddaughters.  Which means I'm missing ODTUG's KScope14 conference.  Missed the OAUG/Quest/IOUG Collaborate14 this year as well.  Will also be absent at OAUG's ConnectionPoint14 in Pittsburgh.  Will be missing a few others that are usually on my calendar as well (But I made it to UTOUG Training Days, Alliance14, and the MidAtlantic HEUG conference - will also make it to the ECOAUG later this year).

With all the user conferences missed in 2014, I've had some folks asking if I still believe it Oracle user groups.  The short answer is yes.  The longer answer is yes, but I do believe the user group model needs to change a bit.

Attend a user group conference this year (sorry, Oracle OpenWorld does not count - it is NOT a user group conference).  Look around at the faces.  Other than those working the partner sales booths, the vast majority of those faces will be middle-aged and older.  See, when user groups were first formed, the model was built to appeal to Baby Boomers and Echo Boomers.  And the big thrill was face-to-face networking.  Now that the Baby Boomers and Echo Boomers are riding off into the enterprise technology sunset, the user group model can only flourish by changing the model for those who take our places.

Face-to-face networking is still important, but just doesn't seem to hold the same level of importance for these younger workers.  Easily accessed on-demand education sessions on the web (for free), virtual gatherings on GoogleTalk, facilitating group chats on focused subjects, information in short snippets...simple, quick and virtual channels of information delivery seem to gain more traction with the rising generation than annual, huge national or international conferences when it comes to enterprise apps.

So, yeah, I still believe in user groups.  But, as long as you're asking, I think the model will need changing in order to flourish into the future.

I'm going back to the grandkids now...


Jérôme Françoisse said...

Hi Floyd,

I'm not sure that my generation is less interested in conferences than before, I just think we have less opportunities to go there. Companies now tend to pay us an cheap online course rather than send us to a conference and pay for flights, hotels and such. The result is different – mostly in term of networking – but so is the price tag. If you ask me if I prefer to watch a – usually boring– video or to join a conference, meet interesting people and travel, I will choose the latter. But most of the time young techs only get the opportunity to do the first one. Fortunately it's not the case in my company but I'm a lucky exception.

In my opinion, the problem is therefore on the companies side. The only thing user groups could do to get more young people is to give them some special offers.

On the other hand it's difficult for young guys to get an abstract accepted if they want to share their knowledge as well. My abstracts are competing against those of my peers being recognised speakers – sometimes with an ACE or ACED title. They have more experience in abstract writing and public speaking. User Groups also like to have them to attract people to the conference – and that totally makes sense. So they have few reasons to select first-timers over recognised speakers. On this point I want to thank RMOUG and ODTUG for giving opportunities to beginners.

What the user groups can do to have younger speakers is to reserve some slots for first-timers and create mentoring programs – to advise on soft skills but also to introduce beginners to other people and help them networking.


fteter said...

Jerome, this is a great perspective. Thank you so much for sharing.