BozemanLUG: Looking to the Future

So many situations theses days remind me of a passage from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.

It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,

we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way— in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

Such is it with Linux and the BozemanLUG.

The Linux desktop has come a long way... yet some are unhappy about the Linux market share. How much of a market share does Linux have? Some people say around 1%, others say around 10%. Some say we are last and we have lost. Still others say we are second surpassing even Apple who is currently the second largest company in the world with regards to market capitalization. Steve Ballmer says Linux is doing well but maybe he is just saying that trying to hurt Apple. Who should we believe?

Then there are those who believe that the desktop is over and that web-based apps in "the cloud" are the future and that Linux and the FOSS movement need to concentrate there. I'm very skeptical of that assessment.

The Narrower Scheme of Things

Nevermind. I'm actually writing this to talk about local issues.

The BozemanLUG has been in decline for some time. What do I mean by decline? Well, we have a somewhat small number of hardcore members who regularly attend meetings BUT we haven't really been attracting much in the way of new members. In fact, very few MSU students have come our way in the last couple of years and the reason is clear. We haven't been doing anything at all in the way of promotion... other than on the mailing list and the calendar here.

Why haven't we been promoting? I know exactly what to do... make up some flyers, print them out, and then post them around town and all over campus... especially in areas where "computer people" might be found. Another thing to do would be to contact the various local periodic print media and get included in their "events calendars".

But that doesn't answer my original question... why haven't we been promoting? The answer to that is also clear... at least in my mind. I've had a hard time getting presentations over the last year and as a result I don't really want to promote the club only to have new folks show up to a sub-standard experience. Goodness knows I've done well over my fair share of presentations but now I feel as if I'm "phoning it in". I've been a bit cranky a few times in mailing list postings trying to nag people into volunteering but of course that hasn't worked out so well.

So where to go from here?

Targeting a Very Broad Audience

Linux users are all over the place. Some are programmers. Some are System Administrators... and some are plain old desktop application users who got tired of Windows. Some use Linux only on servers and prefer a Mac or perhaps even Windows. Some play games and some work on embedded hardware. My point is obvious... we have a very broad audience. Since I've been doing about half or more of the presentations for the last couple of years... and I'm primarily a Systems Administrator who prefers the command line... most of our meetings are about fairly technical topics that probably only appeal to a small segment of our potential membership base.

Recently an MSU CS Student by the name of Chris Ching started something he calls, "Lunch with Linux". Every Thursday around lunch time he hopes to have a few people show up for some beginner type presentations focusing more on desktop / end-user type stuff. It was stated by one of his attendees that the LUG group was a little intimidating... which I found odd because the person who said it, to the best of my knowledge, hasn't been to a LUG meeting yet. I'm sure they are right though and probably picked up on that from the postings here (again, mostly done by me on technical oriented topics) or from my persona... as I'm sure I can be a little intimidating... even though I don't mean to be. You know us geeks don't always deal with human-to-human interactions as well as real people-persons do. :)

Chris came to me about a year ago asking for something like "Lunch with Linux" but I told him I didn't want to do it myself and that it would be better as a student led thing. He is a very busy person and delayed doing it as long as he could, but he finally gave in. We'll see how that goes and perhaps we can get some of his participants interested in the LUG.

I've had another person visit me a few times to talk about how to promote the BozemanLUG as well as a few other FOSS related organizations. His name is Srinivas Gumdelli and he is a new CS masters student from India who was involved there with the Free Software Foundation. I've conveyed to him what I think needs to be done to promote the LUG and put most of the needed future action on his shoulders but I think he has gotten too busy with school. He did check out an OLPC with the stated goal of learning SUGAR software development... so perhaps he has gotten sucked into that wondrous black hole.

Seeing the Possible Directions

As time passed, I thought more and more about what Chris and Srinivas said to me. I know we have this great potential... and a great community of people to serve... I just wanted to remind everyone that I can't do it all by myself... and the few hardcore BozemanLUG regulars are fairly happy with the way things are... so... WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

I don't think we can get going anywhere until there is more discussion and this posting is effort to jump start that conversation. What says you?

But Wait, There is More

I know the BillingsLUG has been dealing with similar issues lately and I extend this posting to them as well... and hope someone from their community will will pipe up with their own posting. Of course I encourage participation from anyone anywhere in the state... this is "MontanaLinux" after all.

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Thoughts on linux acceptance.

Ten years ago, I would not have expected Linux to have as small of a market share as it does now. I guess I underestimated the power of network effects and software patents.

As for the LUG, a four hour one way drive is a bit much for a meeting, so I haven't been for a while.

Long live the LUG

Scott, I too thank you for all you do to keep the LUG alive and although I am booked until Feb, doing the FIRST robotics thing, I will put my hat in for a presentation after that.

I do enjoy greatly the meetings, posts and comments this LUG (Scott) generates and don't want to see this end. It seems we are all pretty busy but I don't think some promotion is out of question. I work at RightNow Technologies and a few well placed fliers could pull a good range of folks that I am guessing don't even know about the LUG.

The bottom line for me is I want the LUG around and am willing to pitch in to keep it that way.

Now that I think more about it if there would be interest I could do a FIRST robotics presentation this month or next, with the disclaimer that I am still looking for volunteers to help out with this years competition.

Pippin Wallace

sendderek's picture

Hoping to See Ya'll This Month...

I just moved into Bozeman from Scottsdale, AZ about three weeks ago. I heard about the Bozeman LUG from a coworker at RightNow Technologies. A few years back, I belonged to a LUG in Rexburg, ID and enjoyed it, so I'm looking forward to getting back into one here. I'm hoping I'll be able to make it to the October meeting. I was going to attend the September meeting, but decided last minute to spend time with family nearby.

I have at least three presentations I can immediately contribute to the group (Embedded Linux, VirtualBox, and Web 2.0). I would be happy to volunteer to give any/all of these presentations if you'd like.

Looking forward to meeting ya'll.

Best Regards,
Derek Hildreth

Scott Dowdle's picture

A big YES on the presentations

I emailed you asking if you could do a presentation for this month. Welcome to the area and I look forward to having you in our group.

sendderek's picture


Sounds like we'll be chatting about embedded Linux this month then unless there are any objections! ;-) I'll bring in a few items of show and tell...

Best Regards,
Derek Hildreth

Scott Dowdle's picture

Mailing list posting from Anna Collins-Proper

From: Anna Collins-Proper

I haven't been on your mailing list very long, and although I do read all e-mails they are mostly over my head. I think that if you gave lessons of the simple type you might get more people.

My son got me started just by changing me over to Ubuntu. I am not the best on the computer, and probably will never be, but I do appreciate Ubuntu. I had so much trouble with Microsoft -- I hardly ever get in trouble now. When I do I call my son.

Just like R. Potter said, I would be embarrassed to go to a meeting as I know little about computers. If you could show people how much better Ubuntu is you would get more disciples. Find a way to entice them.

Anna Collins-Proper

Scott Dowdle's picture

Mailing list posting from Lou Caudell

From: Lou Caudell

I once suggested to Ken that a mix of subjects would attract more participants. He gave me a look as if to say that bored him, but the fact remains that we were having a technical presentation, and then one of our rant sessions. If the new comers were the least bit intimidated, they likely never came back. It would be better to have a presentation of general knowledge subjects, such as: how X works, or rsync, wireless setup, review a command, etc... along with a technical presentation as well. Even old pro's can benefit from a new implementation update. If this were a Java Users Group, then it would behove them to present concepts to the beginners, and entice them with more technical utilizations. There can be a huge amount of ego in the Linux community, we need to rise above that and make newbies feel more comfortable.

- Lou Caudell

agreed, broader scope.

In Billings we have been more of a Computer Users Group than specifically a linux group. In fact the last *L*UG was on pfsense and the one before was on asterisk.

Scott Dowdle's picture

Mailing list posting from Rob Potter

From: Rob Potter

Not sure I have any answers. I have been trying to think of how we as a group could promote Linux and especially the IEEE units with Bozeman kids. But so far I have been unable to think of an appropriate age group/event that would allow us to get involved.

I do think a big hurdle might be the knowledge that we exist. After someone finds out for sure we exist then comes remembering the one night a month and not being caught up with other life obstacles. I wonder how many people are uncomfortable or unsure of finding us on campus? I had to step out of my comfort zone the first time on several levels one of which was venturing onto the campus.

For me, I enjoy attending even when there is no presentation planned. I attend for a few different reasons but all in all because I just enjoy getting together with everyone. I especially enjoy the after meeting side walk BS sessions - not sure how we can promote those without Beer and Meat being offered . I attend in hopes I learn something Linux related that I might be able to put to use.

I might be a bit more unique though than everyone else. Although I am just guessing, I think I may be the least educated, least Linux experienced and probably least technically experienced person in the group. This at times has created brief periods of minor "deer in headlights" episodes as I have had no real understanding of some discussions. This can be somewhat uncomfortable, but to date no one has really shown any irritation over my lack of comprehension which has made my LUG experience all the more enjoyable. Perhaps some people assume attending a LUG meeting would be a little like a farmer in a room full of Google Engineers? Anyhow, my overall lack of General or specific Linux experience is why I have not and cannot think of anything to present. It's not that I want Scott or anyone else to shoulder all the presentations, it's that I don't feel I have anything to offer. My Linux usage, my Linux customization, etc., all must be pretty simplistic or it probably won' t get done.

Like I said, I don't really have any answers, but I've tried to shed some light on why I attend, what I enjoy and why I don't give presentations.

-Rob Potter

Scott Dowdle's picture

Mailing list posting from Brian Vincent

From: Brian Vincent

To follow up with a completely random collection of thoughts:

* I think attracting more students and people in the community is a good idea. I think the make up of the LUG will stay the same and I think it'll just add more likeminded people.

* David E. mentioned finding out "who we are". I think that's a good idea, and the answer will likely come down to Linux hobbyists and doing fun things with Linux. While I don't mind sitting through a presentation that discusses the intricacies of setting up Samba in an enterprise environment, I'd really rather hear about something fun, like using Blender.

* I think extending presentations beyond Linux is ok. For instance, we do some things at work that are pretty interesting such as setting up wireless mesh networks, managing a Blackberry Enterprise Server, and making things like lift tickets scan. I also have a lot of experience in the telecom world, so if you've ever wondered how to cable a T1 or how you'd locate pair 437 in a 600 pair cable, or crazy WAN things, there's a good chance I've done it.

* Kudos for Scott for stepping up and organizing so many meetings and presentations. It's a lot of work. I know I don't attend a lot of those meetings, but I still appreciate there's someone in the community promoting Linux.

* I think you might be able to publish a calendar and get people to fill up slots for presentations. I know that I could commit to doing one presentation a year. I could probably get 1 other friend to do the same. Now if we had 10 other people, that would fill the entire year. The approach here should be very direct emails to people that say, "Brian, will you put together a presentation for January? I need to know your topic by tomorrow." Or, "Dan, I know you just did a project using a wifi spectrum analyzer, I need you to do a presentation on it at the next meeting otherwise you have to bring pizza for everyone."

Brian Vincent
Moonlight Basin Technology

Scott Dowdle's picture

Mailing list posting by Jordan Schatz

From: Jordan Schatz

Well, I don't know about how to increase membership, except that I wonder how many of the college students and other people around Bozeman even know that the LUG exists? I wouldn't try and convince anyone to come, or to change the meetings so that more people want to come, just let more people know that its around.

BTW I can increase the number by one : ) I plan to come around after I move to Bozeman in November.

(web developer / emacs + racket-lang fanatic)

Scott Dowdle's picture

Mailing list posting from David Boreham

From: David Boreham

Ok, my $0.02 worth:

I think the current meeting format, type of people attending is great. I'd come to every meeting if I didn't have other stuff in my life that makes it almost impossible for me to attend any event of any kind in the evening.

In fact, if the meetings were during the work day, I'd come to every one. (I have two kids in elementary school and the time between the end of the school day and bed time is pretty packed up with sports activities, music lessons, scouts, homework, etc every day of the week). I'm not saying move the meetings to the daytime, just explaining why I only show up every couple of years. I'm also an IEEE member and their meetings are cool too, but I haven't been to one years.

I know a few interesting people living in the area (major league coders, gray-beards) who would I'm sure enjoy the meetings, but it's hard for me to persuade them to attend when
I don't :(

Scott Dowdle's picture

Mailing list posting from David Eder

From: David Eder

I believe the quest for membership numbers to be a common issue to all organizations. But I also believe it to be wrong-headed. If we seek to change our organization to be more attractive, we will head into the downward spiral of chasing whatever is the current "in" thing. This almost always universally fails.

I believe the best approach is to first discover who we are.

If we promote our true identity we will attract people of like-mind. If we promote what we think people will like, they will come, find out who we really are, and leave.

I propose that we all answer the following question:

Why do you come, and what do you think would make it better for you?

And my personal answer is:

I come to the meeting for two reasons: 1) I like to be exposed to new ideas and software, and 2) I have nobody else to shop-talk with. I think we should get to know each other better. I doubt many of us know much about each other other than our names. And we don't even have that down often times. We could know things like were we work and what we do there?

How do you use Linux at home? What do you wish you could do? What do you struggle with? What's been going on in the last month?

So, I guess my talking point is that we should find out who we are and then promote that.

As always, don't be shy about saying I'm wrong. I won't be offended.


Worzie's picture

Scott, I really see and have

Scott, I really see and have experienced you points made here. Reasons for not advertising are spot on. With the BillingsLUG though, I see a more folks stepping up lately. I certainly don't mind facilitating if I'm not expected to present and make all the decisions. Scott, you have done both and one of them, I think, should be delegated out.

I like hearing about the 'Lunch with Linux' project! Was a bit taken when hearing about the intimidation aspect. I'm not sure we will ever get respect beyond just being known as the dreaded 'hackers'.

Last week I mentioned in IRC, on my way to our LUG meeting, I noticed a gal at the stop light thinking to myself... I wonder what she would think of our meetings or what behavior would change with the guys in the meeting. Truth of the matter is, she probably would not feel too comfortable. Not that we talk coarse either, just the intimidation factor.

Change is good too! I learned over the years with everything, not just Linux, that if you are not willing to change, then you will get fired, boring, and dwell in the past. If your not always changing you are dying.


I'm not entirely sure that I'm allowed to comment on this particular subject, but I thought that I'd throw my $0.02 into the ring here anyway.

First, a little bit of full disclosure. While I was one of the first people in the BozemanLUG, I haven't attended in quite some time. I do miss it, but it's a little bit of a drive from my house here in Phoenix. I do still lurk in the background of the mailing list, and enjoy the discussions.

I can honestly say that during the time that I was attending the meeting, it was a tad bit intimidating, mostly since it seemed like pretty much everybody knew more about the whole thing than I did. I've been using Linux since around 1996, but mostly for Desktop and LAMP systems. I've done all the usual stuff in Linux, kernel updates and the like, but I've never come into nearly the whole system understanding that it seems the vast majority of the attendees there already have.

I think if you'd like to get a little bit of new blood into the group, you're going to have to advertise. I don't think anybody will argue with that. The other thing is schedule and stick to it. Get some presentations scheduled a couple months in advance, several per meeting. Make those things items that will interest a variety of different people. If you're going to recompile your kernel in one presentation, do another presentation on setup and installation of World of Warcraft in Crossover Games or something of the like. That way you're covering a wide range of subjects, and people will be less inclined to skip a meeting because the "only" thing that will be discussed will be something they're not that interested in. After you've got your meetings and subjects scheduled, advertise like you're running for public office. Make signs and t-shirts, buttons and stickers. Get the word out there any chance you get.

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