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.