CFMUG Downshifts from Monthly to Two Yearly Meetings
March 9, 2009 Timothy Prickett Morgan
The Central Florida Midrange Users Group (CFMUG) has announced that it is downshifting from monthly meetings of its users to meetings twice a year.
User groups, while still valuable and perhaps even preferable as a means to network among peers, are under pressure as IT professionals have less time to attend meetings and rely, as you might expect, on the Internet to keep in contact with their peers and vendors. CFMUG is no more immune to this as is LinuxWorld (downsized as well), Novell’s BrainShare (canceled), and COMMON, which has shifted to one big meeting a year instead of two plus a number of smaller, regional events.
Here’s the statement put out by CFMUG, which had a meeting of its board of directors on February 4 and decided some kind of change is in order:
“We determined that the organization still serves a useful purpose to the midrange users of central Florida. However, there was not sufficient interest in the membership ranks to justify monthly meetings. This, combined with the economic conditions we all face, we decided to move from monthly to twice yearly meetings. We also wanted to stress that current paid to date members of CFMUG have an additional benefit–they have access to COMMON, a national users group. As a member of the CFMUG user group, you not only gain invaluable benefits and cost effective savings, but you gain unprecedented access to an entire community of peers and experts with whom you can network and share, knowledge and experiences. You also become an important part of the COMMON community’s collective voice to IBM and other solution providers: a voice with a long history of making this platform a better business computing tool.”
It has been suggested many times over the years that all of the regional AS/400 user groups should merge with COMMON to become one single collective, with one national, annual meeting and regional, regular meetings. But the local user groups take as much pride in their independence and how they directly serve their members as COMMON does, and it is no surprise user groups of all sizes and stripes want to maintain their autonomy. But an even bigger problem faces the groups: there is strength in numbers, and that is how you get experts to show up for meetings. Smaller groups with few meetings and low attendance can’t draw in the experts, which makes it harder to boost attendance.
It is hard to say what might be done to prop up user groups these days, with the economy rotten, IT vendors distracted and contracting, and IT employees focused on keeping their jobs or finding a new one. But I know one thing: LinkedIn is no replacement for face time with a guy or gal you’ve known for years. We gain speed and distance from the Internet, to be sure, but we have lost much in terms of contact, too. Even if travel were free and took no time at all, few of us have time to do the kind of networking that user groups like COMMON used to afford. We’re all business because our jobs demand it.
Stinks, don’t it? Get used to it, I suppose.