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Many people are involved in SharePoint User Groups around the world (attendees, presenters, organisers). If you had to explain what a SPUG was to someone else e.g.:

  • How would you define a user group?
  • What would you say are the benefits of a user group?
  • What doesn't or shouldn't a user group do?

Thanks in advance

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I know this is not the usual type of question but I posted this as a question on twitter today (a few times) and some feedback I got was this is better to be put in a blog, or SPOverflow question so people can expand their answers past 140 chars –  Nick Hadlee Apr 8 '10 at 2:19
    
The twitter answers before were: @iwkid "Gathering of individuals to learn & share knowledge about topics, ideally in an objective, sales/recruiting free environment" @VeroniquePalmer "Interested parties meeting monthly to discuss SharePoint." –  Nick Hadlee Apr 8 '10 at 3:46

6 Answers 6

"How would you define a user group?"

You meet people who are interested in / working on the same topic. I cannot talk with my friends about too technical topics, so sometimes it is nice to share frustration and success with people who know that topic.

"What would you say are the benefits of a user group?"

  • Meet nice people:)
  • Share knowledge (you will benefit even if you only give help)
  • have insights you would not get if they do not know you personally
  • see how others work
  • you are able to compare your knowledge with others

"What doesn't or shouldn't a user group do?"

  • don't treat each other as competitors
  • don't use it as a cheep support service (aka. "i have a list of 20 questions")
  • don't abuse informations you get in the user group
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Let me preface my comments with the fact that I'm not a member of a SharePoint user group per se. I think that there are a few in the Boston area, but I've never really looked into them.

To me, the larger user group I'm a part of (if you're reading this, then you're probably a part of it, too) has the most value. There's far more variety talking to people across the globe, and therefore range of experience, than I think I might get just locally. I also find the asynchronous nature of the online community more fitting with my style. Nick and I are conversing about this topic with half the globe separating us, when we choose to chat.

What I look for is the best minds for a given topic who I can zing questions to. I'd like to think that I'm there for them when it comes to something I know about, too. The sort of "whose turn is it to speak about something, no come on, it's your turn" nature of many of the local user groups I'm been a member of in the past never really worked for me.

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While the online community is also of great value, and very important to me, some people just are not into that type of communication and would otherwise miss out. Virtual communities are a bit easier, but I try to support the others as well. –  Mike Oryszak Apr 8 '10 at 2:39

Definition - A group of people who have interest in SharePoint. Most user groups are organized around locations.

Benefits - Collaborate and share information, successes, failures surrounding SharePoint systems and projects. Get exposure to content and features you normally do not get a chance to see or work with. It is also a great networking opportunity.

Should do - Provide an open, collaborative environment where people are comfortable attending and sharing.

Should NOT do - It is not a sales presentation and should not be primarily a marketing tool for a vendor or consulting company.

================================

I'm a member and board member (leader) for my local user group (Triangle SP UG - http://www.trispug.com) and have seen some great things come from the group involvement. I've seen people of ALL skill levels and background able to come together and learn from each other. I've also seen speakers go to great lengths to volunteer their time to share their expertise.

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I'm on the "board" for the local SharePoint User group here in Melbourne, Australia.

MOSSIG is the Microsoft Office Server System Special Interest Group - we have a monthly meeting with sessions covering SHarePoint and Office - business-focussed and technical.

We have up to 40 people each meeting - free pizza & beer - and we're gearing up for a big SharePoint launch party - on the same night as the other Aussie user groups do their meeting in Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide - and a bunch more.

So - that's OUR user group - and I agree 120% with benefits and "doesn't/shouldn't"...

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Chris, glad you mentioned Melbourne! I'm originally from Victoria and after several years of living in various other countries am 'heading home' in May. I'll most likely check out the MOSSIG. –  Paul Lucas Apr 8 '10 at 17:22

•How would you define a user group? I define a user group as a gathering of people getting together to discuss, learn and share information about a particular topic or technology. Ours happens to be about SharePoint. :) They are often free and/or sponsored by various organizations but are intended to remain neutral by having a variety of participants and contributors that often have varying or competing opinions and solutions.

User groups allow people to learn the benefits, features and shortcomings of products and methods - allowing each attendee and participant the opportunity to contribute and learn from one another. Attendees have the opportunity to have one or more experts available to ask their specific questions to.

User groups should be the cornerstone of a community - be it a local or a virtual one. A community that builds personal and business relationships around a common theme, topic or technology.

User groups should be driven by the needs of the attendees.

•What would you say are the benefits of a user group? Collective learning. Hopefully user groups have presenters that are able to bring their knowledge and experience to a larger audience and are skilled in communicating that information effectively and without a sales pitch.

They're usually free. Though it may take considerable effort to prepare for and present at a user group, they are usually free of charge for participants. That's good ROI. :)

They're usually driven by people that are passionate about sharing information and about the topic the group is all about. This generally makes for good groups, topics and events.

•What doesn't or shouldn't a user group do? User groups shouldn't be preachy or overly sales focused. Attendees want to hear about the availability and features and functionality of products, but not get the car salesman pitch.

User groups should not adversely effect a community - they are for the benefit of the community and attendees.


I'm one of the organizers of the Minnesota SharePoint User Group (MNSPUG - www.sharepointmn.com). We meet once a month and will be celebrating our 6th anniversary in May. We generally get 130-160 people between our local attendees and online attendees.

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Thanks for the well thought out and extensive answer Wes. We are a bit smaller in Christchurch (NZ) than Minesota so usually get 10-30 for our monthly group meetings. Great to see such strong communities out there! –  Nick Hadlee Apr 12 '10 at 1:06

I am a SPUG leader in Akld NZ.

I agree with all the answers above, they are all very simlar. User groups are a great medium for connecting with other people about the same product/topic in a neutral, casual environment. This environment is what is really cool.

To add to the answers above, I wanted to mention that huge benefit around gathering with people from different companies. Same industry, but people from different cultures within that industry. There may be a friendly competitiveness there (poke in the ribs) but this is healthy.

This cross company interaction is of huge benefit! This is one of the major reasons I enjoy SPUG meetups, along with the presentations, and also the breadth of experience in the room, from beginner to End User pro, to IT pro, and through developers.

Jordan Mayer jordanm@intergen.co.nz

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