OpenSolaris User Group Leaders Bootcamp

The keepers of the OpenSolaris Community took advantage of having a number of the User Group leaders at the CommunityOne conference this last week to set aside a day for a User Group Leaders' Bootcamp.

What a great opportunity to get together in the same room with folks working to create and sustain OpenSolaris user groups around the world! We had folks from every continent - from Atlanta and Argentina, from Dallas and Serbia, from China and London, and on and on. Something like twenty-five to thirty of the OpenSolaris User Groups were represented.

The whole day was a great experience. It was great to see that as different as each group was, there were a lot of common themes for both successes and for challenges. And a lot of great ideas were shared as to how to boost participation, to improve meetings, and to improve the success of the groups overall. It will be exciting to hear a report back next year on how these ideas have played out.

Be sure to check out Jim Grisanzio's photos to see some of these characters and what all went on at CommunityOne and in the OSUG Bootcamp.

Jeff Jackson, Sr. VP for Solaris Engineering, started the day off with a greeting and charge to get the most out of this opportunity to meet with each other and with the OpenSolaris and Solaris headquarters teams.

Since the thing that brought this group together was a common focus on OpenSolaris User Groups and not the fact that we knew each other, we began the day with a bit of team-building exercise, courtesy of The Go Game. This is a cross between a scavenger hunt and an improvisational acting class. Teams criss-crossed downtown San Francisco trying to find and photograph places hinted at by clues on web pages. At some venues, the teams had to act out and film various tasks. For example, on the Yerba Buena lawn, the team had to engage in an impromptu Tai Chi exercise in order to find their long-lost phys ed teacher, Ms. Karpanski, who then led the team in creating a new exercise video. Once we all returned, all of our submissions were voted on by the team and a winning team chosen. Supposedly, we can see all these photos and videos. Haven't yet found out how. Perhaps, that's for the best!

In order for us to get to know each other's groups, each User Group prepared a poster describing the group, where we were located, what we do, what sort of members make up the group, and what makes us special. Many of these posters were really well done! We had a bit of a scavenger hunt for answers to questions found by careful reading of all of the posters. It was really cool to see what sorts of projects some of the groups had undertaken and how they were working with various university or other organizations.

But the main part of the day was spent in a big brainstorming session. We all identified our successes, our failures, our challenges, and ideas for the future. We put all of these on several hundred post-it notes and placed them on large posters. We grouped them by topic and then went through all of these. Even though this only had an hour on the agenda, it ended up taking the bulk of the day. Since this was the most important thing for us, we decided to rearrange the day to accommodate it.

From these sticky-notes, we found out that some of our groups were mostly focused on administrators but others had a large developer population. We all have some sort of issues around meeting locations - whether it's a matter of access in the evening, finding a convenient location, or providing network access and power. For most groups, having some sort of refreshments was important, though some groups felt like good refreshments attracted too many folks who just show up for the food.

There were a lot of good ideas around using a registration site to get access to the facility and order food, creating and using Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, using IRC, interacting with the Sun Campus Ambassadors, using MeetUp to find new members. Many folks found it useful to video and make available presentations given at their meetings. Some groups (for example in Japan) have special sub-groups for beginners. Other groups are doing large-scale development projects, such as the Belenix project in Bangalore.

For me and the Atlanta OpenSolaris User Group, I have a lot of new ideas that I want to put out to our membership and our leaders - move back to monthly meetings, use a registration site, set up a presence on various social networks.

Many people said that folks come to the user groups in order to network and expand their circle of business acquaintances. In light of the current economic situation, with so many smart people out of work, I am thinking of promoting our group with some of the job networking groups around Atlanta. For example, my church, Roswell United Methodist Church, has one of the largest job networking groups in the Atlanta area. Every two weeks, nearly 500 people meet to network and help each other in their job search. Perhaps the many IT folks in this group might find this a way to get current and stay current in a whole new area.

At any rate, I am inspired to get things cranking at ATLOSUG!

After spending the afternoon working through our hundreds of sticky notes, the OpenSolaris Governing Board had a bit of a roundtable with us to talk about what they do and how we can work better together. It was really helpful for me to hear from them and to get to put faces to some of the names for the folks I did not already know.

We finished out the evening with a great dinner at the Crab House at Pier 39. From what I have seen, many of the photos from dinner and the meeting are already on Facebook, Flickr, and likely blogs.sun.com. Jim Grisanzio, OpenSolaris Chief Photographer, was out in force with his camera!

Thanks so much to Teresa Giacomini, Lynn Rohrer, Dierdre Straughan, Jim Grisanzio, Tina Hartshorn, Wendy Ames, Kris Hake and everyone else who had a hand in organizing this event. Thanks to Jeff Jackson, Bill Franklin, Chris Armes, Dan Roberts and all the other HQ folks who took the time to come and listen and interact with the leaders of these groups. I know that I got a lot out of the meeting and am more eager than ever to promote and push forward with our user group.

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