One of the big ones is, what does it mean to be a "member" of a regional user group?
I'm proposing to use what Jive calls a Social Group to provide a communications platform and web space for regional users groups.
Because the "groups" are going to get confusing for the rest of this post, I'm going to use "social group" to refer to the online space "users group" to refer to the real-world regional users group.
The social groups would allow anyone to "Join" the social group, just as you've joined this social group. Then when a message is posted to the social group, or an announcement made, it is automatically emailed to all who have "joined".
Some users groups might want to maintain a separate "membership" in the users group and I'm curious about the value of that?
So, my question is a bit of an existential one, if you get communications from the users group by joining the social group, does that make you a member?
For those of you who are managing a membership list today, is that just for communications purposes?
Here is my opinion of having an online presence for a regional user group.
Currently we have some great online resources for information sharing. Specifically we have:
LinkedIn Groups (with different areas of JMP speciality)
JMP Discussion Forums
JMP File Exchange
A regional user group differs fundamentally in that it promotes face-to-face meetings. By their nature they are defined by the geographic location of the users.
The potential benefit of face-to-face meetings is that that it generates a greater level of co-operation between participants and therefore greater learning. A common scenario is that participants are full of enthusiasm during the meeting, but then they get caught up again in their day jobs and some momentum has to be re-created for the next user meeting.
One of the main roles I see for an on-line presence (social group) is to maintain communication and enthusiasm between the face-to-face meetings. This can occur in a number of ways:
Sharing insights off-the-cuff experiences via a blog posting
Developing specialisms via special interest groups
Collaborative projects via discussions and file sharing
And of course the basic requirement which is:
User group communication via notifications
I think it is essential that in some sense membership is "closed" to those members of the region - otherwise the group becomes just another virtual group whereas we want to be a projection of a the real physical community of users.
There is also a sense that we want to provide an environment which is "safe" to be "open", which means being "closed". Let me explain. There are questions I might want to ask about JMP. I wont post them on LinkedIn because this is too much of a professional environment associated with being an "online CV". I want my CV to say what I know, not what I don't know. I can post the question on the Discussion Forum and get an answer. I can probably tell you who will answer - it is the same small group of people keen to share their knowledge. But most users are not sharing their knowledge and I think one reason is because it is anonymous (most people dont provide details other than a user name) - am I going to take time out of my day to help someone who I dont know, who has a silly nickname, and who might not even say thank you?). If the social group is an extension of the physical regional user group then people will get to know eah other, will meet face to face, and hopefully see benefits of mutual sharing of information and experiences)