Sunday, November 21, 2010

Software User Groups

You just spent an entire day sitting in front of a computer writing software code or project plans. What better way to spend the evening than with a bunch of other folks like the ones you just left behind to talk about what you do all day. Sound masochistic? Well, that's kind of the point of user group meetings. But then again, lots of folks work in an office all day and cuddle up on the couch at night to watch a show about people working in an office, so maybe user group meetings are one step up from that.

Seriously though, I've been to a few different computer language user group meetings, and I actually run one myself for Atlassian software products (The Jira and Confluence guys). I find them to be extremely beneficial for a number of reasons. As far as knowledge goes, you could learn more in terms of quantity for the same amount of time from reading books or articles. But there is something to be said for diversity in learning. Spreading your wings further than the confines of the office opens up the possibilities of what you can learn, and 1-on-1 interaction leads to more opportunities for Q & A for help applying what someone else has learned to your own situation.

But user groups go far beyond just the learning. Networking, job opportunities, discovering a new venue and of course complimentary food and beverages are some of the other benefits of user group meetings. So let's take a look at my top ten reasons for going to a software user group meeting.

Top 10 Reasons for Going to Software User Group Meetings

10. Find folks who may be willing to read your obscure blog on software development. Yes, that was meant to be ironic.

9. Having a healthy debate on Java  programming style guidelines, especially when you do and don't put brackets on their own dedicated line.

8. Reminiscing about the old times when software bugs really were insects caught up in a gigantic machine that could do less than a calculator can these days.

7. An opportunity to tell everyone how you basically had the same idea for Google, Facebook or Amazon but some unfortunate tragedy in the family prevented you from beating them to it.

6. Find more folks willing to vote on the issues you submitted to a software bug repository, thereby increasing their priority and likelihood or getting fixed faster.

5. Meet someone with a boss even more unintelligible and egotistical than you own to feel better about your own situation.

4. Great excuse for skipping out on just about anything else. Because when you tell them what you're doing they will just be thankful they aren't going to something that sounds so boring.

3. Free food. But only as long as it's served in a sanitary fashion and no one ruined for everyone else by double dipping.

2. Gadgets with sponsor logos. Because you probably lost or broke the crappy thumb drive you got from the last user group meeting or job fair and need a new one.

1. Free beer. What, no beer at the last user group meeting you went to? You went to the wrong user group meeting!

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