[kwlug-disc] On lowering new member hurdles & comment cards.

unsolicited unsolicited at swiz.ca
Thu May 6 22:23:40 EDT 2010

Lori Paniak wrote, On 05/06/2010 9:49 PM:
> I've been enjoying the refreshing vacuum of KWLUG for almost five years
> now.  
> In that time, the direction-less and poorly documented membership of
> KWLUG has been instrumental in several remarkable FLOSS achievements in
> SWO and beyond: Ontario Linux Fest, Open Street Map, numerous FLOSS
> projects, FLOSS fund...  and stimulated other groups with similar
> free/libre perspectives.  I would go as far as to say that KWLUG is the
> flagship Linux User Group in the country on the basis of vitality,
> (anarchic) organization and tangible impact.
> So what is it, exactly, that we are trying to fix?

Well said.

None of this is relevant, if it ain't broke.

This latest round of a topic that repeatedly, frequently, occurs, that 
of new member comfort and retention, kicked off with:
Paul Nijjar wrote, On 05/04/2010 12:12 AM:
 > Over the past few meetings I have been getting a bit of feedback
 > from new KWLUGgers. They have been telling me that while the
 > meetings have been interesting, the content has been way over their
 > heads.
 > That got me thinking about another question I have been running
 > into: what linux distro people should start with.
 > One direction this takes me is to suggest that we make an explicit
 > attempt to schedule some more newbie-friendly meetings, and label
 > them
 > as such on the website.

In the thrashing conversation that resulted, many ideas were 
brainstormed, but we are shooting blind trying to hit and address a 
new member target that we don't know the location of. Therefore, let's 
find the coordinates.

Conversely, if we desire to appropriately cover the range from novice 
to expert, such that most of the people are adequately satisfied most 
of the time, it seems prudent to understand that frequency 
distribution, so, again, to know what target we're aiming for, we need 

kwlug serves not only its members, it proffers itself as a resource 
for new members. The retention rate, IIRC, is very, very, low.

Retention concerns will always exist - by definition of being open to 
new members. We can accept the status quo, do nothing, and rethrash 
this topic out every other month.

Or we can put in a framework wherein we can figure out how to address 
it. The results of which may very well be, do nothing, but having such 
hard results to hand would obviate the thrashing.

> On Fri, 2010-05-07 at 00:16 +0000, Shane wrote:
>> Basically yes.  But is rather light on the data collected.  Sounds like, except for a core group, you really don't know what you have to deal with.  Trust me, you'll have everything. 
>> With a more detailed question sheet (all questions optional) because new people don't know what they're dealing with either, you can get that kind of data.  You might also keep more of the drop-ins.  They drop in and as long as they think it might be for them, they return .
>> During social time you probe.  What got you interested in open source?  How long?  What distro(s)?  Etc.  There are people here from kinds of backgrounds.  We need good people (implying present company).  Did you hear about the Lucid Lynx install party?  Etc.  Dishonest?  Not if you really mean it. You have to get past the defences they have set.  Show  them that with Linux, not only the software is friendly and capable. 
>> That will get you a capable, strong membership.  But it all starts with data.  You can't operate meaningly in a vacuum. 
>> Sorry about the length but I figured it needed to be said. 
>> ================It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: unsolicited <unsolicited at swiz.ca>
>> Date: Thu, 06 May 2010 19:51:01 
>> To: KWLUG discussion<kwlug-disc at kwlug.org>
>> Subject: Re: [kwlug-disc] On lowering new member hurdles & comment cards.
>> Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you're saying "Yes.", here?
>> There is already the sheet that gets passed around for name, new, 
>> e-mail. None, except for maybe 'new', need be on the survey. Unless 
>> the person wants it to be. Perhaps for someone to send an e-mail with 
>> links to the web site and list information?
>> Shane wrote, On 05/06/2010 7:15 PM:
>>> Right back to before.  A sheet for first name, contact (preferably
>>> email), level of experience, distro(s)?, is there anything you'd
>>> like to find out/talk about?
>>> This is data.  How many new?  How many from MS?  From Apple? From
>>> Commodore/Radio Shack/who knows.  where?  What do they want to
>>> know?  What do they know that they would like to talk about?
>>> Now that you have data you can make plans using it.  Social
>>> evenings are good, even for geeks.  People are more interactive
>>> with a friendly group than a bunch of strangers.  You really have
>>> no real idea why many will be there.  Social?  Technical?  What
>>> mix?  It will likely not happen in a hurry but you could attract,
>>> or even develop, some very good resources.
>>> ================It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the
>>> size of the fight in the dog.
>>> -----Original Message----- From: unsolicited <unsolicited at swiz.ca> 
>>> Date: Thu, 06 May 2010 18:53:39 To:
>>> Kwlug-Disc<kwlug-disc at kwlug.org> Subject: [kwlug-disc] On lowering
>>> new member hurdles & comment cards.
>>> This will ramble about, so please bear with me. I'm just throwing 
>>> stuff out here to see what, if anything, sticks. Apologies for the
>>> length.
>>> kwlug is member driven. Understandably and rightly so. But what I 
>>> really mean is, kwlug members create their own content, for 
>>> themselves. The content presented reflects that. Again, all rightly
>>> so.
>>> So, content reflects those whom are members, not those who might be
>>> or could be members, or new members. There is a sensitivity to some
>>>  extent to the desires of such, but content largely reflects those
>>> who are members, or, more accurately - those who are willing to
>>> step up. [And thank you all, by the way, for stepping up.]
>>> The topics presented consist of material the members themselves are
>>>  willing to step up and produce. And so reflect the interests and 
>>> content those producing members are passionate about. Again, all 
>>> rightly so.
>>> A sticking point with being able to be new member friendly seems to
>>> be to get them onto the communication pathways that already exist.
>>> I've never, for example, seen anything but "Hail fellow, well met!"
>>> and "The only stupid question is the one not asked!" on the list.
>>> But it seems to be chicken and egg to get them on the list (or have
>>> them be comfortable / not overwhelmed with it). [Sorry, nature of
>>> the beast, deal.] They don't use the list because they don't know
>>> about the list, and they don't know about the list because ...
>>> On a side note: I very much liked an idea put forth on the list
>>> some time ago, I don't remember by whom, sorry, of a page on the
>>> site composed basically of links to "Reference links local kwlug
>>> people have found to be useful." (i.e. Well, I expect most of us
>>> know how frustrating the web can be some times.) Especially if some
>>> links can point to Bob's offer to author / edit / host articles on
>>> material local kwlug'ers have group collaborated on to produce, for
>>> lack of 'good' www material found. (Particularly that match Bob's
>>> standards - which are of a particularly excellent nature, not found
>>> often enough in today's technical literature.) [RouterStation Pro,
>>> anyone, yet?]
>>> There has been some recent list discussion with respect to the
>>> nature or the complexity of the material available (be it meeting,
>>>  presentation, web site, or list), both with respect to 'what it
>>> should be' or 'targeted towards', and to what might be more
>>> friendly to new users.
>>> It seems to me that you cannot hit a target when you don't know
>>> where that target is. So, hadn't we better find out where that
>>> target is?
>>> And the only way I can think of to collect such data is to ask -
>>> say by meeting comment cards (a la wwitpro) or surveys.
>>> There are two targets here: where, on average, are the current
>>> members at, and where are those new to kwlug at.
>>> So, if there is consensus that meeting surveys are appropriate and
>>>  would be useful, I'll volunteer to run with it.
>>> I think, however, we would also need to accumulate (anonymous)
>>> member profiles. Bear with me a moment, the idea is not as
>>> offensive as it may sound. The difference between a meeting survey
>>> and a user profile is that a user profile likely wouldn't change
>>> significantly, so don't ask them about it every time. And don't
>>> create a need to track submissions to track / remove duplicates.
>>> We talk about whether we are presenting the right material for the
>>>  members. Well, the only way to know that is if we know the nature
>>> of our members. So, elements of the profile might be:
>>> - what sort of user are you? Casual, internet & e-mail only, 
>>> programmer, office suite, administrator (and type: system, network,
>>>  security) - how 'comfortable' are you with computers? New to
>>> computers, new to Linux, short/long time Windows user, short/long
>>> time Linux user? - current distro? (Could be interesting! And
>>> probably startling.) - distros ever tried? - current Windowing
>>> system (Also interesting!) [Plus level, e.g. KDE4 users vs. KDE3 -
>>> it was quite a step, that one was!] - what do you do / interested
>>> in / enthusiastic about - programming (What/'Language'?), web
>>> creation, database, mail merge, systems, photography, graphic
>>> design, ???
>>> The point is, this is largely unchanging information, and the
>>> average 'complexity' of the users would largely drive the
>>> complexity of the presentations. But there can be only one record
>>> per member, and it must be presented in an anonymous aggregate.
>>> We're merely looking to find out where this complexity target is.
>>> Question: How to not intimidate new members?
>>> I have absolutely no idea how to accomplish this. I could see
>>> someone with appropriate expertise creating a web form, and
>>> attaching it to user profiles, but as soon as I consider how to
>>> require complete and unique records, how to anonymously aggregate
>>> it, and how to present it, I have no idea as to the specific
>>> technical steps required.
>>> Then there's a meeting survey. That I know I can do - arrive at a
>>> form everyone can live with, print them out, get the host to hand
>>> them out / collect them, get them to me, and I accumulate them into
>>> a monthly 'report'. Everything would be anonymous.
>>> First: *Absolutely nothing* on the form would discuss the quality
>>> of the presentation. If you have any problems - get off your heinie
>>> and present, yourself, already.
>>> Otherwise, it might have such things as: - On a scale of 1 to 10,
>>> how was the complexity of the topic for you: 1 being too simple, 5
>>> being just right, 10 being too advanced. - what would you like to
>>> see presentations on? - what would you like to see the floss fund
>>> donate to? - are you a member of the list? - what would you like to
>>> see kwlug do? - what might you like to contribute, if you were more
>>> comfortable or knew how? - Comments / Suggestions / anything you
>>> can think of to say?
>>> Which is all to say, without having to put your hand up and expose
>>>  yourself, do you know how to get help (list), how did you feel
>>> about *this* meeting, but most importantly - provide a (potential?)
>>> new member with a mechanism they understand and have to hand as to
>>> how to have their say / communicate. (vs. the list that they may
>>> not know about, or be a member of, yet.) [Yes, some of this,
>>> presentation request and floss fund nominees, have current
>>> mechanisms,  but I don't believe entries are being populated at
>>> quite the rate desired.]
>>> So, is there any consensus as to whether, or not, such profiles and
>>>  surveys are appropriate, useful, or desirable?
>>> If profiles are desired, will someone volunteer to run with
>>> effecting it?
>>> If either profiles or comment cards / surveys are desired, what
>>> should be on them?
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