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

Lori Paniak ldpaniak at fourpisolutions.com
Sat May 8 00:54:35 EDT 2010

On Fri, 2010-05-07 at 23:00 -0400, Paul Nijjar wrote:
> On Thu, May 06, 2010 at 09:49:15PM -0400, Lori Paniak wrote:
> > 
> > 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?
> At the risk of igniting another 100 posts on the topic, I'll take an
> honest stab at answering this. 
> There's no question that the LUG has done some pretty neat things. I
> agree with Khalid that we don't want to mess with that. 
> For a certain kind of person KWLUG is a fantastic resource. It
> provides a technically-inclined group of people to turn to for
> socialization, information, and technical help. 
> But just because the LUG works for a certain kind of person does not
> mean it is perfect. Here are some anecdotes to illustrate some
> deficiencies: 
> - Some people attend meetings a couple of times, get frustrated and
>   never come back. We know from attendance lists that there is quite a
>   bit of turnover. Some of this is just fine -- people try the LUG
>   out, find that Linux is not that interesting to them, and leave. Other
>   people are interested in Linux but put off by other things. Can we
>   solve this without wrecking what is good about the LUG? I don't know.
>   Maybe. 
> - At Computer Recycling we sell two kinds of computers: ones with
>   Ubuntu installed and so-called MAR machines, which come with legal
>   versions of Windows and MS Office. Our Linux sales are not terrible
>   but one big deficiency is that we have no good place to point people
>   to learn more about Linux. Their friends use Windows, so they want 
>   Windows. Maybe that is inevitable, but I wish we could grow an 
>   ecosystem where regular people without a lot of computer experience
>   could learn about running Linux. (In fact we may have fewer
>   resources, since the Conestoga College courses that used to 
>   be offered are sporadic at best.) 
> - Similarly, I know that some people come to meetings and find that 
>   the topics are way over their head. I know that people will talk 
>   pretty freely one-on-one, but are intimidated when speaking in front 
>   of a large group. 
> - For a couple of years I "mentored" a couple of would-be Linux users
>   via e-mail. Both of these fellows were highly motivated to use 
>   free software, so this was not a burden. But short of offering to 
>   mentor more people myself, I do not see a good way for these people
>   to get over that learning hump. 
> So what I am trying to fix is promoting adoption of Linux among those
> who are not inclined to be highly-technical enthusiasts. The LUG may
> have no role to play in this (I have started a 100-post thread at work
> to see whether we have the capacity to maybe do some more formalized
> training there.) But it might. I wonder whether the LUG could be doing
> a better job of being welcome to newbies and helping newbies climb
> that learning curve. 

I agree with all your points Paul - and your objectives.  

It may be that the LUG can be more effective at reaching and helping new
users by going outside the monthly meeting model.

I have noticed that the City of Kitchener offers computer workshops on
various topics (including Open Office!):


Maybe the membership of the LUG can be leveraged to give a "Linux 101"
or "Free Computing with Ubuntu" seminar once a week for four weeks?  At
least to counter the several "Vista" seminars.
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