How active are your local Linux User’s Groups?

At the Linux Foundation, I recently had been brainstorming with some my colleagues about ways in which we might be able to reach out to the various local Linux User’s Group (LUGS). So I was quite surprised when I saw a blog posting from Lenovo’s Connections blog asking the question: “Local User Groups – gone the way of the dinosaur?” and even more provocatively, “Has the web now relegated the user group to history, along with dot matrix printers, cassette tapes for mass storage, and dial up modems with acoustic couplers?”

I checked on the web for a number of LUG’s, such as the Boston Linux and Unix User Group (BLU) and the Silicon Valley LUG (SVLUG), and they appeared to be active, at least in terms of mailing list activity and event calanedars.   But of course that doesn’t indicate how many people are actually attending the face-to-face meetings, and how strong the LUG’s are in general.

So let me ask here — do you attend or participate in a LUG?   How active is it?   What do you get out of participating in a LUG?

45 thoughts on “How active are your local Linux User’s Groups?

  1. The Portland Linux Users Group seems very active. They hold regular meetings, as well as well-attended monthly “Advanced Topics” sessions.

  2. Skåne Sjælland Linux User Group (sslug) have several weekly meetings in different parts of its area.
    These meetings is mostly “bring your computer and do the stuff you would have done at home” combined with “bring your computer and learn stuff”. Some times, there is a talk or a demonstration as well.
    I do occasionally participate, but mostly when I’m invited to do a talk.

    I get to meet some users – and I get the possibility to do talks.
    And then of course the big part of “keeping contact with friends”.

  3. Well the pune linux user groups gets regular mails of upto 10 a day…… i have never been able to attend a face to face meeting though….so can’t say about that…..

  4. The Tucson Free Unix Group (www.tfug.org) holds happy hours twice per month. We used to do lectures and “bring your own box events” but that hasn’t neither of those have happened in some time. In particular, I think that the web–combined with the increasing ease of installation–has made installfests and the like obsolete. But mailing lists and forums and IRC can’t replace real human interaction.

  5. The LUG at Bangalore, India was very active till 2003 or 2004. But after that there was lesser interest for people to turn up at these monthly meetings (F2F). Even the mailing lists these days don’t have so much traffic. My guess is that lesser people turn up because Linux has moved beyond being a hobby thing. Its more professional. Most people who work with Linux do it as part of their jobs and with the explosion of relatively fast internet access these days its easy to find information on the interweb.

    Initially I guess people attended the LUG meets because they got the chance to meetup with people and discuss some specific issues they had and couldnt get answers to. “How do I make my video card work with Linux?”. “How do I setup my mail server?”

    Its not necessarily a bad thing, but I guess its a side-effect of Linux getting “enterprized”.

  6. Here in Germany it’s hard to find active LUGS and you get the impression that most of them have merged with the CCC (Chaos Computer Club) and most local Chaos Clubs have quite a lot of meetings and events. Usually those are not Linux centric but most people there are Linux users and are willing to help you. I don’t have any numbers to back up this theory. It’s more an overall impression I get.

  7. The Worcester (the ma.us one, that is) LUG (http://www.wlug.org) still meets monthly. We hold it on a university campus, so attendance waxes and wanes depending on when the students are around, but we nearly always have at least a dozen or so people at each meeting.

  8. I run the Mid Hudson Valley Linux Users Group, which is going on 6 years now. I would definitely say the group is a bit less active than it was in the first couple of years. Our meeting attendance used to be in the 35 – 45 range pretty regularly, now we ended up at 20 – 25 most months. New users show up at about the same rate that old ones peel off. The fall in users happened about 3 years ago, and the 20 – 25 number remains pretty constant in that time.

    The topics of interest are now at a higher level. We used to have things like distro shootouts, which was interesting 6 years ago, but now with 75% of the LUG running Ubuntu, seems rather pointless. So we’ve adjusted the agenda to mostly Open Source things that run on Linux (though not exclusively). For instance, tonight I’ll be giving a Ruby on Rails talk.

    Install Fests are definitely dead. In our first couple of years we got pretty good turn out. Now, no one shows up but the 6 or 8 more experienced volunteers that I roped into them. Again, I think Ubuntu prevalence basically put that one to bed. We rebranded the whole get together into “Linux Fest”, with a “just come and hang out an bring your own project” approach. So now those events are just hangouts, which remains fun but different.

    I’m trying something new now and kicking off a collective open source project for the group to see how that works for engaging more folks.

    Our mailing list remains active, and even most of the trolls have toned it back, which keeps it a friendly place. But there is definitely a change when it comes to the face to face attendance. I’m not convinced we’ll ever end up with as high a rate as when we first started, but we were then tapping into and untapped community.

  9. Hey Ted,

    The Boston area group is definitely active, and I’m personally active on both the Boston and NH LUG lists. However I haven’t attended a LUG meeting physically in many many years.

  10. I can’t speak for BLU, but I know BBLISA is pretty active in Boston. Also, I run the Boston MySQL User Group and I can say that it’s very active — between 15-35 people each meeting (averaging around 20-25, but the lowest it’s been is 15, the highest was around 50 I think but that was a statistical outlier).

    A good followup question would be, “what makes the group successful?”

    I think as long as conferences such as LISA and OSCon are successful, there’s a market for lectures (free or otherwise). I post as many user group sessions as possible to http://technocation.org/category/areas/presentationsvideos (the January video is about to go up, but usually I have the video up within a week. Conferences can take up to a month to process the video, because there’s so much of it.)

    By the way — Technocation, Inc. is a not-for-profit whose mission is to provide educational resources and monetary grants for IT professionals. So people are welcome to send in video/links for Technocation to post to. I do most of the volunteering at this point so the content is mostly MySQL, but there are videos from OSCon up there.

  11. I attend the Ottawa LUG and the turnout in face is probably about ten times the traffic of the mailing list and IRC channel.

    I would rather really like to see you ask the question, “What do you people do at your LUG?” I’m interested in what the answers would be and if we could start up some of those activities at ours.

  12. I’ve been president of my local LUG since 2001 and we’ve had decent activity for several years. The current LUG was founded in 2000 and its predecessor was founded in 1994. We have monthly meetings with 10-30 attendees, semi-annual training seminars, installfests, and other Linux and Open Source related topics.

  13. Hi Ted,

    Belfast (Northern Ireland) LUG’s mailing list is very low volume these days, but there is still a monthly contingent who meet at a local pub for food and random geek musings. Social aspects aside, looks like there is an upcoming PGP keysigning party.

    I participate in 2 LUGs, primarily to help keep myself abreast of what’s going on in the Linux world, since I’m a Mac / Windows desktop user by day these days. 😉

  14. I was once very active in our local Kansas City user group but the realities of self-help already suggested by others made the new new influx of people looking for education dwindle.

    I would go if I could get some human interaction out of it but unfortunately attendees with personal hygiene and very, very bad social skills make that goal practically unattainable. I spend more time avoiding particular members of the group that I do socializing. This is unlike a mailing list where I can just ignore a particular party.

    So, yes, the concept of a LUG seems antiquated and dinosaur-ish.

  15. Bristol and Bath LUG is alive and well, meeting each month with up to two dozen people. Some meetings are replaced by events like TechAdventure.

    LUG of Glastonbury seems to meet in the summer only. Winter travel to Glastonbury isn’t the easiest thing. Does a successful face-to-face LUG have to be near a transport hub?

    I get to each of the above about half of their meetings, or slightly less. I’m still on the mailing list for Anglian LUG, which covers a large sparsely-populated area and it seems that technical questions mostly go to the email list and the monthly meetings in two of the largest centres are mostly for socialising.

  16. The Chennai Linux User’s Group (ILUGC) (http://www.ae.iitm.ac.in/mailman/listinfo/ilugc) is certainly quite active.

    Some of the “regulars” are actually no longer in Chennai but are still on the mailing list. The group meets every month on a second Saturday centred around talks. Meeting to demo and exchange notes about gizmos sounds like a good idea for the times when there are no speakers. Unfortunately, I have only been active in this group since a year or so ago; I don’t really know why I never got into it earlier. One of the mysteries is that even though the meetings are held in the IIT, Madras Campus (this is a major centre for tech-related eductation and research with students in the thousands), there are only a handful of IIT students who are active in the group. Still, two of them became Debian developers last year, another few are Fedora developers and a few others got involved in GSoC, so I suppose it is not totally lost on them.

  17. Thought a lot about this a while back. The primary reason for LUGs, back in the day, was to help members get Linux running, in the home. The operating system required so much work and know-how that it practically required a group effort. Each member felt strongly enough about getting more working Linux system, that everyone contributed to help get one more desktop online. Nowadays, an Ubuntu LiveCD can be booted on most machines for a fairly complete desktop environment. There is no need for a brand new Linux user to get the support of a LUG. So many LUGs did die off, without their primary purpose. Surviving LUGs are more of a professional group, since now these Linux hackers have found their skills in demand. The technical presentations for professionals, at these remaining LUGs, are an amazing no-cost training resource of their area, with comparable commercial training programs priced around $500 a day.

  18. The NIT-DURGAPUR Linux User’s Group(Durgapur,India) is very active(http://lug.nitdgp.ac.in), not only in regards of mailing activity and spreading linux but also in terms of contributing code to FOSS. We are presently conducting a FOSS week(http://mukti09.in) in our college where in numerous seminars and workshops are being conducted. Our college has also been selected by the State Govt. as one of the nodal centre to spread linux to local schools and villages. We are being constantly supported by the Durgapur Linux User’s Group in our activities.

  19. LUGs exist and people still attend them, but my personal experience is that the actual attendees tend to be even more socially inept that the average Linux user. The effect seems to be more pronounced in areas where you have a *higher* proportion of people involved in Linux and computing, presumably because people can find other ways to talk face-to-face with people who share their interests. LUGs suffer the same fate as any regularly scheduled public geek event – it gradually fills up with people who are too socially inept to find other ways to talk to people, and the socially ept find it too painful to attend and just as gradually disappear. I won’t go into details, but I wouldn’t attend another Silicon Valley LUG if you paid me.

  20. Hi, I am a member of the Kent Linux User Group in the UK and we are quite active and somewhat organized. We had a meeting this past Saturday (31st Jan) and 21 people attended!

    We have one technical meeting each month with one or two members doing talks on general or technical Linux subjects. We also have a social/pub meeting once a month and over the year have summer BBQ’s, trips to Linux Expo’s and lots of time spent chatting on irc.lug.org.uk #klug. Our mailing list is sometimes quiet, but when a good subject is posted it goes wild with replies.

    We hope that starting 2009 with a good meeting with ensure people continue to come and bring in more people.

    Colin
    http://kentlug.org/

  21. http://www.mn-linux.org/

    The TCLUG has been pretty dead – the most activity is from people selling old hardware. And occasionally a question about something. But so much basic Linux knowledge is google’able, and Linux is mature enough on most basic hardware, and Linux distros are much the same, that basic questions and install fests have died.

    On top of that, the main organizer went off to California to work at google (a couple years ago now).

    I myself, have more tangental interests in dealing with Linux. Why do I want to talk to a bunch of sysadmins, if my Linux interests are: gaming, CNC (machining), and robotics.

    It’s just hard to be engaged. I’d rather be home on IRC talking to people that are interested in the above fields. So in short, Linux interests are becoming more specialized.

    Valerie Aurora has it more-or-less right – the people tend to be rather boring to talk to. It worked better when I knew nothing, then I could learn a few things. But there isn’t much reciprication. I suppose these events attract the wrong people.

  22. ILUG-CALINFO in Kolkata is active. Our mailing list at Google is also active. Other local LUGs are also active. But our members are mostly advanced to specialist users.

  23. Ted,

    Thanks for taking my humble post and running with it! It’s great to see the level of response here on your blog, and the diversity of your readers and commentors here.

    Best regards,

    Mark

  24. Eversince I came to Bangalore (or Bengaluru as it is now called :)) the lack of local community activity was a disappointment. In light of the low presence of women in Libre software, it seems sensible that the Linuxchix-India chapter [ http://mailman.linuxchix.org/mailman/listinfo/indichix ] syncs itself with local LUG’s and other user groups in their respective cities.

    A new LUG for Bangalore [ http://groups.google.com/group/ilug-bengaluru/ ] was started by Kingsley John in 2008. Currently members plan to have regular meets, on alternate Saturday mornings, with a specific focus on talks, presentations and sharing and dissemination of information.
    http://mailman.linuxchix.org/pipermail/indichix/2009-February/001538.html

    Although a lot of information is available online with some excellent documentation, its a lot more fun to have regular, on-ground meets and meet people who share a common interest -Linux and Libre software(s).

  25. My experience has been that user groups (not just Linux User Groups) are exploding in number, but that the total number of people in each group is relatively small – like somewhere between 15-30 people (or less).

    It’s so easy to throw up a wiki page, or create a mailing list, and start meeting to talk about things weekly or monthly. Portland, OR has a unique culture developing around this, and the manic activity around it is somewhat documented in our community’s custom-developed calendaring system — http://www.calagator.org.

    I gave a user groups talk at FOSDEM over the weekend — http://tr.im/fjbl and Gabrielle Roth and I produced a printable pamphlet for OSCON last year that details how you can run your own user group: http://tr.im/fn81

    We need to convert that printable thing into a wiki page, but you know, there’s never enough time in the day 🙂

    One interesting thing I noticed about the FOSDEM crowd was that the audience was intrigued by the idea of creating an ad hoc group, without a formal leadership structure or a non-profit/legal status established. Several people commented to me after the talk that this seemed like a great way to get people interacting with one another without all of the pain of establishing a non-profit. Not sure if other countries/cultures have the same issues (favoring formal organization, over the informal, sometimes chaotic groups I tend to be interested in and work with).

    Oh, and someone in the audience asked specifically about non-hierarchical organizations, and groups that truly have no leader. That was some food for thought — I’ve seen a couple groups operate that way, but there tended to be forks in the community after a couple years. Not sure that’s really a bad thing, but certainly an interesting part of user group culture and something I would like to blog/speak about more in the future.

  26. Hyderabad Also known as twin cities in India had two LUG’s ILUGHYD and TWINCLING(Twin cities linux user group ) .

    I and a group of volunteers tried organising a event http://www.mukt.in at Hyderabad for which we had to approach both LUG’s of which we were members and inclined to one group .

    There was also a FSF group for that state.
    Strangely the main LUG ILUGHYD died and our event mailing list is now more active than the ILUGHYD mailing list thopugh we kind of post to both lists .

  27. Hello Ted,

    Here Shenzhen Linux Unix User Group is also very active, we have well organized rules and a board to keep regular meetings, and propose good topics, invite people to give presentations for each month, actually we meet more often than monthly;

    http://www.szlug.org/ (Most pages Chinese currently)
    http://groups.google.com/group/szlug (mailling list)

    While most meetings are Linux technics centric, sometimes we also hold out-door activities such as climbing mountains, and some other styles of entertainment events;

    In China, there are also LUGs in many others cities, we have kept a page to track most active LUGs in other cities of China and out of China,

    http://wiki.szlug.org/w/Category:LUG

  28. Hi Ted,

    The Linux Users of Victoria (http://www.luv.asn.au/) has active meetings and is just about to start running beginners workshops for new members who aren’t as familiar with Linux as the old timers. As a former committee member I know how hard it can be to keep these going as even with 20-50 people turning up for meetings and many more on the mailing lists it can be hard to find new and exciting talks for people! The group also runs an annual BBQ.

    cheers,
    Chris

  29. In Houston we have an active group (HLUG) that has a regular weekly event as well as two monthly events – a general HLUG meeting and a meeting specifically dedicated to Samba. Meanwhile at least one University group, RLUG at Rice University seems to have completely vanished some time in the past few years.

  30. The Beijing LUG(http://www.beijinglug.org) is also quite active. we hold monthly meeting talking about all kinds of open source projects, plus some other activities such as Gnome Asia Summit and Free Software Day. besides that, we help build communities in many universities and promote Linux installation and daily usage there.

    We are really enjoying ourselves being involved in open source and Linux.

    happy hacking!

    Bergwolf

  31. SSLUG (A danish + swedish linux user group covering the Skåne/Sjælland area) is quite active. We have lots of mailing list activity and a *huge* amount of face-to-face meetings.

    We have weekly meetings in three different locations (practical because of the big geographical area we cover) as well as quite a few meetings every year like Software Freedom day, participating in Ubuntu release parties and so on.

    All in all we’re probably at 150+ meetings every year and have been for the last few years. And we probably average 20 talks (usually 1 hour talks) per year when not counting larger happenings like release parties etc.

  32. Pingback: LUG in Nicaragua

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