How to run a successful Linux User Group

This would solve the single biggest problem we've experienced when dealing with user groups – finding the right person. And if we have difficulty getting in touch with user groups, there must be dozens of potential members give up before they get that far.

Location location location

Another common block to Linux User Group domination is the lack of a suitable venue for meetings. The easiest option for many, especially in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, is to opt for the local hostelry. There are a few good reasons for this. First, it shouldn't be too difficult to find a decent pub in a locality that's suitable for all attendees, and second, there exists a universal harmony between Linux and beer.

On a more practical level, landlords are normally only too happy to oblige in helping a regular mid-week meeting get its feet off the ground. You might find that they're happy to give you use of a private room at no cost, or a discount on food. This is what we found when we organised the far more modest round table meeting, and the average LUG should have a much more powerful pull on what would otherwise be a quiet week night.

But pubs and beer aren't for everybody, and they're far from ideal for more serious discussions or presentations. Neither are they a good choice if you regularly have more than 15–20 attendees, as the group is likely to become fragmented. In these cases, it's a much better idea to find a more formal venue for your meeting.

Most LUGs don't have the budget to pay much for a location, which means you've got to be imaginative and use your local communities resources as best you can. For example, many LUGs choose to meet in a spare room at the local university. This is particularly common in the USA, where the computing divisions are often the spawn point for LUG activity for local enthusiasts and students. But even without the direct connection to an institution, if your LUG is based within a university town, it's likely that one of your members will have links to the university and could help to negotiate a a room or lecture theatre.

And a good relationship with a university can help in all kinds of ways. They're the perfect location for annual events such as installfests or expos, because they'll often have computing, network and wireless facilities, as well as some form of catering and coffee. York LUG, for example, meets at the local university and holds its regular installfest in a couple of rooms at Langwith College. And the relationship with the university doesn't have to be one-way – local luggers help to promote the university and its facilities, as well as presenting a human face to their computing division.

Think outside the booze box

Even without a local university, there's still lots of potential in local facilities. Our favourite is the strategy taken by Tyneside LUG, which meets in a classroom at the Discovery Museum, located in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne.

Another great idea from Tyneside LUG is the day and time of their meetings. They get together at midday on a Saturday, which means that almost anyone should be able to attend and stay as long as they like. The result is that Tyneside LUG is well attended, a fact which hasn't gone unnoticed by other LUGs in the locality.

Durham's LUG, which meets at the local Amateur Rowing Club, considered exactly the same move after seeing the success at Tyneside. Midday Saturday is quite a contrast to the times and days typically favoured by the pub-goers, which may broaden your LUG's appeal.