How to run a successful Linux User Group

An obvious next step for any LUGs that want to spread their wings is to build affiliations with other LUGs in their area. This tactic is particularly successful in Scotland, where a single Scottish LUG encompasses many smaller user groups spread across this geographically challenging country. Even though ScotLUG is based in Glasgow, there are members from as far afield as Shetland and Dundee, and many members have dual membership with a closer LUG. The University of Abertay Dundee Linux society, for instance, is closely affiliated with both ScotLUG and the Tayside LUG, which we think is a great way to bring strength through numbers.

While we're in the realm of good ideas, ScotLUG has also mooted the notion of a national Linux Festival that could bring all the Scottish Linux community together. This is a particularly brilliant idea as log as people can overcome the logistical problems, and if Scottish LUGs can organise something like this in the future, we think it would be a success. And there's no reason why the same thing couldn't be done in other parts of the UK.

Insider benefits

As a group of technically astute, motivated people, your user group is a valuable resource. This means that there's a good chance you can negotiate special rates from local book shops, or even online stores. Here at Linux Format, for instance, we're more than happy to send spare copies to user groups that request them (just let us know if you're interested). Group buys have also become particularly popular. If everyone wants an Eee PC, for example, there's no harm in asking the supplier for a discount on so many units.

Some companies are also clued into the potential that LUGs have to offer, and the publisher O'Reilly is perhaps the best example. The O'Reilly User Group & Professional Association Program aims to support groups such as your LUG by providing review copies of its products, donations of books and other promotional items and a discount on all O'Reilly books and conferences.

Joining is as straightforward as your nominated representative pointing their browser at the registration page on, and filling in the details. The only requirements are that you have more than five members and some sort of regular newsletter or website.

O'Reilly also offers its own news bulletin and portal for user groups on this side of the globe. It's called O'Reilly GMT, and aims to cover news and events within four time zones of the Greenwich meridian, from Iceland to South Africa. It's organising and sponsoring several user group events in the UK, including the Ignite UK North conference that's held at the end of January. This is a new take on technology meet ups using something called the 'Ignite' concept. This is very similar to a lightning talk, where each speaker has 20 slides for a talk, and those slides are rotated automatically after only 15 seconds, resulting in a five-minute restriction on the presentation.

This seems to be the way that user groups, social events and open source conferences are going – the same way as the internet – with short, sharp and content rich nuggets of information presented in an informal and convivial atmosphere. If people find the information interesting, there's usually ample opportunity to take the conversation further with the presenter.

This kind of thinking will be increasingly common among the new generation of Linux enthusiasts looking for a user group. They will have grown up in the online world, where world where everything is available at the touch of a button. And competing with the internet to get people attending your user group is going to be the real challenge over the next ten years. Don't waste time: get started now, and let us know how your LUG gets on!

Shining examples

Tyneside LUG
We love their venue, and their website is always up to date. The Super Mondays initiative is also a great idea.

Wolverhampton LUG
The spiritual home of LUG Radio Live still has a super-active meeting schedule and a well-maintained website.

We really, really just want to travel with these folks on their annual trip to the Paisley Beer Festival.


First published in Linux Format, Issue 116

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