[CLUG-chat] Summary of the CLUG Panel Discussion - 2009-08-11 - What can CLUG do for you?

Jonathan Hitchcock vhata at clug.org.za
Mon Aug 17 22:24:40 SAST 2009


This mail is the second of two that contain a summary of the
discussions we had at the last CLUG meeting.  It less a set of minutes
than an overview of the issues we discussed.

After Marc's talk, we opened up into a panel discussion, and the
following is a basic outline of what was discussed.  It is a bit
roundabout, as the discussion was, but feel free to take up any
individual part and discuss it.

* We should definitely experiment with other venues and times, just to
see if they work better

* There is a large group of people that aren't hardcore geeks but who
do want to get involved - the talks that we have don't appeal to them.
   - We could turn more to software development, community reachouts,
OLPC, and political activities and awareness
   - We could have more non-technical talks - maybe these would pull
in a bigger crowd
   - Installfests that are more about configuring Linux as a general
user, and ironing out problems
   - Possibly people think they aren't qualified to give talks, being
intimidated by the current level of talks
   - What about having non-technical talks for hobbyists on a weekend,
combined with an installfest.
* Giving talks at schools to reach out to students
   - Where are the students and scholars in CLUG?
* We could hold "non-talks": debates, movies and videos, or a bunch of
very brief talks, instead of one highly focused talk
* Instead of having talks on topics that could be learned about with a
quick google, we should rather have talks that draw on the wealth of
experience we have - high flying talks that give overviews, instead of
simple HOWTO talks.
   - Tell us what python *is* and what it's *for*, rather than telling
us how to do something esoteric using it
   - We could also have more informal events where people just discuss
random stuff
* Annually repeated very basic talks on things like what Linux is, how
to get help (mailing lists)
   - It's no good to new users to say "we covered that back in 2001" -
regular introductory talks would increase beginner interest
* What about more social evenings instead of talks sometimes?

* The idea of a "Fiddlefest": people come in and play around with
installations, and get help with any problems they have
   - documentation is often sparse, mailing lists don't always work,
and people get stuck at the beginning of their Linux experience, and
never progress
   - Installing is easy, but you need somebody to be able to use their
system properly before they'll progress to even having the trickier
problems that we can help with
   - Reaching out to these people would be good: put them in a room
with a bunch of experienced people who can help them out
   - We could combine all these events into one: support, talks, discussions
* The idea of a "hackathon" or "sprint" - we have several projects
that would benefit from an afternoon of focused attention from CLUG
   - Pick a project and sprint on it
   - e.g. Try to close as many python bugs as we can
   - Get together and try to fix up the Freedom Toaster at UCT for an afternoon

* We could turn CLUG into an umbrella organisation over CTPUG, Ruby Brigade etc.
   - It would become the point of entry to open source projects in
Cape Town - where people begin before they specialise

* Mailing lists aren't good for newbies who might make mistakes and
get shouted at by old crusties
   - Forums? UbuntuForums?
* The Mailing list structure seems to be correct
   - Need a better introductory message to get people going properly,
otherwise they're a bit daunting

* CLUG itself needs to be friendlier
   - Introduce ourselves to newcomers, be more welcoming
   - cf. the Ubuntu Code of Conduct

* Maybe need a better website, structure-wise - it's not obvious how
to find all the information on the wiki
   - Documentation on how to get connected on mailing lists, IRC, etc.
   - Better HOWTO documents and introductory documents, make them easier to find

* Lots of people using Linux, but don't get involved beyond that
because it Just Works and they don't see a reason to
   - We need to convert these into active community members
* There are large groups of people using Linux with no idea that we
exist - we need to reach out to them
   - University students forced to use Linux for certain courses
   - People who buy netbooks running Linux who don't realise we can help them
   - Do the introductory computer talk
   - Leaflet in UCT welcome packs
   - Contacting stores (Incredible Connection) selling Linux netbooks
and offering support
* We could get better publicity: Fine Music Radio has an astronomy
section on Friday evenings - we could do something similar, or use
community newspapers

* Big events are difficult to organise
   - Having new members will help
   - Should focus on getting the new people before trying to organise big events

At the end of the discussion, we had identified five points which we
could take forward and work on:

* We must experiment with the talk times and venues, to see if
something different doesn't have a much better reception
* We must have "fiddlefests" - unconference-style events where
everybody arrives and just takes part in a gathering of interested
people - problems are solved, ideas are discussed, and the community
is grown.
* We must use CLUG's influence productively by choosing a project and
organising a swarm around it - get as many geeks as we can to fix the
Freedom Toaster, close Ubuntu bugs, document a process, work on an
open source application, fix up a school laboratory, etc
* We need better documentation, introductory material, and guidance
for newcomers to the community.  People need to know where to turn,
how to get help, what guidelines to follow, and how to perform basic
community interaction, otherwise they flounder and give up.
* We need to reach out to people who are getting exposed to Linux but
don't realise that they have a community to turn to that will support
and help them.  This involves more publicity (on the radio, in
community newspapers, etc), and finding groups like students and
netbook owners that we can incorporate into the LUG.

I hope these minutes are vaguely useful in starting up some sort of
discussion - I will create separate messages and threads to discuss
these last five points later.


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