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IMHO - On Starting a PBUG

IMHO - On Starting a PBUG

Several years ago I realized that the Tulsa PBUG (PowerBuilder Users Group) was defunct. After talking to those involved it became clear that interest had waned and there was little officer support - the group died of starvation. It seemed that here was a great opportunity.

Since I had taught a couple of semesters of Advanced PowerBuilder at Tulsa Community College, I knew there was an increasing number of PowerBuilder developers in Tulsa. Most of them would enjoy the chance to network with fellow developers and pick up some much needed PB gossip and techniques.

Information Gathering and Organizing
I attended the 1999 TechWave in Orlando, and (plot brewing in my mind) went to the PBUG Presidents meeting to listen to the various points of view, find out what a PBUG could be and what was working and failing across the country. It was an informative meeting and there seemed to be constants across the groups regardless of geography or city size. Many of the officers felt unsupported; they loved their groups but felt unappreciated (unsung PB heroes). Some groups were going well, but there was a vocal contingent that seemed to be struggling.

In between presentations, yo-yo contests and the general madness of the vendor area, I managed to locate Micki Williams who coordinates the PBUG program for Sybase. She took my information and promised to forward the official PBUG start-up package, which she did. I discovered that I'd be working with a former PBUG vice president from Wichita, my friend and associate Tony Peck. Tony and I began to plan the formation of our group.

If you're starting a new PBUG you may find the following ideas helpful; if you are currently in a group, they might add new life to it.

Recommendations for Success
Try quarterly meetings instead of monthly. This reduces organizational overhead by two-thirds and keeps those attending hungry for more.

Avoid lunchtime meetings. In our case people come from the four corners of Tulsa, and lunch meetings would cause us to lose some members. This can help eliminate work conflicts.

There's always someone who can't make it on a given night so it makes sense to rotate meeting nights. We had our first meeting on a Monday, the next quarter it was Tuesday, etc. You'll find this accommodates most people for at least a meeting or two a year.

Take advantage of Sybase. They provide two speakers a year, which can cover half of your meetings. Other speakers aren't difficult as you have a pool of companies and Sybase partners who want to show off their stuff or present some good technical information. Make use of that pile of business cards you accumulated at TechWave. We had the first year's meetings booked in no time.

Be sensitive to the fact that no manager wants to send employees to your meetings and lose them. You can publicize your attitude toward solicitation and corporate sponsorship in your by-laws. Our group is happy to have corporate sponsorship, but we will in no way turn the PBUG into a tool for proselytizing or "cherry-picking" employees. If you build trust from the outset, you'll get cooperation and increased numbers.

Experiment with officer positions. We combined treasurer/scribe into a single entity (eliminating the stigma of the word secretary - ha!) and added a communications officer/Webmaster. We required that the communications officer have some Web development chops to develop a Web site. When convenient, we hold an officers' lunch once a month to plan and make sure we're on track in every aspect of the organization.

There's no reason to fear corporate sponsorship. The Williams Companies (where Tony and I work) provided a place to have the meetings (at no cost), and our manager, Mike Rohling, gave us money for posters. Companies have volunteered to provide food and large prizes for each meeting. At our first meeting we gave away a digital camera, at our second one a Palm Pilot, etc. We let the sponsoring companies say a few words and put their logo and pertinent info on the Web page. We also have food and prizes booked a year ahead.

The Final Word
By keeping true to our original ideas, we've seen attendance grow (averaging 75 people at each meeting). We have excellent networking within the developer community and have helped to educate our fellow programmers. The PBUG program and the support of Sybase have been essential to our growth, as it can be for any of you. The PBUG is a very "grass roots" means of communicating with Sybase - a community-minded approach. They provide cutting-edge technological information and value the feedback from PBUG officers. Most important, those attending are enjoying themselves. Try a few of these ideas out and you may find yourself looking for more chairs!

More Stories By Mike Deasy

Michael Deasy is an application specialist with the State of Washington. He has been working with PowerBuilder since version 3. Mike holds an MBA from Southern a senior systems analyst for the Williams from Southern Nazarene University.

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