On Forming a User Group

On Forming a User Group

A few weeks ago, tired of lacking contact with fellow designers, I formed an “interactive design” group by making a couple of posts to regional mailing list, targeting southern New Hampshire and northern Massachussetts. I’ve never tried to form a group before, so it’s been an interesting experience.

Here’s what I did:

  • Posted on the Boston Macromedia User’s Group mailing list, asking if there was anyone interested in getting together to talk technique and career in a non-business network setting. I got a few responses, all named Dave!
  • Posted on Dave English’ NH Jobs list, via Dave. Got a few more interested respondants.
  • We had our first meeting in Burlington, MA, which was sort of equi-distant for everyone except for one fellow in Concord, NH. This meeting went well, getting to meet a couple new people and sharing our experiences. One result was we set up a Wiki for group collaboration and a mailing list to make email handling a little easier.

There are also some practical challenges that stand in the way:

  • Finding a good meeting place — So far we’ve tried a couple of places, the Barnes & Noble in Burlington, and the Panera Bread in Manchester. I suspect the Manchester location is too inconvenient, and B&N is too crowded. We need to find someplace that’s a little more off the beaten path. WiFi would be nice, but maybe if not crucial. Food is good for an informal, discussion based location

  • Establishing meetings regularly — I think it’s too early to establish a format, as we’re still getting established, but we probably should do this. Once a month sounds good, with maybe small mixers erupting during the week.

For longer-term sustainability, I’m considering the following:

  • Establishing Things to Do — What’s the point of meeting if we don’t get anything out of it? By establishing some kind of topic or takeaway from the meeting, people would be more likely to come.

  • Maintaining Focus — Non-obtrusive reinforcement of who we are as a group, establishing a core resonating function! Or something :-)


p>I guess the main thing is to continue to have a reason to get together, and to establish some continuity. I’ll have to reflect what I really expect to get out of a group. I’ve described this in the wiki, but it doesn’t hurt for me to repeat it again:

  • meet new people who are practicing interaction designers and are “into” it
  • have excellent user group meetings that all benefit and learn from
  • establish a persistent presence of useful stuff for people, become a resource
  • establish a reputation of being a friendly, accessible group with a lot of expertise

It just occured to me that it would be nice to make some collateral for the group!

  • business cards!
  • newsletters!
  • pamphlets!