Article: Thoughts on “The Sad State of the MUG”

Posted on July 13, 2005

Let go of the mouse, put the iPod down, take your hands off the keyboard, because it’s time for reader mail about The Sad State of the Mac User Group

Richard Lenoce, the President of the Connecticut Macintosh Connection writes:

“I very much enjoyed your article on MUGs.

Though I agree with many of your statements about user groups, as President of a growing and healthy user group, the Connecticut Macintosh Connection, I must disagree with many of your statements. The success of any user group or any group or club falls with its members and the services the organization provides. We’ve broadened our services beyond information to form a true community bonded by some common interests. Many of our members use us for information, education and tech support but successful clubs and MUGs need to go beyond that to survive, Like any successful club we also offer camaraderie, a social environment and a true community of friends. We take more then information with us when we leave a meeting. MUGs that focus on the geek aspect will fail because the tendency of techno-focused individuals in a techno-focused environment is to bond to their technology. Technology does that to us. But it’s human nature to bond to a group or community and if a MUG emphasizes those aspects of human nature with the tech being the common thread they will succeed and even thrive.

For example, right now our members are unsure, confused and some even downright paranoid with Apple’s move to Intel and this community can aid people through this time. If we looked at it strictly from a tech perspective you are correct we would perish but if we look at it as people helping people through this transition then there is a need for the user group. And, we can all “party” afterwards.

I’d recommend MUGs focus on being social groups. We offer pizza parties, bus trips, picnics, etc and we get to network among each other for work, school, family and friendship. We are also a family organization. Our memberships are family memberships not individual memberships and children are welcome at all our meetings and at our events. We even have programs geared to children and these are some of our most popular programs not because its just for kids, or for families but these programs “bring out the kids” in our older members too.

We’ve also developed a very good relationship with our local Apple Store. They run run education programs for our group, product demonstrations, provide a comfortable place to meet and discounts to our members. They are a great bunch. Apple corporate has been less supportive because I think they do see us as competition but local managers know Mac enthusiasts are their best customers.

Good article, well written and researched-I just wished you had come to a successful group and gotten the “other-side”.

Phyllis E. explains her group’s success:

“Just a short note to say that MacGroup-Detroit is still doing very well. Our membership hovers near 400, and we generally have 100-150 at each meeting. We also have a very active BBS community. I’m sure that our continuing success is due to our president, Terry White of Adobe. He runs a great meeting with a variety of subjects covered. We have Scott Kelby coming in for the meeting this month, and I’m sure we will have close to 175 in attendance. Several years ago we started what has been dubbed the Genius Table that runs during the hour before each meeting. There are generally 3 or 4 of us at the Genius Table, and all we do is help troubleshoot hardware and software problems. We’ve been known to install memory, Airport cards, and even the occasional hard drive. The day after each meeting, Terry posts a streaming video of the meeting for those who were unable to attend. I’m sure that all of these things combined help keep us a viable group.”

Hal L. shares his reasons for passing on MUG meetings:

“Here’s my reason for not participating in a MUG:

I attended the Palm Springs MUG twice in 1996.
Before going I called to talk to the head of PSMUG. A very nice person named Paul.
He asked me what I did (work wise), I told him that I create original covers for
palm springs life magazine and others all over the world.

The first night i arrived, I met very nice people (15). Most were new to macs and 3 geeks,
which I guess I’m one of. However I’m also a musician therefore branded as a cool rock star type.

The start of the meeting Paul decided to introduce me to the group and display some of
my magazine cover. I really didn’t mind this. A nice pat on the back is always a good feeling.

Next came the teaching session on how to use the web and email.
I understand that there were new people there, but it was useless to me and the
rest of the teachings were very fundamental . I’ve used macs since the the start and would say that I’m one of the more knowledgeable users.
I really came to talk geek with the others .

After the the lessons, I was bombarded from most there to explain how I did, what I do,
which was impossible. I was looked at as some celeb which made me very uncomfortable.
I did answer there basic computer questions and found it boring.

Went back once more and found the group to be Computer 101 and found
no one at my level to “Speak Geek”.”

This post has been filed in Articles and Reader Mailbag