Sunday, November 15, 2009

What Should a Vectorworks User Group Be?

I have run the Vectorworks user group in New Zealand for several years. For the past 3 years I've run the user group online, with a specific structure, known topics and an electronic manual each month. You can see an example of this on this web site.

This site spells out my ideas for a user group, but when I talk to others, they say that a user group should have more interaction, that it shouldn't be so structured and it should be more about sharing information and tips and tricks. When we started a user group in New Zealand, it was just like that. But the problem I noticed was that some people use the user for learning and not for sharing, or you would get users talking about esoteric topics and beginners would feel left out and they would never come again.

User groups have to teach a beginner something useful at a basic level to help them make them into regular Vectorworks users, regular users need to know more about how to complete specific tasks, and power users learn something. My user group meetings try to follow this structure each month, so everyone take away something from the meeting. There is time for feedback, and sharing tips and tricks, but having a specific topic helps to focus those tips and tricks. Even online I try to get people to share.

Many of my subscribers have been in from the first year. And still they love to come and learn something. I hear that people really respond to the notes I write. This month, I’ve just finished off the notes for my user group. I wanted to cover Annotation, and it has turned into a 35 page manual about annotation. This is typical of my monthly manuals, they cover a huge amount. Luckily, the 35 pages is mainly taken up with screen shots, not words. If you have ever seen my manuals you will know that I like to fill them with pictures and movies, not words. Anyway, back to the users, they keep the manuals, which can be printed, and refer to them again and again. In a multi-person office, the notes get sent around to everyone that needs them.

Writing notes is not easy for most user group leaders, it takes a lot of time that they do not get paid for. Since I write so much, is there anything I can do to help other user group leaders?

I think it should be easier to start a user group, and I'm looking for way to make it easier. I think there should be user groups in every major city, with some of the big cities have 2 or more user groups. I have all the resources need to run a user group. For example, look at the list of topics on this page I have manuals for each topic. If you had access to all these topics, wouldn’t it be easier to start a user group. NNA helps out with suggestions on getting started and will help you find people in your area to attend

If you are intersested, contact me

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