For the past half a year I've been watching (from a distance) the creation of Lithuanian .NET User Group in it's initiator's - Sergejus Barinovas's - blog (both sites in Lithuanian). I couldn't get the purpose of this "movement" from what I've read. Then I've read reports about the first 2 meetings and still I couldn't see any serious reason to attend (except free beer or was it free?).
Then last week I've listened to the DotNetRocks podcast - Show #344 Building Communities at Dallas TechFest. Half way through the show I felt the urge to go to the next LT .NET User Group meeting but then as the show continued I found myself back in the skeptical mood.
So I decided to outline here what uses I can see for the "user group" concept and try to see if any of them appeal to me:
- Socialize with geeks. This could be hit or miss. I like or dislike people individually. I can't relate to a person automatically just because he/she is of the same ethnicity, color, likes the same basketball team or programs using the same language.
- Find a new job. I think these groups could be a powerful tool in finding a new job by meeting people working in other companies. Unfortunately (or rather fortunately) I'm not looking for a job and hopefully wont ever look for one.
- Find an employee. This could work too. If I ever look for employees I'll think about going to a group meeting to check if there's someone there on a mission #2
- Establish yourself as a local authority in the subject. For someone looking to achieve this goal user group could be a starting point but you have to actively participate rather than just "attend".
- Learn something new. I don't think so. I mean you could learn something new there for sure but in the same amount of time you could learn a lot more by reading technology blogs, articles and books. Unless group meeting is the only "excuse" you have to learn something.
- Solve your technical problems. These meetings are too far apart to be a useful medium for discussing issues with smart guys. You can solve your problems faster by asking questions in appropriate forums, newsgroups, blogs, etc.
So, from my point of view there's not much to gain from this type of activity: I'm introverted (like most developers) and not seeking to meet random people for no apparent reason, I'm not looking for employers or employees, I'm not looking to become a technology speaker or something and I can learn much more by spending the time wiser.
I'm ready to accept that I'm wrong if someone has really good arguments in favor of user groups. For now the concept sounds as bullshitty to me as "team building" - something for some "social scientists" to justify their existence and, probably, some statistical analysis tool for vendors of technologies in question.
Do you go to your local "... user groups"? What for?