Robert Scoble recently asked the question “why don't you attend a user group on a regular basis? If you do, what could Microsoft do to make the experience a better one?” and I thought should share my thoughts.
User groups are a great thing and I encourage everybody to get out and support your local group. If there isn’t one, start one. They are a great source of information, social contacts, and inspiration to grow your skills and try new things. I’m new to the area (geographically) and have really enjoyed my experiences so far with the TRIangle Dot Net Users Group in North Carolina. (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill). It is a very active, continually improving group that has helped me increase my skills, meet new people, and have fun at a great social event.
As for Robert’s question, here’s what I think.
Support INETA - Microsoft should continue to provide INETA with whatever support they can, including resources (Money, speakers, content) and promotion. They doing a great job helping users groups already and with more support, can do even more.
Participate – It’s great to hear about Microsoft staff attending user group meetings, not just as speakers, but as active participating members of the community. I highly encourage this and invite any members of Microsoft that happen to be in our area to stop by.
Information – Keep us in the loop. Tell us the development stories and progress. Involve us in the process. Tell MS research that we’re a great sample of the market to involve in their cool projects! The hands on labs at PDC were great and I think that MS could easily build on the concept by creating hands on demo’s for user groups. We know MS can’t send Don Box to every user group (Or could you?), but why not send a Don Box demo with slides and a workbook similar to the hands on labs to teach the teachers and provide good content for the user groups. Don could even send a music video intro.
Free Stuff – Ok, not just free, but special offers to user groups would be good and would both promote MS technology as well as add value to group membership. Things like discounts on Conference Registration (PDC, Tech Ed), MSDN subscriptions, and MS-Press books. NFR software and other marketing SWAG for prizes would also be great.