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I'm Rebooting My Java Users' Group - Got Any Advice?

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I'm Rebooting My Java Users' Group - Got Any Advice?

The Philly Java Users' Group (JUG) was founded way back in 2000. Now it's getting a reboot. Learn about its history, and leave your valuable feedback in the comments section!

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First, a bit of background. I founded the Philadelphia Area Java Users' Group back in 2000 and ran the group until resigning in February 2015. After 15 years as "JUGmaster" (president) and benevolent dictator, I figured the time was right because a new baby was coming and the JUG might benefit from some fresh leadership.

Under my guidance the JUG was successful. We grew to over 1300 members, held some great meetings with attendance typically ranging from 80 to upwards of 200, and we were even recognized (twice) by Sun Microsystems (RIP) as one of the "Top JUGs Worldwide." We met about eight times a year and I handled everything from scheduling speakers to ordering pizza to finding sponsors and acquiring swag for raffles. There is much more to running a users' group than that, and it can be quite time-consuming.

Over the last year after I left, the group became relatively inactive and only held a few meetings. I noticed that the group size was shrinking over time with mailing list unsubscribes and fewer website hits. Some of the members were contacting me to ask how they might help save the group. I worked hard for many years to establish the group, and I didn't want to watch it die.

I recently decided to step in and offer to revive the group on an interim basis. My goals in returning were to:

  • Schedule a handful of meetings to get the JUG some momentum with the membership and establish some morale.
  • Define a new leadership structure and oversee the process of selecting leaders so the JUG remains accountable to the membership's interests and needs.

I've already been able to schedule a few upcoming meetings, so that first objective is being met (although if you'd like to come to the Philly suburbs and present to our group, we're easy to find - FYI we do not pay speakers or cover travel costs). The question that remains is new leadership.

There are a handful of options, and I'd be curious to hear from any of you in other users' groups to discover what works for you and what doesn't. It seems the likely possibilities are:

  • JUGmaster as sole leader - Most would say this worked for us while I was the leader.
  • JUGmaster overseeing a committee - This would ease the overall responsibility of the JUGmaster and allow her/him to assign duties to others. 
  • Leadership committee - This might be a group of equals who would be able to vote on things if there were any disagreements. No defined leader, but rather several leaders, perhaps each with a responsibility.
  • Meeting leaders - Someone suggested having a group of say eight people, each responsible for independently running one meeting per year. This would give the leaders responsibility only one month a year, but would require all leaders to learn every aspect of the meeting process.

I am curious how other groups are run. I had some involvement back in the day with other JUG leaders under Sun, but since the Oracle acquisition, we've been on our own. 

Any thoughts?

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Topics:
java user groups

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