Does this game we are playing here have any rules?
Author: Clark Thomas, Macintalk
Date: November, 1989
Keywords: making mac user group work
Text: Editor's note: The article planned for this page has been delayed because of an emergency in the author's family. The following article was published in the September issue of Macintalk, the newsletter for MacInteresteds, the Nashville, Tenn., user's group. The author is Clark Thomas, user group president. The Known Users editor thought the article was appropriate since it is time to put together a slate of officers for SMUG.) Before I joined this group, I had never even heard of a user group. Nor did I know that user groups didn't begin with computers. They began with the introduction of the assembly line and the Model T Ford. Before auto repair shops were invented, Model T owners were desperate for information about how to keep their machines working, and sought out fellow owners to share ideas and resources. Find a Model T buff (they're still out there) and you will hear endless stories about how their user groups concocted makeshift parts and work-arounds to enable owners to keep their contraptions rolling. It's easy to romanticize about user groups in the ol' days of the Model T. But maybe they were not so wonderful. Maybe they were simply people making the best of a difficult situation. The other day I called our former president, Tim Matheny, to catch up on things and ask him a few questions about data searches and HyperCard. He's now in Atlanta working for Apple. One of the things he said after our hour or so on the phone was that MacInteresteds is a really good user group. I asked what made him say that, and his answers was that Atlanta's group only has about 40 people. After I hung up I wondered if our numbers make us good. For as many as we are, and all we have, why is it that we are always aware of our shortcomings? Are we hypercritical, or is something actually missing? How could we be more useful to each other? What would make our user group genuinely useful? Consider first what we are not. As you well know by now, we are not a training organization. We are not a company either, or really even a business. If you say we are a service organization you'll have to admit that we don't provide many real services. Consider that we are, primarily*a volunteer association. We gather in order to benefit from interacting with the other users in our community. Ah-Haa*! Maybe we've been missing the manual for this program. Listen again. We gather in order to benefit from interacting with other users. Are you benefiting from your interactions in our Mac community? Could it be, dare I even suggest, that you are not actually having interactions at this time? I see* I apologize for not being clearer about this myself for the past four years, but it is true that for this game we have been attempting to play here to work, we must play it by the rules. They are very simple: The members of a volunteer organization must volunteer. (If you are not from Tennessee and don't like this V-word, substitute interact, participate give something of yourself, or share.) Without the fuel of participation, the game dies. Imagine a monthly covered-dish supper for 100 people where only six people b ring food. Even if those six are very generous, there will never be enough -- and there will be little variety. A user group works like a covered-dish supper. New members can come without bringing anything, but everyone else knows to bring something good, even if they don';t make it themselves. If we all do this, our game called ''user group'' will work, and all good things will come unto us. We will grow wise and experience the true satisfaction that comes with mastering the Macintosh and sharing this mastery with others. And we will acquire many friends. If we don;'t, this organization will not work. It will languish along until our extra-generous ones wear themselves out, give up, and go where their efforts are reciprocated. The rest of us will become dissatisfied, critical, frustrated and no doubt more cynical. We exist for the sharing and interchange of information and ideas. Our meetings, newsletter, bulletin boards and answering machine are pathways to assist us with our interactions. They are not intended as consumable one-way information products purchasable for your $24 per year. They are part of a banquet that you, whether you realized it or not, agreed to help prepare. Consider these things. Recognize that what we all receive here is directly tied to our participation and contributions. If you think you've nothing to offer, call and I'll remind you that it certainly isn't true.
Copyright © november, 1989 by Clark Thomas, Macintalk