Littered around the country, and possibly overseas as well, there are a number of RISC OS user groups, who meet up on a regular basis, discuss RISC OS issues and have developers and other guests pop in to demonstrate their latest software or give a talk on some aspect of what they do or have done. There used to be such a group for Bristol and the surrounding areas, which I never bothered to join (so in a way I’m partly responsible for what happened next). That group closed down in 2006 due to declining numbers. When its demise was announced, I figured there must still be quite a number of users in the area, so I set up a mailing list for Bristol users.
A mailing list to which nobody subscribed, so after about some time I quietly removed it – there was no need to announce its closure, since it wasn’t going to affect anyone.
A few days ago, though, I was contacted by another Bristol user, Trevor Johnson. He had read of the Bristol user group’s closure on Drobe, and of my setting up the mailing list – and had tried, unsuccessfully, to subscribe. The general point of his email: Is there perhaps any scope for starting a new Bristol user group?
His reasoning is largely due to the shared source initiative of RISC OS Open Ltd, and in particular the Beagle Board porting work by Jeffrey Lee and others – both of which, he thinks, may help generate enough interest in RISC OS that a group may again be possible.
My own view is somewhat more reserved, but I’m certainly not against trying – though neither Trevor nor I have any actual experience of user groups, either as attendees or organisers. Following a couple of emails back and forth, I’ve suggested a simple plan of action, starting with posting this here, but after that:
- Set the mailing list up again – if nothing else, announcing a mailing list and watching its take up (or lack thereof) would give a feel for the number of users in the area. If only one or two people subscribe, it’s clearly not worth proceeding, but if enough do then it might be worth it. I also think there is some merit in the mailing list covering a slightly wider area than would be likely to attend a local group (should it even get that far) – so that more outlying users from the group’s core area are able to participate in some way.
- Attend a meeting or two of our next nearest group, which is the Wessex Acorn User Group. Their next meeting is on 20th February, which isn’t possible for me – so the earliest opportunity is the next one after that, on 13th March. Trevor is also wondering if he might be able to arrange for a visit to London to coincide with a ROUGOL meeting. Attending these meetings would give us a feel for what happens at these groups, and talking to those more involved with arranging them would obviously help, as well.
- If the mailing list gains any subscribers, initially consider some informal meetings at a suitable pub at which any longer term plans can be discussed face to face with all who have an interest.
Beyond that… we’ll see.
Note: I will set up a mailing list in a few days time. The riscository.co.uk domain – which I use for RISC OS related mailing lists – is currently unavailable due to a renewal glitch; this should be rectified shortly.