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View Full Version : TIPS : How to start a LWUG in your area!



kevman3d
04-14-2003, 04:03 AM
This is a cut-paste from another post - I think information that's useful shouldn't be hidden within a thread that makes it hard to find, so I've posted it here with its own 'topic' to make it easier to spot for new users... Please feel free to add more advice to this thread! :)


Starting a Usergroup is a good idea - Its a great way to socialise, make friends, learn tips and tricks and network with people to find out what the 3D scene is like locally...

Here's some tips from me - I started mine back in 1998 by collecting details about people who used LightWave in New Zealand - Just out of curiosity! Now we have almost 80 people on the mailing list and about 15-20 people per meeting, albeit mostly newbies!

* Find a location
That I think is the most important part - Once you have this sorted, you're pretty much set and ready to go. Also, while you're at that, try and see if you can find a location with equipment (Computer, Video, TV, projector, etc if you can)

We run ours up at the local University - In a computer lab with large projector screen, DVD, VCR and 20 workstations with LightWave on them - Perfect! But not everyone can get that Lucky to start with...

If you can, at least have a computer available - You really need at least that since LightWave afterall is a computer program and well, meetings wouldn't feel right if you couldn't use it at a meeting to show/demo/etc...

With location sorted, and as long as you have something to demo lightwave tips, models, etc on then you'll be fine!

* Contact and advertise
Start a small web site - Create a mailing list - Send out Emails - Post messages at your local community center... Let people know you're there, or your meetings will be SMALL!

For instance, I set up a mailing list at Egroups (which later became Yahoo! Groups) so that I could offer a way of getting the whole country involved in talking about LightWave (Since meetings are only in Auckland). It also gives me a communications resource to keep everyone up to date with the latest news, meetings details, etc.

The web site I use to post up details of meetings, and to try start a gallery and other things for my users. However maintaining a website (specially a static HTML based one like on Geocities (Eck!)) is a lot of work, and I often let it go un-updated for months at a time before I find time to refresh it...

If you can get a scripted web site hosting service (http://www.hostned.com is a good one) then get someone to build you an easily managed site...

Better still, if you find a user at your first meeting who has the time to build and maintain a website for you, then get other people to help you cause LWUG's are a lot of work for a one-man team! (I love hard work, really!)

* Spend time, prepare well...
Be prepared to spend some time to organise stuff, read news sites, find topics you can discuss at UG meetings... I collect 3D animation - This gives me material to show users (eye candy) about what 3D animation is about worldwide... All on my little 56k modem too!

Also, meetings tend to work almost like presentations - A few times we get discussion, however other times so many newbies are there that unless there's something to see, the meetings run roughly - Or become dead-pan events!

So what I do once a month is ask users is there anything that they want to know about, then read up, play with the idea and create a tutorial or little workshop about it. Its also an awesome way to build your own knowledge, and you'll find it gets you a great reputation with the local community as well...

I had the nickname 'Mister LightWave' at one stage, and I've been invited to media colleges to review student work, teach at the university and help out small local studios! The benefits of running the LWUG have been great!

I'll also try out any free plugins I find that look cool, and if I can use them adequately enough to not make too many mistakes before the meeting, I'll create a demo...

Worst thing you can do is do something 'on the fly' without any preparation - Sometimes I do things without preparing, but sometimes its also been a small disaster!

* Just do it!
Basically, once you have location, prepare something to talk about in case nobody has any ideas, grab a few small munchies and drinks and tell people about it - Go for it! Its pretty much as simple as that!

Good luck!

kevman3d
04-17-2003, 06:50 PM
...And yet another 'good idea that might inspire some interaction from the LWUG community' from me gets great response - NOT! :)

Anyway, a little more advice from me - After a bit of discussion I was having today with someone...

* Sign up or not to sign up?
Do you ask your users to sign up and give you their details (in which case you're looking at privacy details, paperwork, etc) or do you make your group an open forum, with a feel free to hang out attitude?

The latter is how I run the Kiwavers (Kee-wavers) group, however now with an event like the LW World tour on the horizon, and being able to try and get some kind of group booking discount for users, the question arises 'how do you police who are and aren't users when there is no list or registration process?'

For this, I have a method where I am tracking names of those who register so its not so much a problem (since I know most of the users anyway!), however in the near future I am seriously considering updating the website hosting so I can set up a 'User Account' facility that will allow me to keep a database of 'registered' users, as well as offer 'User only' features like special tutorials, presentation invites, etc.

So, registration is probably a necessity in cases like this one, or if you want your group to be formal, with controlled user access to meetings and the like... For instance, if you have meetings where equipment could easily be taken/stolen from the location (and you want to ensure things don't walk out the door by strangers off the street), or where you are having industry talkers with confidential demonstrations of new products, etc, you may want to consider this idea...

If you only plan on keeping the meetings open and as a sharing/discussion facility for all users, community people, etc, you can probably save yourself the administration task of doing this.

* To pay or not to pay?
Do you charge your users to come to meetings, or should it be 'an open to all' approach? I do the latter (free) since we are an open 'meeting' and don't need to pay for the facilities... However...

Where would you possibly require payment?
If you needed to pay for facilities to hold your meetings, you may not want to pocket the cost yourself.
You are planning on organised outtings and events - Though its possible to just request payment around the time of the event.
Booking guest speakers - If you get an industry person in, they may request some basic fees (or if they're nice, they'll do it for free)
If you were to supply some kind of library of resources, like magazines, etc. This obviously would also require some registration as well so you didn't lose stuff to strangers. Its something I've avoided because of tracking down missing material headaches!
If you have any kind of Administration tasks involved in running the LWUG, ie. Membership ID badges, organising events, booking locations, etc.
If you want to buy prizes for competitions.
Club merchandise like T-shirts, caps, mugs, etc are often cool things to have (but cost money)


Remember that if you charge money for your user group, make sure people 'get something' for the price. And only set the price as high as you *need* - A User group shouldn't be used to *make* money out of legitimate users...

Those are a couple of small areas that are pretty much open to debate - I've tried to put my 0.2c worth down here for thought, though I'm sure other LWUG's may have suggestions or comments to make here...

Videolink
04-25-2003, 07:07 PM
Lightwave meetings
This year the Lightwave User Group meetings
will be the last Monday of every Month
7-12 pm
2284 Gerrard St E
Toronto
416-690-1690
Beginners are more than welcome.

Experienced animators love teachin newbies,
and we often learn a lot from them as well.

It is a smoking environment and you must bring your own beer or coffee or pop or whatever you may partake in.

TLWUG since 1994

kevman3d
04-27-2003, 03:15 AM
Thats very cool Videolink!

So, how about posting up some tips and tricks on HOW you set up your user group for everyone here, just to show you posted that here because it was relevant to the topic of this thread! :)

kevman3d
05-07-2003, 04:49 AM
Another hot topic for new LWUG's:

Do we need a web site?
Answered easily by saying 'YES' - Pretty much everytime I see or hear about a new product, club or company, I'll start out by asking 'do you have a web site I can get more info from?'

Its where the world has gone - online - and to make your user group more visible, a web site is damn useful to have! :)

A web site offers a lot of extension to the communications in your user group as well:

Info - Obviously, all your 'about us', contact and meeting information can be made easily available to everyone.
Announcements - You can use the site to announce late-breaking news, post announcements on upcoming events. A digital 'noticeboard' where anyone with an online connection can come and look at.
Share knowledge - Put up articles and information. Not everyone who comes to meetings will take notes, and some people just die that they missed out on a tutorial at a meeting. Offer tips, meeting notes and more online.
Bring users together - Chat, mailing lists - Not every user can make it to meetings, and sometimes they want to ask questions of the group that would otherwise have to wait til the next meeting. Having online communication through a mailing list is a cool idea... And you can announce upcoming meeting details in realtime! :)
Showcase your users - Do you get brilliant artists showing work without web sites? Set up a LWUG gallery to show everyone what your users can do!
Be seen! - In the end, a web site is like a global advertisement that your group exists, gaining you potentially new users!


Just a few suggestions to add to the 'tip' collection :)

As to where to get or set up a website or mailing list? There are plenty of free services online you can access or find... For instance, Yahoo! provide a lot of cool free tools you can use such as Yahoo!Groups (Http://www.yahoogroups.com) and Geocities (http://www.geocities.com).

While these free services do have Limitations, they can provide a launch pad to grow from without costing you any kind of startup investment...

Videolink
05-07-2003, 10:33 AM
The Toronto Lightwave User Group has been active for 4 years now.
The group has their own website
www.lwhub.com
however like most hobby web sites it has not been updated lately
we do however keep the forum on there updated
Bruce

kevman3d
05-28-2003, 03:12 AM
Here's a small example of how I'm letting any online users know about the upcoming LW World tour in New Zealand by using the web site.

By clicking on the big banner, I link to a second pop-up window with more information in it...

I thought I'd post it up since its a good example of why a web site is indeed very handy for keeping your locals up to date with whats happening! :)

meshmaster
06-13-2003, 07:03 AM
nor am I a part of a hacker group, but I suspect that doing like the hackers do in 2600 mags for meetings wouldn't be a bad idea - put fliers for the meetings inside of trade mags at places like barnes and noble, making sure that the ad is small enough that it doesn't fall out or have edges sticking out the side of the mag...

kevman3d
06-24-2003, 04:49 AM
put fliers for the meetings inside of trade mags at places like barnes and noble

Hehehe! Depends how 'underground' you wanna keep your user group... You really don't want to be caught annoying local retailers or bookstores by planting advertising throughout their merchandise

You could find your meetings include annoyed shop owners as well as users. :) Though you might be surprised how some retailers might be happy to have your flyers available if you ask nicely!

As for things for starting your local LWUG - I haven't got anything right now, but please if you feel you have some tips on starting a LWUG, setting up a LWUG or just how to advertise and get users to your LWUG do post them here! :)

wingwalker
03-12-2004, 04:29 PM
sorry...wrong place for this!

kevman3d
03-12-2004, 09:47 PM
Dude,

This thread is -'How to start a LWUG' - Not 'where to find a LWUG' lol! ;)

Wrong thread to ask that question - And I think there are already posts in this forum that ask that... Try doing a search first, then if you can't find anything, post a new thread...

Thanks!

kevman3d
06-14-2009, 02:45 AM
Its been a while, but here's a few new updates on what I've been up to in the last few years, and some ideas for everybody to pilfer from... ;D

How do I build a flexible and expandable Website?
Wow! Wouldn't you know it - I'm FINALLY (only a few years late!) making a proper website for my LWUG. :thumbsup:

The main issue I had was there was so much stuff I wanted to have on the website - And I wanted to allow users to post materials and help grow the site... Having an ASP background, I did the usual nerdy thing and decided I had to build the site myself... Afterall, its what I did as a job in the past.

Problem is...

That's a lot of work, and boy, where would I find the time?! Overcommiting yourself to a goal that's big like an entire website is not good planning... However...

There was a solution!

CMS (Content Management System) is what I was going to build, but why reinvent the wheel! There's plenty of great free tools available, and here's what I'm using right now (and loving the speed at which I'm getting it together)

Joomla (http://www.joomla.com/)

A free opensource CMS web system. Very flexible, plenty of online resources, tutorials and add-ons to give your website loads of features.

If you do go in this direction, I can't recommend reading the Getting Started pdf strongly enough. It makes Joomla all make sense... :D

Also, don't install the example data (even though its recommended) cause its a pain to have to remove it all... You're better off with a blank slate (and of course reading that pdf)

xampp (http://www.xampp.org)

First rule of thumb - Always develop your website locally on a machine that's NOT online. Don't create a website using a live server. At the moment I'm running Joomla locally while I construct the articles and pages into the database.

The problem here is that Joomla requires MySQL and a PHP-enabled web server. That's where the opensource XAMPP comes in - Extremely easy webserver, database and all the toys you need that run on a standalone PC (or even off a flash-drive).

Artisteer (http://www.artisteer.com/)

One downside of Joomla is that to skin it to your liking, you need to play and tweak with CSS files to style it. Of course, you could source the web for templates, but they usually require you to tweak them as well...

Artisteer is NOT free - Its a commercial package, but boy, what a great visual tool for designing Joomla, Wordpress, Drupal and other sites! Its not the cheapest, but the amount of use I'm getting from it makes it a great little investment.

That's my first update for a few years... More coming soon.

kevman3d
07-06-2012, 10:52 PM
Ok, inspired by a post in the other sticky thread, I'm gonna note that there's just so much tech online these days that some of the old-school promotional ideas and so forth for your LWUG can be done online with new "Essential" tools to push your group.


Facebook, Twitter
Social networking is big - immensely so, and if you're not taking advantage of these then you're missing a huge tool to get that LWUG buzzing. Set up a Facebook page, join twitter and start hammering out short messages, news, links to cool stuff, etc.

While email mailing lists, physical communication and websites are still great tools, social networking is a gigantic resource that should be tapped.


Anymeeting.com, Google Hangout, Adobe Connect, Skype
Much like the social networking tool set for promoting and communicating with your group, the amount of online live streaming technology available these days mean that your meetings don't need to be confined to a physical location and can expend globally online. Many of these don't cost an arm and a leg - and some are free.

That said, a physical meeting is still pretty key to keeping your group alive. Nothing beats meeting in the flesh, as it were - and you can't check out the snacks and drinks at a LWUG through a network. :D

Another fantastic use of such technology is to also get guest presentations into your physical meetings.


Youtube, Vimeo
While streaming allows your members to watch online, its not a bad idea to consider also looking at media streaming sites, such as Youtube and Vimeo.

Desktop recording tools are a-many these days (with a lot of free ones floating around) and combined with webcams and hard drive recording camera's - making digital recordings of your meetings to show off work done by others and tutorials/demos/tips no longer requires video cassettes, video capture technologies and specialised tools to produce digital files.

As the tech moves forward, so does the need for LWUG's to take advantage it.


That "User Group" website
As for websites, when I started out it was all about HTML editing and expensive hosting solutions. These days setting up a web site for your user group has become almost a brain dead exercise.

Cheap hosting (sites such as hostgator, etc) that give you the options to use a Content Managed system such as Wordpress, Joomla, Droopal, etc just make life so much easier. Long gone are the "I need an HTML editor to make a website" days... And I mean LONG GONE. :jester:

As for other options, online blogging sites (blogspot/blogger) as well as Facebook are easy ways to have hosted and manageable website presence online.

So there you have it - for all the lucky people in this modern era, the tools are everywhere! Now I really DO feel old. lol! 8/