I’ve been to the Chicago MySQL meetups a few times at Uncommon Ground near Wriggly Field. Honestly I don’t think I gained much out of it. The few times I was there, the group was small, which is not necessarily bad. (In fact, a small group can even be a good thing.) But the thing got me was that there was too much talk, not enough action. I haven’t been to its meetings for a few years so I cannot comment on its state after I left.
When I think a user group, I think about fans getting together hacking stuff: demonstrating cool tips and techniques, dissecting a new technology such as MySQL proxy by a user who have done that and learned some hard lessons along the way with no marketing talk, discussing solutions to problems a user has, providing pointers and efficient scripts, etc. In such a setting, each member of the group takes turns providing his/her expertise. The presenter does not necessarily needs talking slides, but must prepare beforehand about the topic s/he will present. The key points for a night’s session can be distilled into a few points on an index card, and demonstrated with simple, yet elegant steps. I’ve watched so many demos that needs elaborate setup, that by the time of the supposed highlight the audience have already tuned out or lost interest. When a question arises that can be answered via live demo in a short time, answer the question that way, instead of just giving an verbal response.
Another thing that I’ve been thinking is that for a big metropolitan area such as Chicago, more than one user group is necessary. The biggest reason is traffic. After a hard day’s work, going out of one’s way to attend a meeting that may or may not be productive is a big turn off, especially for married guys/gals with kid(s). Another reason is that big cities usually have a big talent pool and they may spread out around the suburbs.
Now that the arrangement between MySQL and meetup.com is over, there are a number of suggestions as to how to keep MySQL user group going. One suggestion was to use Facebook. I have created a Facebook group called MySQL OPRF. Here is the blurb I put out for this group: “MySQL group for Oak Park, River Forest and surrounding area like Forest Park, Berwyn, Elmwood Park, etc. The primary purpose is to swap ideas, hack software, and help each other to learn by sharing experiences, providing pointers, and keeping us motivated.” So, if that is something you are interested and you want to participate, by all means, join the club! I will arrange a meetup if there are enough interest. I’d also like to take this opportunity to solicit help in the form of technical sessions, books, money, and other resources that are of interest to a group like this.
I understand that the MySQL meetup on meetup.com in Chicago will continue. So by all means, join that group if it works for you.