Last August, one of our partners, IntelliObjects, suggested the idea of holding and sponsoring a user group. Sounded like a good idea to us. We sent a few Atlassians to present and feedback was very positive (no one threw rotten vegetables at the speakers anyway, so I put that into the plus column ). Since then, we’ve replicated this model a few times in the US and in Europe. While they were generally well received, the user groups started to feel more like seminars than user-driven user groups.
The value of a user group, I think, is the exchange of information between peers, not between vendor and customer. Having someone from Atlassian there is in some ways counter-intuitive. We loved the feedback, we learned a lot from being there, and it was a great way to interact with the community, but it had problems too.
For one, we couldn’t cover all the topics in the depth that people want. For another, the groups became less about learning from one another than hearing from Atlassian. And lastly, they couldn’t easily be replicated — at each one people said ‘thanks’ and then asked ‘when’s the next one?’ to which we had no reply. (That’s why I want to have a user conference this year, a 2-day event that is much more comprehensive and hands-on… but more on that in a separate blog post.)
Instead of having us drive future user groups, I like to encourage customers (and partners) to start their own. Here’s how Atlassian can help:

  • Expenses: we can send you a check to help cover some of the costs. I think it’s reasonable to send up to $250 to pay for food, drinks, and other nominal expenses. The actual amount really depends on how many people you think you’ll have.
  • Promotion: we’ll blog about your event to help get the word out, and we can add it into our monthly newsletter. We can also email customers in your area (we can do this as long as no one feels as if they are being spammed).
  • Software: we’ll give you a free license of our software for your user group, e.g., a wiki or issue tracker for the user group.
  • Atlassian stuff: people like stuff… t-shirts, coffee mugs, stickers… we’ll create some stuff and send it your way.

Please contact me if you’d like support for doing a user group. And feedback is welcome: what else can we do to support user groups?

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