Some Post-PASS Thoughts on Local User Groups

For all the groups the most immediate need is to rescue what they can of the mailing list stored at PASS.org and to have a new landing page and/or meeting registration site. The challenge on the mailing list is that you can’t export it (privacy!), so the best you can do is email (multiple times) to give people the new home of your group.

We’ve been using Meetup for all our free events and it’s been decent, it’s biggest strength is that people find us far more often than they did by joining PASS (they had to know to join). The downside for a group of more than 50 members is that you have to pay. In Orlando that has been $180 a year, but it looks like that might be increasing. It’s far less capable than Eventbrite for paid events. For us it’s been worth it, but we’re in the same situation as with PASS – if something happens to Meetup, we lose the list. That means either finding something we like better or building out an alternate list (LinkedIn groups are not bad for this) because I really don’t like a single source of failure.

Whether you need anything more than Meetup (or whatever equivalent you pick) is really up to you. In Orlando we run sqlorlando.org on WordPress (the hosted version) for about $45 a year (so that we can use our domain). It’s not much to look at it so far, but we’ve budgeted some time and money to work on that this year. It’s important as a non profit to have some place to post by-laws and minutes (Meetup doesn’t let you upload files) and I see some value in whenever I meet someone that is interested in being able to say “just go to sqlorlando.org and you’ll find all the things”. It’s one more thing to pay for and maintain, so it’s definitely optional depending on your goals. To say that differently, I’d say think about will work for your group. You haven’t got a lot of time, but you have some time to decide.

Last night I removed the reference to PASS from our site, added a task to remove it from our operating manual when we do the next update, and removed the link/suggestion to join from the announcement email we send when someone joins Meetup. Today I’m going to update our Trello template cards to remove the tasks for emailing the group monthly, posting new events, and closing out completed events. It’s still important to track what’ve we done, so I added a couple more columns to our planning sheet for now. To a degree this simplifies the workflow for us.

Planning/Execution Tracking

Not to minimize the jump through hoops exercise at the end of the year, but once you figure out where to send people and try to get some of the list to move you’re back to where you were – running your group. Whether it feels that way probably depends on your group identity. Orlando back in 2004 was just a PASS chapter, we did it the way they suggested (more or less) and that was ok. In 2020 we’re a non profit that chose to align with PASS because it aligned with our goals for serving the Orlando tech community. At the monthly meeting level losing PASS just doesn’t change what we do at all (clearly the bigger and more painful impact is losing SQLSaturday.com and I’ll write more on that in the next week or two).

None of that removes the emotional impact.

We’re still a network, just more loosely coupled than we were – for now.

December is a good time for reflecting and planning, so maybe spend an hour or two thinking about how your group can serve your local community next year and write it down given all the changes. In my next post I’ll share what we had planned for next year (though you can see the event list above already) in Orlando and how we’ll be amending that plan.

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