Last week we were speaking at the annual OMNI User Group event in Chicago. In common with other groups around the country OMNI is experimenting with different locations and styles of events in order to help lower their prices and (hopefully) attract more attendees. This year the event was held at the IBM facility in Schaumburg, a very different location from the more usual hotel or convention center. Judging from the attendance though it seems to have worked. We understand attendance was higher than in previous years and our sessions were all very well attended. We were also delighted to see that IBM i's chief architect Steve Will attracted a good crowd for his keynote session at the end of the day.
As usual Steve did a great job, and the IBM i success stories he relayed were heartening to the faithful. One rather sad note in his presentation was his comment as to how hard it is to get companies to agree to allow IBM to use their names. Not just as references, but at all! Why? Because IBM i is their competitive advantage. They know their competitors are wasting millions of dollars trying to get other systems up to the level of capability, reliability and affordability IBM i offers them. Why on earth would they want to share that information with them?
On the Subject of User Groups
Tomorrow (Wednesday 26th), we are partnering with the good folks at TUG in Toronto to offer a one-day mini-Summit event. Two tracks of RPG-oriented sessions will be coupled with a lunch time "chat" with the RPG compiler's lead architect Barbara Morris. TUG has always been at the forefront of providing innovative educational offerings to members. The group already offers low-cost night school classes to help members bring their skills up to date. This is the latest and it looks from the number of people registered as if it will be successful and hopefully the first of many.
OMNI and TUG are just two examples of vibrant local IBM i user groups. They are certainly not alone. This year we've already worked with WMCPA, the Wisconsin area group, NEUGC, the northeast user group consortium, OCEAN user group in southern California and AMCU in Atlanta, as well as the Fort Wayne user group. Sadly, we have also heard of local user groups that continue to struggle to stay afloat and some that have lost the struggle.
Local user groups can be a valuable way to keep abreast of both local business trends as well as IBM i technical information and networking with IBM i peers. Online resources are great but can never replace the face-to-face interaction with fellow i fans.
We've said it before and hate to sound like a broken record. But if you don't participate in your local user group, you should. If they aren't offering the kinds of topics or activities you need, contact them and tell them what you need. And if you don't have a local user group in your area, maybe it's time to start one. There are people who can help. You could begin by starting a conversation on the subject here on our blog or on the InterLUG mailing list run by David Gibbs.