It's nearly Halloween so of course there is the usual talk of various kinds of ghosts and spirits. But we're talking about a different kind of spirits--kindred spirits--among those of us who are IBM i advocates. There's a lot to be said for kindred spirits getting together. It will be no surprise to readers of our blog that we're big believers in local IBM i user groups.
Over the years a number of websites have listed user groups. A relatively new one (at least new to us) can be found here. Based on our own knowledge and experience, this list seems to be fairly comprehensive and up to date. If you are part of a group that isn't listed, send a message to the owner to have it added.
If there isn't a group in your local area, maybe you could help start one. Other local IBM i shops may also be wishing there were a local group. Make some contacts and see. It doesn't have to be a formal group with a website and monthly meetings at a hotel with a speaker using the dreaded PowerPoint. It could be as simple as a quarterly gathering at a local restaurant or at the office of one of the member companies. People share informally what they are doing or what they would like to do but haven't had time to explore. You never know, maybe someone else in the group knows has the experience you are missing and you can save time (and mistakes!) by sharing your knowledge and experience.
Of course some companies are large enough to have their own internal group. They may not call it a user group, but we know of several that host a monthly "Lunch & Learn" session where pizza is ordered in and someone talks for 30 minutes or so on something they've been working on or a technique they have read about recently. Face-to-face interchange of information, ideas, problems and solutions is a valuable tool and we're just old-fashioned enough to prefer the face-to-face aspect of these gatherings.
In these times of all-things-virtual, we don't need to limit ourselves to physical gatherings. There are several places for virtual gatherings. LinkedIn groups galore have been created for IBM i folks. As we've said before, we think if anything there are too many and too much repetition among the groups for them to be very effective channels for sharing technical information--that's true for us, at least.
There are a few other places where technical IBM i people hang out virtually. Ignoring for now those hosted by midrange publications, probably the granddaddy of them all is Midrange.com--the virtual gathering via mailing list hosted by David Gibbs. Midrange.com has just celebrated its 20th birthday--happy birthday! There are hundreds of followers on the various email lists hosted there and an archive filled with the experiences of kindred spirits. If we had a dime for every time we've suggested that someone take their question to Midrange.com ...
Another virtual hangout is the forum on Code400. This site has tips and samples of code as well as the forums, which allow for discussions among the members.
We're sure there are other virtual groups as well. Please illuminate us about your favorites in the comment section below. So whether local and in-person or virtual, gatherings of kindred spirits on all things IBM i can help you by providing knowledge or the answer to a specific question. And they also make the community stronger and help each of us realize that we don't have to go it alone.