Paul's Internet Landfill/ 2017/ Four Usergroups That Need Love

Four Usergroups That Need Love

In lieu of having a social life, I attend several user group meetings each month. Several of these groups are suffering: their attendance is critically low. Without more members I expect at least a few of them will fold. Thus, my impotent appeal: if these topics interest you, please consider attending. If you know of other people who might be interested in one or more of these groups, let them know.

Some of these groups are themed around computer nerdery and some around LBGTQ concerns. My apologies to those of you who feel uncomfortable with these topics. Computer nerdery makes me uncomfortable too.

To a greater or lesser extent, I participate in each of these groups. (This may go some ways to explaining why they are suffering.) I think that each of these groups is interesting and valuable enough to fill a niche in the local ecosystem. Often I am surprised that turnouts are so low. In each of these groups one or two additional attendees each session could make a big difference in reviving them.

Drupal User Group

The Waterloo Region Drupal Users Group meets to discuss the content management system Drupal. Drupal used to be trendy, but has fallen out of favour from its zenith five years ago. It is still an important player in big enterprise-y websites.

It is weird to say so, but this group is probably the most informative and most enjoyable meetup I attend each month. Drupal has a high learning curve and a lot of unwritten (or hard to discover) culture, and this group is fantastic for catching up on both. The attendees are highly knowledgeable and pretty friendly; almost everybody works with Drupal in some professional capacity. In addition to learning about Drupal, I have picked up a bunch of information about website hosting and performance tuning from this group.

In my opinion, anybody local who develops Drupal websites should strongly consider attending this group. Attendance ranges from 5-10 people now, and I have a difficult time believing that the group couldn't attract and retain more regulars. People who are just getting started with Drupal (or considering it vs alternatives like Wordpress) should particularly attend.

In addition to the main website linked above this group also has a page on You can use that if you have a account and not a one.

Nonprofit Sysadmin Group

The Nonprofit Systems Administrator Group is for people who do systems administration for nonprofit organizations (or small businesses, which face many of the same challenges). Each meeting there is a theme, and attendees share their experiences and questions about the topic in an informal roundtable discussion.

Attendees need not be professional full-time sysadmins in order to participate. People who wear many hats and got into systems administration by accident are super-welcome, as are people who have to make decisions about IT at their organizations.

Attendance to this group has been critically low. I have recently stepped down as organizer, but when I was organizing attendance would consist of the same 5-6 regulars month after month. Now attendance is smaller.

Anybody who deals with the constraints of nonprofit systems administration (small IT budgets, Techsoup software licensing, hand-me-down hardware, limited ability to outsource problems) should consider this group. I thought it would be an amazing group that would fill a niche that other systems administration groups in the area (WWITPro, Waterloo DevOps, Unix Users, and to some extent KWLUG) were missing. But the meetup needs a few more people who do nonprofit systems administration in order to succeed, and without this boost I expect the group will either fold or shrink into irrelevance.

The Nonprofit Sysadmin group also has a presence, where it goes by the name NetSquared Kitchener-Waterloo.

Spectrum Outdoor Recreation Group

The Spectrum Outdoor Recreation Group is organized through Spectrum, an LGBTQ meeting space in Kitchener. Although the group has attempted to organize fancy things like canoe trips and ski events, most weeks attendees meet somewhere in Waterloo region and go on a walk/hike. Often the group will take trails, but occasionally it schedules tours of festivals, art galleries, or local architecture.

The group meets on Sunday afternoons. Sometimes the walks are "lite" (two hours long) and sometimes they are scheduled for four hours. The walks tend not to be super-strenuous, but they can be long.

Although the group is intended for LGBTQ participants, it is likely that allies who like walking can participate. It is a fairly easygoing group. Often group members will talk as they walk. As a safe space for LBGTQ people everybody should be comfortable overhearing LBGTQ-related discussion, but the conversation in this group is usually PG or milder.

As of this writing, this group has 3-4 regulars, and a handful of occaional participants. Some regulars appear to have left the group recently, and the group is suffering for the loss. It really needs 1-2 more regulars to be healthy.

I have attended these walks for a few years now. It has been a great way to force myself to exercise once a week, and I have seen a lot of Waterloo region I did not know about before. There are a lot of great trails and sights to see in this area.

In addition to Facebook there is a mailing list where ORG events get announced, but since that mailing list may be disappearing soon I will not link to it. You can also find this month's destinations on the monthly "Rainbow Community Calendar", which you can find in hardcopy form around town, or by searching on the Spectrum webpage (which according to the Spectrum website terms of use, I may not LINK TO without written permission). If these mechanisms are too obscure contact me directly and I will forward your information to the group's organizers.

Spectrum Reading Circle

The Spectrum Reading Circle is another group organized via Spectrum. This group meets on the fourth Thursday of the month from 6:30pm-8:00pm, at the Spectrum office (Unit #210 at 283 Duke St W in Kitchener. This is the Boehmer Box building).

This group is like a book club, except that instead of books members bring short written works (short stories, essays, blog posts, comics, play acts, poetry...) to the event and everybody reads them together. After reading a piece the group discusses it for a while.

Again, this is an LGBTQ group. I am guessing straight allies are welcome. Unlike the Outdoor Recreation Group some of the readings can get sexually explicit (but there is not much outright smut).

I would have thought that there would be lots of bookish people interested in LBGTQ-themed readings in this region, but I guess I am wrong. Attendance has been tiny, and without a few more participants I am not confident this group will survive. That would be a shame; I have read a lot of interesting things and expanded my horizons quite a bit by participating.