Take Your Group to 2.0: Look Beyond The Mac

User Groups 2.0

Every Mac User Group (or at least the physical MUGs as opposed to the virtual groups) has the challenge of developing a meeting topic each month. They have to have a speaker to present it and do their best to be sure that it is relevant to a significant portion of their membership. With the vast universe of programs and capabilities of the Mac and iPod, it is always amazing at the groups who basically repeat many of the same topics year after year, never straying far from the Apple trail.

Your members are Mac users first. But the odds are they they are also technologists of varying degrees of proficiency and interest and that means opportunities to discuss and present plenty of other topics that they can use and enjoy.

Some examples? How about:

  • Flickr: The photo-sharing site is among the hottest spots on the web for both professional and casual photographers. It is easy, the basic account is free and offers at least one meeting’s worth of features to show off. As popular as digital photography is, this is a no-brainer.

• Google: If you think Google is just for text searches you aren’t paying attention. Show your members how to search for only images or video. Show them Google Calendar, gMail, Google Groups and the new Google Desktop as ways to get things done. Or just enjoy the wow-factor of Google Earth. There are enough Google services and products to keep you going for a long time and virtually all of them are free.

• YouTube: Also flying the Google flag is YouTube. Who hasn’t been to YouTube? You might be surprised at how many people think that YouTube is just teenagers lip-syncing to the latest pop hit. Inform them that YouTube houses famous speeches by political figures, appearances by tech and business personalities, footage by their favorite musicians (no matter what the age group) and even the interview they missed from last night’s late night TV show. Top it off by teaching them how to share their own videos and the advantages of letting YouTube handle the transcoding and hosting of large video files.

• There are a host of Web 2.0 sites out there for you to visit and introduce to your members. Digg and Technorati are two perfect examples: highly influential web sites that your members may not know about. Take them on a tour.

• MySpace: When this was brought up in the “User Groups 2.0: Recipes for a 21st Century Mac User Group” session at Macworld Expo this year, there were concerns expressed about MySpace not being appropriate, especially for younger members. That thinking is exactly what makes it a perfect topic: cut through all the popular media hype and show the responsible use of the site. If your members (again, especially your younger members) are into music, they’re going to find their favorite bands on MySpace. Many new movie releases have pages on MySpace. They are going to find their way to MySpace one way or another. Better to have it be at a user group meeting with someone explaining what works and how in an informative and factual fashion.

• Pandora: A personal favorite, this streaming music discovery site offers more than just tunes and new features are being added all the time. Need a Mac tie-in, as if music wasn’t enough? Guy Kawasaki was their first investor and their Chief Technology Officer, while working at Apple, wrote spring-loaded folders, one of the very few features that survived from Mac OS 9 to Mac OS X.

That’s not a comprehensive list nor is it intended to be. The idea is to demonstrate that there are plenty of areas of interest and services that are not Mac-centric but that are are MUG-appropriate (a new buzz phrase!). And even though any of them could be the basis for at least one entire meeting, consider using them as supplemental aspects of a compatible topic (Flickr for digital photography, Pandora for music or iTunes, YouTube for video, etc.), to ease into the idea that the world doesn’t end at the edge of the Mac desktop.

Help your group and your members look to the larger world and show them how it is relevant and useful to Mac users. You’ll move to the head of the User Groups 2.0 class.

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