SLUG: moving from geeks to mainstream

Currently nominations are on for the Sydney LUG and I nominated a a guy called Jamie Honan, who is a prior president of SLUG, all round great guy, and a very sane backboard for bouncing around ideas. He is also very softly spoken, and thoughtful. Anyway, unfortunately he declined, but he had these wise words which I think are relevant for LUGs all around the country:

People may wish to think a bit about the future of SLUG. For many years, out of neccessity, we have been a ‘geek’ group. Users of Linux were also like that. Linux is now mainstream, and I believe is poised to take prominence in the desktop.

This prominence presents its own challenges. While Linux becomes ever more ubiquitious, it is ever more easy to ignore the ideas and ideals that drove the formation of Linux. Now, millions of web surfers have the benefit of Linux and know nothing of the fears, the dreams that drove its inception.

How do we cross that divide? How do we reach out to the new users of Linux and show them that they too can become connected. That to give, a small gift only please; a bug report, show a friend how it’s done, is to join in and become part of something much larger.

The challenge for us in SLUG is to reach out, beyond our comfort zone. To try to connect with people who don’t share our technology biases and starting points, to make not so much the technology accessable, but to make our humanity, our ideals and ideas accessable.

Can I make one small suggestion? We have to listen first.

Sometimes in the excitement in getting our ideas across we lose touch with our audience. Sometimes they are trying to tell us what they need, what their problems are, and we don’t listen. Think about it

I strongly agree, and I think LUGs are going to remain important in the future both as a place of technical expertise and for ideas to flow, but also as a place where the underlying values of FOSS remain strong. Some people see LUGs getting less relevant as FOSS hits the mainstream, I see them becoming more relevant. People will be picking up the technology but still disconnected from it and the community, but LUGs provide the grounding to both technical creativity and community values that have made FOSS what it is today. We teach and practise the importance of software and information freedom that sometimes is either taken for granted or forgetten about.