I don’t remember the exact moment I first attended a computer user group meeting. I do remember the location, and I also remember being young enough someone had to drive me there, but I mostly remember the excitement of joining with other folks from all over town (and some from nearby towns) who shared a love of computing and actually were interested in talking about computing topics. I wasn’t a huge gamer, but it was always nice to get the latest intel on great games, in case the sudden urge to play one came upon me. Then as it is now, hardware modifications and upgrades interested me most, and I envied those with full time paying jobs who could afford new peripherals, memory expansions, hard drives, etc.
Club meetings always followed a sequence. Before the meeting, folks arrived and visited, and then the President called the meeting to order (I remember first learning about “Robert’s Rules of Order” around this time). I don’t remember much about the business meeting, as I was young, and the topics didn’t hold my interest. I mainly waited for the business meeting to end, when more fun things happened. I wasn’t so naive as to think the business meeting was not important (it was, often because most clubs had a swap meet or similar, and planning it took some of the business meeting time), I just knew it was a prelude to more interesting community computing enjoyment.
Time passes, of course. I grew up, as did the club I joined. Initially, I published the newsletter, but I eventually ran the club as President, right before I left for college. And then I thought my computing club days were over. By the late 1980’s, clubs were struggling in some communities, and I didn’t find another one to join until 1996. But, just as before, the sequence remained the same. It was somewhat comforting, to know that some things seem to stay the same.
I think folks joined computer clubs for two reasons: to be a part of a community of like-minded folks and to obtain information about their chosen platform. In the early and mid ’80’s, it could be difficult to find out about new software or hardware, or even learn the ingenious ways people were using the hardware you already owned to make life more interesting or more fun. Now, of course, the Internet provides a constant source of such information, but institutions like the Glenside Color Computer Club continue to thrive because they provide a sense of community and an anchor for the hobby.
Like many, I joined GCCC via my attendance at a yearly CoCoFEST!, and I’ll admit I attended to learn more about the CoCo platform. Initially, I just soaked up information, and eventually someone asked if I’d be interested in helping direct the club’s efforts. And, once again, I am leading the efforts of a computing group, just as I did back in the 1980’s. But, I’ll admit that not only have things changed quite a bit (Internet, for one), but I’ve somewhat forgotten the sequence of activities in the meeting.
Having attended a number of the most recent GCCC meetings prior to being elected, I knew about the business meeting, and I’ve always attended virtually, since I don’t live in the Chicago area. But, at the January meeting, GCCC member and past president Tony Podraza reminded me of a big piece of those long ago meetings, the piece that was part of the “fun” of the meeting that made the “boring” business meeting tolerable for a teenage computer geek:
I’ll admit I totally forgot that used to be a big draw for the meeting. As I recall, the business meeting finished quite quickly, and then someone would take over the club computer, load up a productivity app or utility and present the creative use to the rest of the attendees. Now, if I’m honest, I have to admit that the teenage me rarely watched the demos (they always seemed remedial in my know-it-all mind), but the adult me in 1996 took more of an interest (or maybe I finally realized I did not know it all).
So, I apologize.
I’ve been so focused on handling the business the club’s efforts (prepping for CoCoFEST!, making sure the newsletter gets out in a timely fashion – which mainly involves pestering poor overworked Steve Strowbridge, transitioning the club website to new digs, and helping push long suffering efforts like the GCCC ByLaws updates forward), I didn’t pay enough attention to the fun parts of the meeting. Tony notes that often John Mark Mobley would demonstrate an app or utility in past years, and I guess I must have missed those meetings.
Now, mind you, as I think back, we did not actually have a demo every month. Sometimes, the presenter was ill or had car troubles, or things just otherwise fell through. But, on those months, we all just took that time and visited with each other, and that seemed just fine. Everyone left the meeting refreshed from the conversation and the collaboration.
At the GCCC end-of-year virtual “Open House”, a member remarked that the event reminded them of club meeting of years past, where the focus was less on motions and seconds and more on topics of interest and general discussion, punctuated with laughter and jocularity. I took that as an action item, to try to incorporate some of that into regular business meetings by shortening the meeting duration for post meeting community discussion. I’ve not succeeded yet, but the club’s business really should not take more than 45 minutes to consider, so I’ll keep trying and I hope other members will help me in that effort.
Still, waiting until after the meeting might not be the best way to accomplish the goal. It might be that the club has a contentious topic to discuss, or maybe the business meeting is short but mentally draining, and folks just want to rest their brain afterwards. At the January meeting, past president Eric Canales suggested we schedule some time before the main meeting for a presentation/demonstration, or at least some unstructured conversation.
Thus, that’s the plan for future GCCC meetings. Since the regular meeting occurs at 7:30PM Central on the third Thursday of the month, I’ve scheduled an hour prior, from 6:30 PM to 7:30PM, as a demonstration time. I think Eric’s suggestion holds a lot of promise:
- It’s been hard to start the meeting on time in the past few months, when key folks are just joining at the bottom of the hour. I want to be snesitive to folks who are present at 7:30PM, but there are key people who need to be present. A 6:30PM demo will allow folks to join with a bit more flexibility and hopefully be present when the regular meeting needs to start.
- Those not interested in the business meeting but who want to join the group for discussions can have a specific time to visit.
- If the demonstration needs more time, it’s pretty easy to poll folks at 7:30PM and see if a slight deviation is OK.
- It places the lighter fare earlier in the evening, before people start shutting down for the night or before tensions rise due to a contentious business topic.
Of course, we need compelling demonstrations to make this work, so we’ll be soliciting for ideas and for folks to present. If you know of a topic of interest, or if you would like to present a specific topic (member or not, does not matter), please let someone on the GCCC leadership team know. We may designate some months are just roundtable discussions, but I’d prefer we try to arrange demonstrations for the first few months 🙂
I’m not sure how long it’s been since GCCC held a demonstration at a monthly meeting, but I sincerely apologize for the absence. It’s a useful part of the monthly community gathering, even with the Internet available to everyone, and so it’s worth getting it back into the schedule. I hope you think so as well.