User group meetings are a valuable tool in the technology worker’s box — they give the participants an opportunity to not only ask questions of the developers, but learn how their peers are using the tools — new ideas, hacks or workarounds that weren’t part of the orginal plan, issues that he or she might hit in using the tools in a different situation or on a project with a higher level of complexity. And they’re golden for the developer — not only do they build a personal relationship with their users, but they discover new uses, hear about emerging needs, and get the ability to explore how their product actually works or doesn’t work from the point of view of the users themselves. Most of the major technology platforms, including consumer aps like Evernote and Box, as well as most of the programming platforms, have either online or in person user groups, or both.
At this point, the use of user groups in online public engagement is rare overall, probably due to the bootstrapped nature of most of these firms and their often huge geographic coverage. Bang the Table does an annual conference for its Australia users, but most of the rest are more limited. As I said, in a lot of cases I think that can be chalked up being small, spread-thin firms, but it’s also possible that the ones that come out of a consulting background might have less exposure to the use of user’s groups, or less willingness to share the reins with their users. In those cases, the firms are probably not helping themselves in the long run.
Delib just made an early foray into establishing user’s groups, focusing on an in-person meeting format close to their home turf, and sponsored by a couple of longtime clients/collaborators. Relying on an in-person model means that this user group is not going to reflect the full range of Delib users (who are all over the world). But it’s a good start — and like most things in technology, it’s better to take an imperfect crack at improving something, learn from that experience and use that to figure out prudent expansion, than it is to do nothing.
Here’s Rowena Farr from Delib:
After a few months in the making, we finally have two user group meetings planned this year – let’s all meet up and get to know one another!
Who are the user groups for?
Digital leads, analysts, policy leads, communication managers – anyone using Citizen Space or interested in digital engagement. We’re hoping the groups will be a mix of people with different skills.
What should I expect?
Sessions on all things digital engagement. Including the following:
- Show and tell of recent or upcoming engagement exercise. Review of the process and challenges of how you do consultation
- Example from an analysis team and/or input from Delib on tools for analysis in Citizen Space
- Citizen Space roadmap – we’ll talk through our plans for development of Citizen Space and garner your input
- Top tips and best practice examples
Tell me when it is and I’m there with bells on!
The first is a central government user group meeting on the afternoon of Friday 29th August, hosted by Department of Health in Whitehall. Focusing on specific examples from central government.
The next is a full-day user group meeting hosted by Birmingham City Council in late September/October. This will include some useful workshops as well as discussions around benchmarking and collaborative working, amongst many other things.
Interested in attending? Contact one of our Account Managers – Louise (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Rowena (email@example.com) or give us a call on 0845 638 1848.