(channeling “Forest Gump”)… you never know what you’re gonna get. Ack! Sorry, I just can’t help myself sometimes. Moving on…
I was recently discussing guilds with my gamer husband and he commented how much running a user group sounds like running a guild. For those of you who aren’t already aware, before I traded my gaming addiction for a SQL one, he and I ran a guild together with around 140 members.
Not sure what a guild is? Check out the The Guild, a popular, very humorous, and only slightly exaggerated web series.
The more I’ve thought about what my husband said, the more I realized how right he is. Allow me to share my (questionable) thoughts on the subject:
Some guild masters are great leaders and others are just very dedicated; the same is true with user group leaders. If you spend all day trolling forums and working on maxing your DPS, you’re probably a good gamer but it doesn’t necessarily make you a good guild master. Similarly, being a SQL samurai does not necessarily prepare you to lead a user group. A handful of people are just naturally good leaders; most everyone else has to acquire the skill, often through painful experience. Before starting a guild or user group, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you in the market for an unpaid part-time job?
- Do you like to alphabetize your DVD collection?
- Do you enjoy helping n00bs (junior admins)?
- Have you ever led an anti-social, semi-violent mob before?
If you answered “no” to any of those questions, don’t worry, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should not start your own guild or user group. But you may want to consider first joining an existing group to ensure you’ll enjoy the experience. Either way, you’ll quickly find out how important it is to have…
You can’t do it alone. Well, you can try, but don’t expect the 40-man heroic raid you scheduled to start on-time or run smoothly. Every guild and group leader needs supportive and dedicated officers. If it’s your first time leading a group, try to recruit someone who has leadership experience but perhaps doesn’t have the time or energy to be El Jefe; this person can be an invaluable resource for you. And if you have run a group before, you still want officers to help distribute the workload. Officers can help with a variety of tasks, from managing supplies to organizing major events. Lastly, they’re also a great point of contact for your…
Guildies (members) are the fine men and women who have entrusted you to lead them into battle (provide stimulating meetings). Without them, you would have no guild (user group). They have joined for any number of reasons: some are new to the game and want to learn (junior DBAs), some are interested in meeting new people with similar interests, and others are just there for the free food.
Over time, you’ll find membership waxes and wanes; people switch servers (move to a new city), trade in gaming for a more boring hobby (switch from DBA to sysadmin), or just run out of time in the day. There’s little you can do to change this, so you’ll inevitably have to do some new-member recruitment. However, if you’ve got a good group, you’ll find much of your advertisement is by the word-of-mouth of current members. Still want to recruit new members? Try throwing some big…
Whether it’s an end-of-game dungeon or a SQL Saturday, everyone loves a good event. There’s a couple of things you should be aware of, though. First, always, ALWAYS plan for people to not show. Don’t take it personally; life just happens. I’ve heard that 70% of registrants is a good estimate of how many people will actually show up.
Secondly, while everyone loves to attend events, not many people want to actually help organize one. If you’re lucky enough to get volunteers, treat them very well! You’ll quickly find out a good volunteer is worth his or her weight in…
Just as dungeon bosses drop loot (prizes) both good and bad, so do sponsors. Very few guildies are motivated solely by loot, and loot is not absolutely necessary for a successful event. Still, everyone likes to win, and there’s really nothing like the joy of rolling a perfect 100 to score that epic dagger (erm… I guess the best translation for this one is having your ticket drawn to win a copy of Quest’s Capacity Manager).
One of the most popular event types is a PvP (player vs. player) raid. This is where your guildies attack members of opposing factions, just for fun and bragging rights. To help make user groups even more guild-like, I’m currently organizing raids against the local Oracle and mySQL user groups. We hope to use the element of surprise to really lay into ‘em. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
All jokes aside, guilds and user groups may not be _exactly_ the same, but there are certainly a surprising amount of similarities. If nothing else, both definitely involve a lot of time, effort, and dedication, and I think many of the leadership and organizational skills learned in a guild are truly transferable to the “real world.”
Hopefully by now you’re either feeling motivated to start a user group, or you’re off to the store to stock up on Cheetos and Mt. Dew, the sustenance of choice for most gamers, so you can survive the weekend locked in the basement playing PC games. Whatever the case… have fun!