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Forming a BIRT User Group

Starting a BIRT User Group (BUG) can be fun and rewarding. You'll get to meet a lot of people and be recognized as a leader in the BIRT community. And drink beer with other BIRT users! There is a time commitment involved, though, and it takes a while for any new user group to get going and have a life of its own. Don't get discouraged!


Important Things to Consider

  • Speakers
  • Refreshments
  • Location
  • Social and Networking Elements
  • Costs and Funding

Starting a BUG: The Quick Way

  1. Find 2 or 3 other users, on the forums or elsewhere, who will commit to showing up at the first BUG meeting you hold.
  2. Find a location for the meeting. It needs to be somewhere you can have a presentation, but also refreshments, such as:
    • Corporate meeting room of a BIRT-using company, after hours
    • Actuate sales office
    • Local community workspace
    • Restaurant with private group room
  3. Contact Michael Williams and see if Actuate can help with sponsoring the costs of the first meeting or maybe have a speaker.
  4. If you can't get a speaker from Actuate, arrange some content; any technical presentation around BIRT will do. Even just walk people through your current BIRT-based project. Presentations at BUGs are informal, so it doesn't have to be super-exciting, but you do need to have something.
  5. Decide when you're going to have the meeting. Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday nights work for a lot of people, and are probably your best choice. Make sure that you have at least 3 weeks lead time so that you can get the word out.
  6. Schedule the meeting. Announce it on the BIRT message boards, put it on the calendar (once we have one), add it to any local community calendars you might have in your area, and put it on your blog. Try to get RSVPs from people, possibly using Meetup, Facebook, or a similar service.
  7. Order food for the meeting. If there is no sponsor, then make sure to tell attendees how much they'll need to chip in.
  8. Have the first meeting. It'll be fun! Only a few people will show up, because it's the first meeting. Don't get discouraged! Most thriving user groups you see today only had 3 or 4 people at their first meetings.
  9. Repeat all of the above for next month. As you have meetings consistently, attendance will grow.

Suggested Process for forming a BUG: The Complete Way

  1. Have an idea of what you want to do
    Make sure you can clearly articulate the purpose and your expectations of the BUG. Write it down as a mission statement or as a list of goals and expected benefits if you wish. This will make it much easier to describe your ideas to others as you recruit your core team and BUG members.
  2. Build a core team
    Find 2 or 3 people who share your goals and are willing to help you achieve them. Sharing the workload and bouncing ideas off others can be invaluable getting started.
  3. Do some research
    There is a lot of information on the web about how to start and maintain user groups. While each group is different, there is a lot of commonality in organization and attracting people to join a user group. Contact existing BUG leaders and talk to user group leaders in your area to get tips about what's worked for them. Here are a few resources you might also find helpful (and there are lots more) on the web:
  4. Promote your ideas
    Identify interested people outside your core team who may be interested in joining a BUG. Communicate often with the group to show progress and encourage them to recruit more people. Actuate can host a mailing list for you and add you to the list of planned BUGs on BIRT Exchange.
    • Start a mailing list to keep people informed and to collect ideas
    • Identify sponsor organizations that can assist you with meeting rooms, logitics, refreshments and other costs
    • Contact Michael Williams at Actuate and ask for assistance to promote your member recruitment efforts
  5. Contact Sponsors
    When you have enough interest (10 or more people), contact any sponsors you've identified (e.g., Michael Williams at Actuate) and work out how to move forward to organize your first meeting.
    • Set up a service to manage meeting interest and registration like Meetup.com or Eventbright
    • Choose a date for the first meeting
    • Find a location to host the event, for example:
      • User sites
      • Vendor sites
      • Hotels and meeting centers
      • Universities
    • Determine logistics and owners to manage them
    • Choose and contact speakers and plan agenda
      • Don't forget to include time for socializing and networking
      • Giveaways can be helpfu to attract attendees
    • Identify costs (location fees, refreshments, giveaways, etc.)
    • Plan advertising and additional promotional activities

How Actuate Can Help

  • List your BUG on BIRT Exchange
  • Host a mailing list for BUG use
  • Assist with promotions
  • Provide additional services (logistics, speakers, etc.)

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