I spent yesterday at the NE VMUG at Gillette Stadium. In short, while it had flaws, it was awesome. I've been to well over 8 million of these types of shows. This is my unabashed favorite of all time.
Why? Because it really is social networking 1.0. People are there because they want to be. They weren't bribed, cajoled, or threatened. The NE VMUG is the only VMUG (I think) that has NOTHING to do with the mothership - VMware or the national VMUG (which is controlled by the mothership). It's truly independent. It's a family affair (the Maine Harney family, to be specific). Built by users, for users. Not built by a corporation with designs first and foremost on controlling everything you see or hear, with the intent of lining their own pockets.
I loved it.
I love it so much that I intend on doing everything I can to make sure it continues to improve (better and better user content, less and and less vendor bullshit), and most importantly, continues to remain independent. I love VMware, but they should leave this alone. This works. This is by the people, for the people. I hope others will take up the cause as well, and offer suggestions on content they would like to see, or even better, to deliver and teach their peers how to progress to higher levels. When that happens, everyone wins. Users win. Vendors win. VMware wins.
I met users from London.
I met users from other parts of the US - and when I asked (two different people) why they came here, they both said "because our VMUGs suck." People know the difference between value and bullshit-it insults their intelligence when it's all contrived bullshit.
VMworld is awesome, by the way. It's the regional VMUGs that seem to suck. They have become "commercialized," it appears.
1,200 people had registered when they closed it down. On Wednesday, the day before the show - Dawn Harney had over 300 additional requests to join. When does that ever happen?
By 9am, there were over 1,000 people already there.
The venue leaves a bit to be desired, as cool as it is. It's chopped up and hard to really support the right number of larger rooms for all the breakouts - and you had to go outside to the other side of the stadium (it was freaking cold!), but otherwise, it was a superb event.
Sponsors love it because A: they are charged effectively nothing to be there, and B: because there are 1,000+ legitimate, valid, not made up/fictitious actual IT end-users who buy things. If this was a normal industry event, we would have already been told that over 400,000 IT buyers were in attendance, with the buying power of China. Lying liars.
So bravo to the Harneys for keeping it real.
You can read Steve's other blog entries at The Bigger Truth.