INETA: Big Growth, Big Help

EldenNelson sits down with Brian Loesgen, President of INETA, to find outwhat INETA’s doing for user groups around the world.

Elden Nelson

October 30, 2009

5 Min Read
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INETA: Big Growth, Big Help

 

By Elden Nelson

 

If you're a .NET developer, you've probably at least heard of INETA - the International .NETAssociation. What you may not know, however, is how large it's become (469 usergroups, with more than 131,000 members as I write this). You also may not knowhow quickly it's grown - INETA is celebrating its second birthday this month.And, most importantly, you may not know what INETA is doing or why it's seeingsuch great success. I caught up with Brian Loesgen, President of INETA, to findout what INETA's doing for user groups around the world.

 

Why would a local user group wantto join INETA?

We provide them with a lot of resources. Perhaps thegreatest of these benefits is the Speakers' Bureau. We have a star-studdedroster of approximately forty speakers (in North America), where INETA picks upthe cost to fly these well-known speakers to user group meetings. We pay theirtravel expenses and an honorarium, and provide pizza for the user group meeting.

 

We also act as a useful conduit to third parties. A goodexample of this is the "Winter Warmup" we've done a couple times. Vendors sendus materials they want to get into the hands of user group leaders - books,software, and such. INETA then contracts with a fulfillment house, bundling andshipping these products to user group leaders to raffle off, thus drawingmembers to meetings and building the community. It's a great way for vendors toraise awareness of their products, and for user group members to get some coolfree stuff. It's been wildly successful; we plan to continue that program.

 


Brian Loesgen: President, International .NET Association (INETA)

 

We also leveraged our third-party connections when webuilt a page on the site any INETA member can go to get discounts on softwareproducts, training, books, magazines, hosting, and so forth (http://www.ineta.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabindex=2&tabid=15).

 

Another program we launched in the first year was the usergroup leader conference. The idea behind that was to bring a bunch of usergroup leaders and volunteers together for a peer knowledge exchange. They cantalk about how they run their groups - what works, what doesn't work - and howto make their user groups more successful.

 

In the early history of INETA, itseems most user groups were based in North America. Is that changing?

In our first year, we were just getting started. We werelaying the foundation, designing and executing the programs we wanted to do. Itwas in the second year that we really started putting the "I" - theinternational - in INETA. We had things running well in North America, and werestarting to get pleas to do the same thing internationally. I expect to see areal up tick in the number of international groups in the months ahead.

 

I've also been involved personally with the Asia-Pacificregion, and I believe that's going to be one of our next major areas of growth.In fact, we're starting to see it now.

 

In which countries or areas isINETA seeing rapid growth?

Interestingly, rapid INETA growth in an area doesn'tnecessarily map to rapid adoption of the .NET platform in that area. That'sbecause we're volunteer-driven. So if we have an exceptional core of volunteersin an area, INETA sees strong growth in that area, regardless of how .NET isdoing in that country. So outside the US, INETA's two most mature geographiesright now are Europe and Latin America. INETA in Latin America just started in2003, but is already growing veryrapidly.

 

It's a lot of fun to see how differently user groupmeetings happen in different countries. In one country, they tend to hold mostof their meetings online, instead of in person. In Latin America and India,they tend to have very large meetings - they'll have a thousand people at ameeting, which is unheard of here in North America.

 

Suppose I'm a local user groupleader, interested in joining INETA. What do I do?

You'd fill out a request form on the site (http://www.ineta.org/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabindex=0&tabid=19),then somebody from User Group Relations would contact you and help you getstarted. That's really about all there is to it, then we can start funnelingresources your way.

 

Does INETA do anything to supportsmaller user groups?

That's actually one of the good things about INETA - we don't really differentiate. Whetheryou're in the San Diego user group with more than 100 members per meeting or ina small group in a small town, we still send top-name speakers. An interestingexample of that was a while back in New Orleans, where the local user group wasmeeting during Tech Ed. We had arranged to send a speaker there. The sixmembers of the INETA board decided to drop in ... effectively doubling theattendance.

 

What's on the horizon for INETAin 2004?

A new Web site - this won't be just a new design, we'll beproviding lots of new functionality to the community via the Web site. I can'tgo into specifics yet, but there are some very interesting ideas being battedaround on how we can better engage with the community, how we can be a betterresource for developers. Also, we expect huge international growth.

 

Anything else?

The whole reason behind the success we're having is thededication and efforts of our volunteers. We have some very hard-working,devoted people who contribute a lot of their scarce free time to making INETA asuccess. We just wouldn't be here without our volunteers and all theircontributions. It's a great group of people to work with, and we're having alot of fun supporting the community.

 

Brian Loesgen is aco-founder and President of the International .NET Association (http://www.ineta.org). He co-leads the SanDiego .NET user group, and leads the San Diego Software Industry Council WebServices SIG. Brian is a Principal Consultant with Neudesic, a firm thatspecializes in .NET development and Microsoft server integration. He is aco-author of Professional XML, Professional ASP/XML, Professional Windows DNA, ProfessionalASP.NET Web Services, and ProfessionalVB.NET Web Services from Wrox, and is currently working on the BizTalk Server 2004 Developer's Guide, due in2004. Brian can be reached at mailto:[email protected].

 

Elden Nelson is editor-in-chief of asp.netPRO and itscompanion e-newsletter, asp.netNOW. Reach him at [email protected].

 

 

 

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