Foxpro Users Groups - My experience

Cathy Poutney blogged the other day about Foxpro User Groups. Evidently they're having some trouble keeping things going.

We're lucky to have a very active Foxpro Users Group here in Atlanta. I think we continue to be successful because of our group effort. Russell Campbell is a great president, partly because he never gives up. He just keeps going. He's the Energizer bunny of VFP. ;)

I take care of the web site, meeting notices, and postings to the other web sites. One switch that I've made to the web site (a couple of years ago now) is to keep all of the past meeting notices on the web site. They used to be deleted. This helps with our search engine placement. If you type in “Atlanta” and “Foxpro”, our site is pretty sure to come up close to the top. This helps the group generate job leads from employers and head hunters. They pay $25 a pop, and Russell sends out a broadcast email to all of the attendees. Not only is this a money maker for the group, but it is a great service to the attendees and keeps them coming back.

Again, we have a good core group to our team and we switch off presenting. We also find great topics and speakers in what I like to call “parking lot talk”. This discussion in the parking lots after the meeting are more important (sometimes) than the presentation material. Often times we'll say something like “That's really cool. Sounds like a great topic for a future presentation.” That's how we get our best topics and presentations. It's that easy. Of course, in Atlanta, we normally have good weather for parking lot talk, year round.

For getting presenters and topics, one approach that does not work, is calling out saying “Hey! We need a topic for next month. Who wants to do it?!?” No takers. Calling out saying “Please consider being a presenter for AFUG.” This gets people thinking. When approached in the parking lot, they're more open to be a presenter.

AFUG also “takes care” of their presenters. Bill Woody, AFUG Secretary, prints up a nice certificate, gets all of the attendees to sign it during the presentation, puts it in a nice (cheap) frame, and we give it to the presenters at the end of the presentation. If it wasn't in a frame, it'd end up in the bottom of one of my drawers. Because its in a frame, and signed, I proudly tack them onto my wall. I've got seven of them across my wall. I look at them, and look at the signatures, and think fondly back on the good times I've had at AFUG. It's crazy, but this small gesture keeps AFUG in my mind and makes me more likely to present in the future. These certificates are on my wall next to my MCP certificate and my “Honorary Officer Of the Starship Enterprise” certificate. Ah, good times, good times.

Recently, we lost our AFUG location. We used to be out of New Horizons that had free space, and computers and projectors for us. They were moving, and they were starting night courses. That left no space for AFUG. We searched and searched for space. We had heard that other FUGs met at restaurants. We have tried a couple and they each had their pluses and minuses. We've settled on KC Pit BBQ location because it has several great “features”:

  1. Free meeting room – yes, this is a tough requirement

  2. Private meeting room

  3. Central location – Atlanta is huge and people come from all over. A central location is a must, as we learned the hard way.

  4. Reasonably priced food – VFP developers aren't all rolling in the money. I'm one of those low rent kinda developers.

  5. Variety of food – Vegetarians can be anyone and anywhere. It's worth being sensitive to their needs. Yes, even a BBQ house has something for anyone.

  6. Power – Curiously, computers need power. I typically bring extension cords and power strips not only for the presenter, but for the attendees too.

  7. Internet access – A luxury but a nice one. Some people will hesitate to attend if Internet access isn't available. This is a tough requirement.

  8. Free/good parking – A must for me. It burns me to pay for parking. This rules out most of downtown Atlanta, unfortunately.

  9. Projector – This location has a high-def TV that we use as a monitor. Otherwise we have borrowed Dave Bernard's projector. We really need to purchase one for the group however. It's not nice to burn Dave's bulb hours with no compensation.


I've been doing my best to record the audio of our presentations. It takes a while to edit down the audio, remove the waiter's coming and going, and to take out all of our cuss words. Yes, we're a colorful lot and that means salty language to describe some of our leading edge technology. :D I post them as MP3 files onto the AFUG site. I've heard of members that couldn't make the meeting listening to the audio and appreciating that it was available.

Guest speakers: We're lucky that we have some funds to fly in a guest speaker. Of course it really helps that YAG has some family and friends in Atlanta and he contacts us when he's passing through.

In the end, it's the group effort that keeps us going: Russell Campbell of Interthink, Bill Woody, Dave Bernard of The Intellection Group, Piper Cohen, Bo Durban of Moxie Data, and many more.

That's it. I hope that the existing Foxpro Users Groups keep up the good fight. Don't give up Cathy. We need Foxpro Users Groups now, more than ever!