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Our JUGs Need a Push-Up

Our JUGs Need a Push-Up

It's been almost 10 years since enthusiasts around the world started to form small local communities called Java Users Groups (JUGs). They gather once in a while after work to network, listen to a presentation on some new Java technology or JSR, and talk about what's hot and what's not.

I'm a member of two JUGs: New York City (takes place at Sun Microsystems' office, invites well-known speakers, offers free food and gives away trinkets like plastic water containers and T-shirts) and New Jersey (a room with a projector in a small township's rescue squad, no food, and the speakers are Java junkies like you and me). Although they have such different sponsors, both groups meet religiously once a month and their leaders deserve credits for this part-time job that does not offer any monetary rewards.

Sun Microsystems maintains a Web site http://java.sun.com/jugs/ devoted to JUGs around the world. And you can find a JUG list at https://jugs.dev.java.net/. But I decided to do my own little Google research and here's my personal take on the state of the JUGs. I looked for JUGs that have a real place to meet, not pure Internet forums.

North America: USA is a clear winner. There are dozens of groups, and there are JUGs that meet on a regular basis in New York City, San Diego, Silicon Valley, Dallas and Philadelphia.

Europe: London and Saint Petersburg are real and active.

South America: Go, Brazil, go! It has multiple JUGs. Even though football and Samba are still more popular there, Java is catching up.

Asia: Small Hong Kong represents almost half the earth's population. What happened to India and mainland China?

Australia: Wake up, guys! You're not really that far from the rest of the world!

I found some interesting PowerPoint slides and code samples from past presentations on the Web sites of these JUGs.

Why JUGs Are Good for You
For Java programmers: A great way to keep up with new Java technologies. It also gives you a chance to network with your peers, which always helps in getting a job.

For business: Instead of paying head-hunters hefty finder fees every time you need to hire a Java developer, create a home for your local JUG by letting them use one of your conference rooms one evening a month. The return on this small investment will be phenomenal: whenever you need a Java person, post your job requirements to the JUG's mailing list.

For students: JUGs give you a chance to learn what's happening in the real business world and maybe find an internship or summer job.

For headhunters: Your local JUG may give you an access to a pool of Java developers. But you should contribute too: speak periodically on the status of the Java job market in your geographical area. Such sessions are pretty popular with developers. Here's a tip for you. Headhunters can create new JUGs and breed Java programmers for themselves.

For authors: It's a good way to promote your books. Don't be shy though; always give away a free copy of your book.

How to Start a New JUG
If you can't find a local JUG on Sun's web site, no worry. Create one by following these steps.

  1. Start a new group using a free service from Yahoo at groups.yahoo.com. It'll take you less that 15 minutes to set up a place online where all members of your group can post messages (moderated, if needed), upload files, schedule meetings, and vote. I've been using this service for years and it works like charm.
  2. Compile a list of all the Java developers you know and invite them to join this new group. In the same invitation ask them if they know of any firm, college, or a place of worship that may be willing to host your once-a-month meeting.
  3. Talk to the human resources department where you work, explain the potential benefits to them and ask for a conference room.
  4. Pick up an interesting Java technology and prepare the first presentation.
  5. Create a simple Web site for your new Java group that will contain information on your future and past presentations, a link to the Yahoo group you've created, and directions to where you're meeting next.
  6. If you know of any Java authors, enterprise architects, or business technical leaders in your area, invite them to speak in your group. You'll be surprised, but most of them will accept your invitation and do it for free.
Even if you don't have any distinguished software engineers in your area, many programmers have worked on some interesting projects and technologies and can rattle off a short case study. Here's another idea that will keep your new group busy for a year: take the famous Pet Store application and ask the members to create and present 12 different versions of it using various Java technologies.

As the old saying goes, "If there's a will, there is a way." The JUG movement needs a little push and it's a good opportunity for you to make a difference.

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a co-founder of two software companies: Farata Systems and SuranceBay. He authored several technical books and lots of articles on software development. Yakov is Java Champion (https://java-champions.java.net). He leads leads Princeton Java Users Group. Two of Yakov's books will go in print this year: "Enterprise Web Development" (O'Reilly) and "Java For Kids" (No Starch Press).

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