DanNotes – an outsider’s view of an exceptional Lotus user group

The rise and rise of the user group has been one of the stories of the Lotus community over these past 4 or 5 years.

From DNUG to UKLUG, ILUG to IAMLUG, MWLUG to AUSLUG, BLUG to the (award-winning) DDive, community-organised events have been massively successful and have strengthened and sustained the community that forms around these collaboration products. From small monthly meetings (ATLUG), through to 3 day 400-attendee mega-LUGs, there is clearly a demand for these groups and events.  Many community members put hundred of hours into organising them, sponsors pay thousands to exhibit and attendees travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to attend.  It is hard to remember a time before they were so prevalent.

However, I’ve failed to mention the daddy of all user groups… DanNotes.  Almost unbelievably, DanNotes was formed in 1993 (18 years!) and has just had its 46th event (yes 46!).  Doesn’t that put things into perspective?  Whether we know it or not, we have a lot to thank DanNotes for…

Earlier this year I was honoured to be invited to speak at the latest DanNotes conference in Denmark, and took the trip out to attend last week.

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Held in a rather lovely if remote hotel and conference centre in Korsor, approximately 60 miles west of Copenhagen, I joined Chris Connor, Ulrich Krause and Niklas Heidloff as the non-Danish speakers at this two-day conference.

DanNotes 2011 Hotel

With about 80 in attendance (a full house), the event had a busy feel to it – plenty of attendees but not so big that it wasn’t possible to get round and speak to most folks that were there.

A few significant details made it a really interesting experience for me:
1.        I have never been a particular fan of conference hotels, they can be a bit soulless. However this one had some character, and the whole conference being in the one remote hotel meant that attendees and organisers spent real quality time together.  We ate proper sit down meals, had an excellent evening reception and could relax in each others company.  The relatively small size of the event compared to an ILUG or IAMLUG obviously helped in that regard too.
2.        The sessions themselves were held in an auditorium with excellent acoustics, full PA and mics on every desk.  That meant that when an attendee asked a question, they could do so without moving or significantly interrupting the speaker, everyone heard it and there was a much more interactive vibe as a result.
3.        The attendees really know each other.  A lot of them have attended a large number of the DanNotes events (46 remember) and hence really are a community all of their own.  That really came through in the relationships on show.  That said, they were really friendly to outsiders such as myself – I felt really welcome.  That is a tough balance to strike.
4.        Attendees have to pay to be part of the user group and to attend the event.  That tends to make those present really want to maximise the value they get from being there.  Whilst free events are great in a lot of ways, I do wonder whether paid user group meetings are the way forward in the long run.

DanNotes 2011 Auditorium

Whilst I wish I could have stayed a bit longer, I massively enjoyed my trip.  I was hugely impressed by the organisation behind the event (Per Henrik Lausten and the rest of the team), by the content being shared and by the community that has been developed.  I wish too that I could have seen more of Denmark on my first trip than just Copenhagen airport, the train and the hotel!  Definitely an excuse for a return trip in future.

If you’re wondering what I presented, I did two sessions which are both on Slideshare:

‘IBM Connections – Bridging the Gap’ (explaining Social Collaboration and IBM Connections for those from a Notes/Domino background):

I also shared a session with IBM’s Niklas Heidloff on mobile technologies where he spoke about the options for application developers using XPages:

I then took over and discussed ‘The IBM Mobile Collaboration Portfolio’ (covering the options open to users of IBM/Lotus packaged applications):

(I know that as a result of my aversion to bullets and my preference for very image-heavy slides, these presentations need more context!  I’ll be uploading the audio for the presentations as soon as I have it!)

So huge thanks to all those behind DanNotes.  If you are from Denmark and haven’t attended, you really must – it is one of the best examples of a LUG anywhere in the world!

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!