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Summary:

I recently attended a workshop about Final Cut Pro at the Apple Store SoHo.  To my surprise, immediately following the workshop was a meeting of a a local Apple User Group called the Metropolitan New York Macintosh Alliance or “MetroMac” for short.  I stuck around for […]

MetroMac at Apple SoHo I recently attended a workshop about Final Cut Pro at the Apple Store SoHo.  To my surprise, immediately following the workshop was a meeting of a a local Apple User Group called the Metropolitan New York Macintosh Alliance or “MetroMac” for short.  I stuck around for the meeting since I had never been to one of these meetings before and there was going to be a discussion of the upcoming Macworld. The user group was made up of a wide range of people with varying ages.

There were two moderators.  I didn’t get their names, so I will call them “Leader Guy” and “Second-in-Command.”  I bet you can tell who did what with my clever titles for these gentlemen.  The user group began with Macintosh problems.  Members of the audience would ask questions and Leader Guy would try to answer the questions before opening up the question to other audience members.  Leader Guy turned out to be one of the snarkiest human beings I have ever had the misfortune of experiencing in real life.

An audience member said, “I know you’ve never recommended Internet security software…” before getting cut off by Leader Guy who exclaimed, “I’ve never said that! You would be wrong.”  The audience member replied, “I get things wrong all the time.”  Leader Guy would not let this point go, “Then you would be wrong this time, too.”  This did not seem like a friendly user-group.  Considering the two’s dialog, it appeared they had a bit of a history.  Maybe this was just sarcasm between friends.  The same audience member asked about her G5 tower and how its CD-tray would open whenever she started the computer.  Leader Guy’s response?  “Congratulations.”  Another audience member helped out by suggesting she unplug a peripheral and then see if the G5 had the problem.  Again, I tried to write this exchange off as some kind of sarcasm between friends.

On the topic of Internet security, Leader Guy suggested turning off file sharing.  A different audience member chimed in, “But I need to have file sharing on.”  Leader Guy’s response? “No.  You want to have file sharing on.  You do not need it.”  Terrific.  Leader Guy seemed far from helpful.  Second-in-Command was a rather nice fellow occasionally making good-natured security password jokes.  When using a router was mentioned, Second-in-Command asked the audience if they knew what a router was — just in case.  The audience seemed to reply with positive head nods.  Leader Guy proceeded to tell the group how routers work.

After Leader Guy accidentally hit my MacBook Pro’s screen without apologizing, I had enough.  I stuck around for forty-five minutes but Leader Guy was unbearable.  Even the promise of a Macworld discussion was not enough to make me stick around.  I have only been a Mac user for about two or three years.  I had heard about snarky, know-it-all, Mac users but I had never actually experienced or dealt with anyone that fit that description.  I have had several discussions with other Mac users over the past couple of months since I have been regularly attending my local Apple Store’s free workshops on Final Cut Pro.  No one was similar to Leader Guy.

Looking beyond Leader Guy, the user group actually had some good information.  Having a knowledgeable group of Mac users in one room has it advantages.  Group members were able to solve problems of other group members.  There was even a wireless microphone so questions could be heard by everyone in the group.  Perhaps your past user group experiences were different;  I’d love to hear about them in the comments section.

  1. I’ve been a member of a Mac Users Group (one of several in the area) since a few days after I bought my first Mac back in Sept. 2006. It’s a few dozen folks of various experience levels. We helps newbies for 30 minutes, and then do product demonstrations or application instructions for two hours. The local Apple Sales Consultant gives keynotes of his trips to Cupertino, and of new product announcements. We have has special events at the CompUSA where he works, for the launch of Apple TV and Leopard. He tells us that we are a model MUG. The higher-ups at Apple are well aware of the revenue that users groups generate, and ours generates an absurd amount (yet there are no Apple Stores in South Carolina. Hmmm…).

    Check us out at http://www.greenvillemug.org/

    You can find your own user group at http://www.apple.com/usergroups/

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  2. I have never been to an Apple store, let alone a user group (nearest store is just too far away) but I have had experience with users groups devoted to other types of computers, back in the days when the Apple II was Apple’s latest and greatest. What I saw was that because most people are non-confrontational and try to avoid conflict, they are easy prey for the intelligent guy that obviously knows a lot more than most of them do (the “guru”) but who has NO SOCIAL SKILLS. Bear in mind that there are people who are highly intelligent but have Asperger’s Syndrome (high level autism) and such people tend to be highly valued in user groups because they can answer almost any question and solve any problem – but where the group makes its mistake is electing such people to leadership positions. Often they don’t even want the position, but convince themselves that no one is better qualified. The problem is they are truly clueless about how their comments and actions affect others. I think that when they become abusive, it’s really because a part of them hates being thrust into a leadership position, yet on the other hand they enjoy solving problems and being looked up to (possibly for the first time in their lives). That’s the “why”, and it’s why user groups should be careful to elect people who are great at getting along with others for the top positions, not necessarily the smartest guy in the room (give him a position that recognizes his technical expertise and makes him feel appreciated and loved, but not the top position!).

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  3. User groups (of any type) often attract “know it all” types to run them, and because no one involved has time to run a user group, they rise to the top, driven by their egos and probably loneliness.

    Most user groups are not bad, but they’re all prone to being hijacked by idiots.

    I ended up an officer of a club because just such a guy decided to end the group “because it no longer served users”. Funny thing, we had 50 members with 20-30 showing up regularly, yet he decided it was over with. A small group of concerned users said “fine, just go away, we’ll take over”. Amazingly, he insisted. I finally said, after he made a female member cry, “just leave, John. Leave now. Don’t come back” and that did the trick. He switched to Windows, and I haven’t seen him since.

    Now I’m president of the club, and I’m only slightly snarkey ;-D

    Keep looking, I’m hoping your next experience will be better.

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  4. This happens a lot in clubs or user groups where people with real lives don’t have time to run things. So people like this rise to the top. It’s the “little Hitler” syndrome: this is the one place in his life where leader guy can have power and he can’t help but wield it. I’ve seen this happen in a bicycle club, a condominium association, and a user group. People with leadership skills are too busy leading organizations for pay.

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  5. Marco is correct…every affinity group has the same issues–photography groups, car clubs, quilting get-togethers. There’s always a hierarchy, and certain personalities gravitate to certain levels. Who says that just because someone is good at one thing, they’re good at people skills? Not in this case.

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  6. We have a Mac user group here in Memphis called the “applecore”. I tried it out in 2007 for a few sessions but I basically got tired of everyone discussing panther and their 1G ipod. I asked the president to remove me from his mailing list, but he didn’t understand how to do that.

    Bob

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  7. First of all thank you for the article, or editorial rather. I figured mac user groups existed but I have never personally heard any feedback about them.

    Like one of the comments said, all common interest groups are prone to these personality types. It is highly unfortunate because these groups provide a very unique service to the mac community.

    For those with experience with MUGs, do the benefits outweigh the costs?

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  8. PollyWantACracker Monday, January 14, 2008

    What happened at that MUG meeting is certainly unfortunate. Here are two truisms that apply: 1) geeks often don’t have social skills, so they might just go on and on until people are bored to death or leave; and 2) you will find *ssholes anywhere. It’s not like you have to pass an “I’m not an *sshole” exam before you get to own a Mac. :-(

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  9. Geoff Broadhurst Monday, January 21, 2008

    Please don’t give up on finding a good user group. They can be so helpful for those of us who, although not “clueless,” don’t have many clues. I joined a wonderful user group more than a decade ago, and have never regretted it. The meetings are interesting, I end up buying some of the products and programs that have been demonstrated, I have met interesting people who have the same interests as me, and the leadership is polite and listens to its members.

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