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I do a lot of work for APCUG, and wish I was mobile enough to do more, but it got me thinking. I bet there are others like me that would like to be able to contribute to their local UGs, and it would be nice to see what we can come up with to enable that.
Several Directors and Advisors were going to be present at the APCUG 2008 Membership & Leadership Development Conference May 17-18, including the current APCUG President, Jay Ferron. I had helped the conference with some publicity matters, and they wanted me to be there too (as the immediate Past President, and current Vice President), although they realized I could not be there in person. So at the request of Sam Wexler and Hank Feinberg, I bought a web cam for my laptop, and using Skype I was able to virtually be there during their introductory session. If your user group has an officer or sig leader that either can no longer attend meetings, or is in the hospital, or has moved out of town, you might consider doing something like MLDC did with me and invite them to “Say Hi to everyone” and let everyone see them at one of your meetings.
Just being able to greet people at a meeting is nice, but it got me thinking, how else might we be able to develop a way for those unable to attend to be able to participate, and make use of knowledge they used to share with the UG. We are not certain exactly how we will do it, but at the 2008 Midwest User Group Regional Conference September 19 - 21 I hope to be able to actually conduct one of the programs, sitting in my lift chair here in Tulsa. I may just connect to a laptop with SKYPE for the audio feed (and a small window for my webcam, if they think the audience can stand to look at me for the entire program, and then use LogMeIn (https://secure.logmein.com/home.asp) - a free program similar to GoToMyPC, to let me control the keyboard and mouse of a laptop in Chicago Heights. We may try to use Microsoft Live Meeting, which you probably read about in a recent NOOZ mailing.
Eventually I would like to see us come up with a procedure that would work not just for APCUG Regional meetings, but which every user group could use to allow longtime members that can’t make it to meetings be able to continue to contribute to the user group. Do you have any ideas how we should do this?
I would also like to see if we could also come up with a way to use cameras to capture and stream sessions at a regional meeting, so that they can be seen by people unable to attend. It would not replace the thrill of actually being there, and able to interact with other attendees, but it would be better than missing out altogether, and if it worked for a regional meeting, some UGs might even try streaming their monthly meetings, so they could be viewed by members unable to attend.