An HP 3000 customer finds fewer user group choices in this era. In addition to a host of regional HP groups, Interex operated for three decades before self-destructing in the shadow of a new HP Technology Forum conference. The VMS group Encompass took HP's offer to organize the content of the new Forum — with HP's steady influence — and then the user group took the reins of the Joiners and Meeters among the 3000 world.
Then last summer Encompass allied with two other user groups to form Connect. The aim was to increase membership ranks, and with that increase hold HP's attention. That's a hard mission to proclaim as accomplished. It's easier to see how the Connect spirit started a new Euro conference last fall and revamped its Web site. As you can see from the form at left, there's still a way to show your 3000 colors to the Connect online community.
This week I got my membership renewal notice for Connect, perhaps like some other HP 3000 members who earned a free year of membership by attending the November 2007 Community Meet by the Bay. Encompass gave a free year to every attendee. Midway through my year, the group had created a social networking experience as part of new Web focus.
As a way of staying in touch with experts who know target platforms and technologies for migration, joining Connect seems like a good strategy for me. You might find that you want technical content from the group, too. There's a discount to attend the annual Tech Forum and some other benefits of membership. But in an era when more people than ever network online, you might judge the value of Connect in its Web pages.
That's one of the things which makes the renewal notice an anachronism. Even from the Web site, you must fill out a Word document and fax it to the Connect offices to remain a member. (Perhaps because the form holds a space for credit card information.) It's a minor point, perhaps, when you consider that the membership is only $50 a year. But an online renewal seems more in style with a mission of connection.
I've checked; there are people inside of the Connect online community with HP 3000 experience, if not current jobs related to the system. Joining the community lets you establish a profile, and one of the tick-boxes is MPE. You get a map of those with similar interests, as shown at left. When I remove the people who have ticked MPE as an interest, you can see their absence in the map underneath.
Connect membership is unlikely to deliver much 3000 detailed content. But people in the group have left or are leaving the 3000, and what they know might help a migrating customer. The Connect group is still working on creating dynamics in the online social networking community. It's a long process for such a focused group of people: IT professionals. Group president Nina Buik posted her 2009 goals in her blog on the site.
Connect's challenges come from serving such a diverse community. A vendor-focused community like Apple's customers is easier to assemble than trying to create a coalition of members using six operating systems, three hardware architectures, and a range of HP experience from "I manage our Windows networks" to "I lead a software company with my two decades of industry background." This is a big tent that these user groups have created.
Some members acknowledge as much on the six blogs you can read on the site. One share of the Connect mix is the NonStop (Tandem) users. One of their bloggers, Richard Buckle, Goldengate Software, said refining Connect's focus is a priority for this year. Buckle said in a lengthy blog post (outside of the Connect site) that he wondered if "big tent" events were worthwhile these days. Later he commented on the diversity of interests.
$50 is a small amount of money compared to what you might spend at a coffee shop over a week or two. Connect is worth at least that much, and maybe more if you want a spot under that ever-spreading user group tent which is HP's.