The Association of Acorn User Groups
Andy Harmsworth introduces the AAUG.
With the phenomenal success of the BBC Model B microcomputer sprang forth computer user groups the world over. Men, women and teenagers came together to experiment with their machines, learning from each other, helping each other to do more with them. Nearly twenty years later, together with some very significant quantum leaps in technology, user groups still continue this tradition, including 45 groups affiliated to the Association of Acorn User Groups (AAUG).
Despite the gradual shrinking of the RISC OS market, AAUG has helped to launch several new user groups over the past couple of years. By helping geographically disparate groups work together towards a common goal, AAUG is proving a vital weapon for the continued survival of the RISC OS desktop computer market.
In the past, it was very rare for computer user groups to communicate with each other. Back in 1997 Neil Spellings noticed that there was a need for greater communication between groups, and so was born AAUG. The idea was simple: through better communication, groups could co-operate with each other. This would help further the promotion of the RISC OS platform.
The official objectives of the Association are as follows:
Maintenance of a Global Directory of User Groups
This list was, until the closure of the Acorn Workstation Division, included with all new Acorn systems sold. It was also to appear regularly in the RISC OS press. The list gives new users a contact in their local area, other than their dealer (if there is one), for whom they can turn to for help and meet other people with like systems. It is still published, from time to time, in Acorn User, and is included in every copy of Foundation RISC User.
But what of the new players in the RISC OS computer market? Are they willing to put in the effort of including an AAUG flier with every machine they make? RiscStation, who have had a page on their website about AAUG for some time, were the first to respond, and have agreed to include a flier with every machine. Castle also respond positively, and have agreed to include a flier, and will shortly add a link from their website.
Create a Larger "Force" in the RISC OS Market
By pooling resources, AAUG is able to provide more for its members. Through AAUG, clubs that are located in adjacent geographical areas are able to hold joint events. In the case of many of the regional RISC OS shows, AAUG groups provide the backbone of the planning and implementation of them. The biggest example of this has been the replacement to the Acorn World show: the RISC OS 1999 and 2000 Shows. Whilst primarily organised by the ARM Club, very significant input was provided by three other AAUG-affiliated clubs: ROUGOL, SASAUG and BAUG.
Offer a Centrally Managed Discount Scheme
Before the creation of AAUG, many of the existing user groups had negotiated their own discounts from local or national RISC OS suppliers. AAUG were quick to combine these to offer all clubs and usergroups who are members of the Association access to a centralised scheme. This immediately offered an increased number of participating companies and similarly improved range of discounts. This makes joining a usergroup more attractive to prospective members, yet also benefits existing ones.
RISC OS vendors also be benefit as they only have to deal with one contact. They appear in a 'discount directory' (below) as a list of companies who are prepared to offer members of all the computer groups discounts on their products or services. This is published on the AAUG website, and is also included with every Foundation RISC User issue. It is also reproduced below. Have a look through it - maybe there is something that you were about to buy?
Promote Communication and Co-operation Between Clubs
This was considered an important point when AAUG was founded, and they have achieved much with this aim. AAUG runs two mailing lists, one for user group committees, the other for user group members. In addition, in 2000 they set up a SmartGroup for committee members, which has proven very useful in many respects. It is hoped that the calendar of events (meetings, shows, etc.) can be made use of by user group members.
Assist in the Creation of More Local RISC OS Groups
AAUG has been able to help set up two new user groups in the last couple of years. The first of these was ROUGOL (RISC OS User Group of London), which filled a much needed gap in the user group scene for London. Apart from regular meetings, and providing much needed input into organising the RISC OS Shows, they have been responsible for the creation of two Education initiatives. The RISC OS Education Mailing List has been of much help bringing together teachers who are still using RISC OS machines (yes, there are lots of us still!). In addition to this, ROSES (the RISC OS Educational Resources Site) has provided a central point where resources can be shared with others. Without ROUGOL, neither initiative would have seen the light of day. Without AAUG, nor would ROUGOL. It all helps to strengthen the user base - and that is good for all concerned.
Late in 2000, a number of ROUGOL members, with assistance from AAUG, spun off the unusually named M25 East RISC OS User Group (M25EROUG). This group caters for users in the Eastern region of the M25, including West Essex, and is already going from strength to strength.
Is your nearest RISC OS user group hundreds of miles away? Do you know of other RISC OS users in your area? Why not form your own RISC OS user group? The association can provide assistance! By drawing on the experiences of its members, they can help you to create your own local RISC OS User groups.
At the current time, there are two groups on the drawing board. Both have yet to fully take shape. These are:
Birmingham(contact firstname.lastname@example.org if interested in becoming involved).
Northern Ireland(contact NIAUG@aaug.net if interested in getting involved).
Exhibit at RISC OS User Shows, Allowing Individual Clubs' Promotion
AAUG generally exhibit at most of the RISC OS shows. In doing so, they also coordinate member clubs to allow them to exhibit on our stand. This gives all user groups the opportunity to promote themselves at the big RISC OS shows. The first example of this was Acorn World '97. Since then, many user groups have joined us on the stand. If, of course, a group is unable to attend, AAUG are able to include leaflets, and so on, about them on the stand.
Plan and Co-ordinate Guest Speakers Around the Country
Many companies are prepared to visit RISC OS user groups and demonstrate their products. One of the original aims of AAUG was to look into keeping a directory of companies who are willing to do this. In addition, they had hoped to maintain a list of companies who are willing to give sponsorship in the form of advertising in newsletters, etc. Sadly, neither of these has yet seen the light of day, but there is no doubt in my mind that they could still be useful.
AAUG has undoubtedly been of tremendous benefit to all users of RISC OS computers, even those are not members of user groups. It has helped to maintain a positive outlook for the platform, and is to be commended. Neil Spellings' original baby has grown strong with age. With the forthcoming birth of new machines from all three major players (and the possibility of a solar-powered portable manufactured in Africa from Explan!), I have every confidence that RISC OS's future will be assured, and the user groups served well from their umbrella organisation. It is certainly an association that many other computer platforms could do worse than to try to emulate. We are indeed fortunate.