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Silicon Valley Linux User Group: Editorials

[picture of Ian Kluft]

"Who's the Largest LUG in the World?"
Putting the Issue to Rest

by Ian Kluft, SVLUG Member
Update January 31, 1999
San Jose, California

Well, it looks like I started an international incident with my editorial on Saturday. It opened saying there are two groups who have competing claims to be the largest LUG (Linux user group) in the world. They are the Silicon Valley Linux User Group (SVLUG) in San Jose (Silicon Valley), California and the Skåne Sjælland Linux User Group (SSLUG), which spans across Denmark and (southern) Sweden.

The issue never was so important, about who is the largest LUG. The question really was acknowledging or ignoring others who made the same claim. After a weekend of misunderstandings, we've come full circle to the initial idea of cooperation -- though cooperation is now proposed as an alternative to arguing, rather than ignoring each other. Hopefully, this will put it to rest.

Background: Where Did This Come From?

The makings of this situation go back several months. When SSLUG told SVLUG that they claimed to be the largest LUG in the world, SVLUG began acknowledging that SSLUG also made the same claim we did. But, we needed time to check the numbers. Over the course of several weeks, we decided the groups were just different, and would acknowledge both as competing claims.

We kept seeing cases where SSLUG claimed to be the largest LUG in the world. It wasn't a big deal at first, but the friction grew over time. Things "hit the fan", so to speak, when a BBC article blindly repeated SSLUG's claim.

We'd never asked them to drop their claim, because there are some criteria by which their claim is legitimate. As is ours.

Even though it was fairly late at night when the discussion started on the SVLUG list, you could tell people weren't happy about the BBC article. In response, I put an editorial up on the SVLUG site. (That used to be in the location you found this document. I moved it for historical reference and put this update in its place.) Something we had not succeeded in doing earlier, this did get SSLUG's attention. One of their members/webmasters posted a response. Of course, I also got a bunch of e-mails about the subject, as one can expect after posting an editorial on the Net. :-)

Competition or Cooperation?

You can always count on Murphy's Law to apply when, you post an editorial like this. I was surprised that most of the responses from SSLUG members were disputing little details that I thought were mostly insignificant to the main point, but were sore points of inaccuracy for them. And each one of those points I had gotten directly from their Web page. Fortunately, some polite SSLUG members (including one of their founders) helped talk through this, and they realized they hadn't updated their English Web page in ages. So, they understood where I got my info from. And now we know why some unintentional hostility started for nothing. Both SVLUG and SSLUG are making corrections on our Web sites, as a result of parts of this.

Unfortunately, the point we'd been trying to make was completely lost in the confusion.

Something else drowned the point even further... . We had suggested considering SSLUG and SVLUG to be different categories, since each appeared to cover a different geographical area, national or metropolitan. (This was exaggerated by the English version of SSLUG's page.) But, we've now heard from members of Japan's JLUG and the North Texas Linux User Group with numbers that could challenge in both categories. The idea of checking things like "How do you measure those numbers?" would be counterproductive. (That would be the next question, if this were allowed to continue.)

So, now everyone's tired of the argument. It's been going on all weekend. We can all reach the conclusion that there are too many variables to claim to be the largest LUG any more. As we already knew, several groups could claim the title under different criteria. It's time to drop it.

I'm going to change SVLUG's claim on its Web pages to be "one of the largest" Linux user groups. And I'll encourage the others to do the same. (Actually, by the time I wrote that, SSLUG had already done so. And we have now too.)

I'd like to give credit to all the people on both sides who refrained from flaming each other. Even though some flamage seems inevitable on the Internet, it looks like enough people kept cool heads, so that we quickly found out where the differences and misunderstandings came from.

Many responses included the question, "Can't we cooperate instead of compete?" Well, yes, of course. Actually, there was a third option of ignoring each other, which was happenning before. We'd be glad to choose cooperation over that too.

We already know we have plenty to cooperate on... For example, coming soon is the February 15th Windows Refund Day. Many LUGs are arranging their own local events.

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