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Internet Groups Essay, Research Paper

“100% Smoke-free, Microsoft-free, fat-free, caffeine-free environment. No animals were harmed in its creation. No cookies, no ads, no JavaScript. Get involved in the NEW User Group Network!” As soon as I read this intro for The User Group Network (http://www.user-groups.net), I was intrigued. If nothing else, I was immediately curious as to what this cybernetwork group was about, merely because of the added humor. I found out that this group is actually the center for an entire network of groups. So I picked out one group that is apart of the network, and analyzed it’s structure. I chose a group called CEBUG.

CEBUG stands for Computer Erie Bay Users Group (http://cebug.member.apcug.org/index.htm). This group is based in Sandusky, Ohio and it’s members extend throughout Erie County and the surrounding area. Computer groups have the ability to recruit members who are thousands of miles away and yet this group, along with many other groups, is concentrated in one particular area. Location can be a very important resource shared between users, some people are more willing to help out their neighbors rather than someone on the other side of the country. And that is important in this case because giving and receiving help is what this group is all about.

They are a cybernetwork group “dedicated to computer users helping other users.” The shared interest between users is simply computer users who either need help, or are willing to lend help to their fellow members. CEBUG holds nine meetings each year at a local high school. The meetings are open to the public free of charge, however certain privileges such as door prizes are reserved for members. At these meetings, new software, such as Microsoft’s FrontPage 2000, is usually the topic at hand, but demonstrations of software or workshops may also be held.

As far as the authority structure of the group, there is a president, Irene M. Kraus, but as far as I maintenance of the group and its activities, that is mainly taken care of by members and Special Interest Groups (SIGs). SIGs exist within user groups to help further define interest areas, or may be dedicated to the support of certain hardware or software products. Articles on club news or SIG events are available in the newsletter that they send out to their members each month called The CEBUG Swatter. Also included in the newsletters are reviews, how-to articles, commentary, etc.

Membership for CEBUG is $20 a year for an one person and only $25 for an entire family. Some SIGs may require additional fees; however, it is not necessary that a member joins a SIG. There are many perks when one decides to join CEBUG. Members receive a 40% discount off all Mike Murach & Associates computer books, a 15% discount on all books purchased at Waldenbooks, and 20-40% off all Morgan Kaufman Publishing books (group order minimum of 5 books). Members also get discounts on publications from Smart Computing and PC Novice, new special offers on name-brand software which arrive every month, and more.

The survival of a group depends on many variables. Size of the group, homophile of the group, stability over time, resources available, rituals, and cost of leaving all play contribute to the likelihood of survival of the group. From the information I was been able to gather from CEBUG’s web page, I predict that their survival is inevitable.

They do not express how many members they currently have or how long they have been members, so I cannot claim that those factors will necessarily lead to their survival. However, the ties between the group are relatively strong. The members may not know each other, but they live in same general area, and that automatically gives them some type of connection. Also, all of the members join for similar purposes, to either help computer users, be helped, or both. Also, it is not very expensive to join CEBUG, $20 a year is not a lot of money. I am a fairly broke individual, but if I were was in need of help and thought I could offer a fair amount of help to others, I could swing $20 a year. If for some reason an individual decided to terminate his or her membership, the $20 that he or she would lose is not that big of a blow on anyone’s budget. Another advantage that CEBUG has is the network. They are listed in The User Group Network, which is very beneficial. If someone wants to join a group such as CEBUG and is familiar with The User Group Network, it would be very easy to discover them. Not only can they be found on Yahoo!, but they can also be located through with The User Group Network. For these reasons, I do not see how CEBUG would not survive.

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