Washington Apple Pi

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Frustrated By Your Computer? Try a User Group

This is a transcript of a radio spot. If you have the proper equipment, you can download and listen to the entire radio spot, in the form of a 2.3 megabyte MP3 file.


By David Ottalini

WAP VP for Publicity

January, 2002

Feature Title: Frustrated by your Computer? Try a User Group.

TRT: 4:07

Talent: When Americans talk about computers these days, they're also talking about the Internet. The Census Bureau says as of August 2000, 54 percent of all households in the US have access to a computer. Four out of five households with computers has at least one person online.
And while the statistics reflect a rapid acceptance of computers and the Internet, they don't indicate the frustration level users are feeling about their machines in general.
MOS: (SOT: W-02 "trying to figure things out on my own is frustrating and a lonely experience.")
Talent: People want to use their computers as if they were appliances. Manufacturers sell them that way. But the reality is something completely different. There's at least one instance of a user shooting his computer when it didn't work right. And there are numerous web sites that joke about the frustrations of owning a computer.
In fact, setting up a computer may be the easiest part of the process. Learning how to use it and all the programs installed on it can be a daunting process.
Getting help these days from the manufacturer can be expensive. And all the news about viruses, worms and hackers throws additional worry into the mix. That's why user groups are becoming a growing force against computer frustration:
MOS: (MOS SOT: "its a collection of people who are knowledgable about the hardware, the software. A lot of times you can't get an intelligent answer to a question from a retailer. ")
Talent: Computer user groups have been around since the earliest days of computing. PC, Mac, Linux, Palm, there's a group for every taste and color. But that's no guarantee of success. Groups had had their ups and downs over the years.
In fact, a number of the larger groups have goneunder thanks to bad management, overspending and lack of support.
But things are changing - and user groups are taking center stage as a way to focus support at the local level:
SOT: (Joiner SOT: "We all gain so much by sharing.")
Talent: Chuck Joiner is the President of the Hershey, Pennsylvania Macintosh Users Group. He says user groups are no longer being taken for granted by manufacturers like Apple Computer.
SOT: (Joiner SOT: "They're the people that are going to go out and - to use a tired term - evangilize the product so that people - other people that maybe wouldn't have considered them or taken them seriously are going to look at them seriously.")
Talent: User groups are everywhere - in small towns, college campuses, government facilities and large cities. Washington Apple Pi is one of the largest Macintosh groups in the USA - they're based in Rockville, Maryland.
Member Jon Thomason says there's really only have one reason for having user groups:
SOT: (Thomason SOT W-03: "Washington Apple Pi is a group where members help members learn about their computers.")
Talent: And President Lorin Evans says its that process of learning that helps get ridof the frustrations users many times feel:
SOT: (Evans SOT: "The social nature of the group makes it very comfortable for you to come ask your question - there are no bad questions, there are no wrong questions and to get the kind of answers that will help you move along.")
Talent: User groups offer members services that include monthly newsletters, Internet and email services, recycling, repairs and software/ hardware installation. There's even computer "garage sales" and demonstrations by vendors. Tutorials offered by many groups are increasingly popular:
SOT: (SOT : "A couple of evening sessions and they'll teach you everything there is to know about your computer from the user's point of view.")
Talent: Hershey MUG's Chuck Joiner says overall - at least on the Mac side of users groups - members are doing a better job of letting the public at large know what they are doing - and why. As a result, people are joining.
SOT: (Joiner SOT: "MUGs have always been doing cool things, it's just that it was a pretty well kept secret. And now MUGs are learning about publicity and how to interact with the larger community."
Talent: And WAP's Evans says it's that interaction - and support for members - that will determine the success - or failure of user groups in the future: They are, he says, one way to help end the frustrations that inevitably come with computer ownership.
In Washington, I'm Dave Ottalini reporting.