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Are there other BUGs

H: Are there other BUGs? Do you work with them directly?

PB: Actuate tell us that we are the first BUG worldwide - which we are quite pleased about! I understand that there is a French user group in the making and we are intending to work with any and all BUGs just as soon as they get up and running. We are in a position to help people form local user groups as we now have the experience of a successful launch behind us and, in the community spirit, would be delighted to be contacted by anyone who would like to benefit from our experience, but also hope to learn from others too.

H: What kind of mix of users vs developers are you seeing?

PB: We seem to have three categories of member at present, each occupying about a third of the roster. Developers who are essentially people who are either freelance or employed creators of reports and extenders of BIRT, users who are essentially people who are using the application to produce their own reports from an end user perspective and the third category, people who are interested in it from a commercial perspective. This is only a rough estimate at the moment though and I am keen to see how things develop in this area.

H: How did the inaugural meeting go for you?

PB: Better than expected! We were initially targeting 20 attendees and we managed 25 on this meeting. The presentations were well accepted and we were delighted that Actuate were able to give us a sneak preview of version 11 of their product, which looks really good. The thing I liked most about the event itself was that the audience provided a good level of interaction with the presenters, were lively and I noticed that many people were circulating and discussing issues between themselves so the networking aspect worked really well too.

H: What's the plan for the rest of 2010?

PB: We are reviewing the feedback with particular interest in the frequency of meetings that members would like, the location and the content. A user group has to meet the needs of its users and the only way to achieve this is to listen to what the users want and then find a way of accommodating it! Early indications suggest that new product presentations are always interesting but that some more detailed technical information, trainings and "how to's" would be quite popular too. We will be discussing these topics further with our members over the coming weeks and formulating plans for future meetings, newsletters and special events.

H: How have Actuate helped you kick the group off? And what will be the groups relationship?

Zoom Actuate show what they can do with BIRT in Actuate 11
Actuate have been brilliant in helping us to get this off the ground, one would have expected them to take a seriously commercial standpoint on their involvement, but right from day one they stated that they wanted to do whatever they could to get the user group up and running, but that they also wanted it to become a truly independent operation that was for the benefit of users rather than their own commercial gains. They provided Mica Block to present the main session for us, assisted with pre-event marketing and provided people to help staff the event. I think that Actuate know that the key to commercial success of the product is happy users of the open source product and so they are putting a lot of effort in to ensuring that the open source product is successful and meets the needs of it's users. Plus whilst we also want the BUG to deliver good value to users of the open source system we have a number of members who are interested in BIRT from a commercial perspective so we can see that there is a need to support users at all levels of the spectrum.

The most important thing for us is that we can remain independent and drive the BUG forward in a manner that works for the members and Actuate are enthusiastic to assist us in this. Years ago software vendors tried to ensure that end users and prospective customers didn't find out about software's shortcomings at a pre-sales stage. This paradigm seems to have changed in recent times with the inception of the "time limited preview version" and now fully open source, fully capable versions, with commercial extras. In other words Actuate are, in my opinion, providing a lot of genuine value, "up front" in the hope that they will be able to learn from their user community and create software that fills genuine need, thus creating lasting relationships for years to come. This open approach can only be good for both suppliers and users.

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