I have not paid a lot of attention to LotusUserGroup.org, but it has generally seemed like a "good thing". People I know and respect seem to like it, and have participated in webcasts and forums and such surrounding the organization, so I have had a generally favorable impression. But today I got a phone call from Scott Treggiari of LotusUserGroup.org the that I found fairly disturbing.
On the phone call, Scott told me that LotusUserGroup.org was working fairly closely with IBM at Lotusphere and would be doing live broadcasting from on-site. No problem there, sounds cool. He also said that they would be putting up a Virtual Showcase with additional exposure for the people with pedestals. Again, sounds good, and not far off of what we are doing with the Sessions database. But then he said that by default, you just got your company name and pedestal listed, and if you wanted to buy an upgrade package, your company name could become a URL and you could also have a chance to provide a link to download sales materials.
Buy an upgrade package? Still, I thought maybe they would charge a nominal amount. No chance. It is $750 US to buy the basic upgrade, or for $1000 US you can get a taped interview accessible from your that same Virtual Showcase. There was no explanation of who this would benefit, and he was fairly vague when asked. I had him send along a package, and this is just the beginning. There are $2500 packages for "Ask a Guru" podcasts and other sponsorship deals. The $750 US is only if you buy by Jan. 2, after which it is $1000 US.
I have to say, I am pretty uncomfortable with this. I have worked hard, and am happy to provide a whole lot of information in our annual sessions database for free. I have tried, unsuccessfully, to get IBM to simply provide a list of pedestal numbers along with company names so we could put up a Virtual Showcase, for which we would charge... nothing. I still plan on providing this service, but it is frustrating to find that IBM would rather provide access to LotusUserGroup.org so that they can charge yet another fee to provide information, when we would be happy to provide this and more for free. I understand that LotusUserGroup.org has a need to raise some money for its activities, but this sounds outrageous. Also stupid, since the main Lotusphere site has the URLs for free. This just doesn't seem to fit the spirit of the user group mission to me. Anybody else have any thoughts?
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