Alfresco Spring Meetups, Community Participation Makes the Difference
As the community manager for Alfresco (news, site), I interact in a variety of ways with our members but most of the time our conversations take place over the great expanse of the “Interweb”.  It is, therefore, a great pleasure to see faces, shake hands, and listen to what our community has to say at our meetup events.

Spring Meetups Under Way

Our spring meetup series, going on now, takes us to several cities in the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, the UK and for the first time, Brazil. By the time we're finished, we will have had the pleasure of spending a day with well over 1,000 community members.

It is a full program that starts with an Alfresco update on ECM market trends and the message is a good one. Contrary to the inescapable flood of bad economic news, open source spending is actually on the upswing and Alfresco is a beneficiary of that trend.

At the US events, our WCM visionary, Michael Uzquiano delivers the roadmap and vision presentation.  Jeff Potts posted a good summary on his blog.

Encouraging Two-Way Conversations

These meetups are most productive when the format encourages a two-way conversation. They are our best chance to listen to the community, hear what they need from us and get their feedback on our product direction. At the New York meetup, we had the great fortune to hear from the Warren County Corrections Department.

Warden Byron Foster is a gracious, unassuming man who started by saying how he had been listening to the presentations and while he was sure that they were very informative, he felt like he was from another planet, a low-tech one where they spoke a different language.  He was just a guy with a document management problem on his hands.

He went on to tell us about inmate processing and how it produces a mountain of documents that need to be captured, stored, indexed and easily retrieved. He worked with an Alfresco partner to create an imaging solution using Kofax image capture and Alfresco as the repository.

After the warden described the business problem, his colleague and one of the partner consultants went on to describe the technology behind the solution. It turned out to be a comprehensive integrated system but the complexity was shielded from the end users who found it easy to operate and a huge time saver.

Technology Can Make A Difference

It's easy to get wrapped up in cool technology, there is a lot of it around these days.  For instance, do I really need an iPod with 120 GB? I'll never come close to using all of that space but somehow I have to have it as well as a phone with a GPS, my beloved Chumby and a robotic vacuum cleaner.

The Warren County guys were a good reminder that technology can make a real difference and not just for the technically initiated. Thank-you Warden Foster, Sargent Grant and all the other community members who have shared their experiences with us at our meetups.