Regional PUGs round-up

What does it take to start up and maintain a regional GIS  Petroleum Users Group?

Shared Interest, common issues, leadership…

All this and some more practical things too like time, facilities and sometimes a little funding.


Many Regional groups get their start as a few GIS people share stories of common problems then grow into a more public discussion.  Sometimes a centrally located company will offer to host a meeting.  The discussions and audience grows into a more frequent event with a social\networking event afterwards.  Then in 20 years you have a conference with 1500 attendees.  Not all groups will follow this model, but some key learning’s from the groups that have already been around for a while are;

  •   Maintaining a list of contacts.  This can seem like a small bit of work at the beginning with only a dozen or so initial attendees but quickly grows.  Maintaining a distribution list of contacts over the years as people move jobs and locations can be troublesome.  Let LinkedIn maintain the list.  Members can join a group and update their own contact information.
  •  Funding – Once a group grows beyond a few colleagues gathering at the local watering hole, some kind of sponsorship will be needed for refreshments.  Keeping funding fair and transparent may take some effort.  Accounting of funds will become necessary at some point.  Each region is a bit different about banking requirements but the basic steps for US are; Declare and name organization with state, request EIN from Department of Treasury, Open a bank account as the named organization with designated treasurer and alternate. Apply for tax exempt status 503(c) with IRS.   Special thanks to the Denver PUG for sharing the process for bank account creation.  Here is a link to help with starting a non-profit


Regional PUG News:

The North Texas PUG has put out a call for papers, and is having a happy hour on 10 Oct.

The European PUG will be 6-7 Nov. in London.

The Appalachia PUG is hosting a social event the first week of Nov.

The San Antonio PUG is off to a good start.

The Houston PUG held lively panel discussion on AGOL in Sep.

The Denver PUG meets the second Thursday in Nov.,Feb., May & Aug.

The Australian PUG met in Perth on Aug. 7th


Robert Graham, PUG Regional Liaison

The PUG would like to thank our sponsors for their support: Blueback Reservoir, BP, Coler & Colantonio (a CHA company), Esri, Exprodat,  Latitude Geo, Logic Solutions Group, GeoPropel, Landworks, Schlumberger, Spatial Energy, TeachMeGIS and Trimble.



One Comment on “Regional PUGs round-up

  1. Hi Robert,

    Thanks for bringing up this topic. I think it is a great thing to discuss. At least from my viewpoint, my opinion is pretty different. It might depend what people want from the group. In my case, it was not a socially focused group, it was a group focused on bringing content to GeoTechs who didn’t have the opportunity to travel and see these things live. Here’s a different point of view based on what I did when starting the Denver PUG.

    1. Determine your mission first. Are you trying to reach those that cannot make it to the yearly Petroleum User Conference (GeoTechs mainly), or are you trying to reach GIS managers and other manager types? If you are trying to reach GIS managers, setup a different group. 🙂

    2. Once your mission is determined, focus on content. Content will drive attendance and interest in GIS and the group. For example, if your mission is to reach GeoTechs, don’t focus on GIS Manager related content, like SDK’s, Server, Silverlight etc. Focus on content that will drive the GeoTechs to the meeting.

    3. Create a constitution that EVERYONE understands and that EVERYONE follows. The constitution should not be easy to change. It should transcend through the years. For example. items in the constitution may include laws like no vendors on the committee, no vendor presentations except for Esri, Microsoft, Google, etc. Whatever you think will further the mission that you determined. If anyone diverts from the constitution, give them hell. You’re doing the right thing for the group, just not for that person. Don’t worry about it their feelings.

    Based on my experience, if you have the first three, you are good to go and will be successful. This doesn’t mean it will be easy, all fun, or gain you more friends.

    Here are the do not’s that I have seen, and I think impact successful regional groups when it comes to attendance and value:

    – Do not allow vendors on the committee
    – Do no allow vendor presentations (except for core business tools that EVERYONE uses, such as Microsoft, Google and Esri)
    – Only do BUSY work if you need to. When we started, non-profits with less than $5,000k in revenue did not need to register. Maybe this has changed now so please check your state. Focus your time on the core mission with regards to content and the target audience
    – Do not target both GIS managers and GIS Technicians. Focus on one, hopefully the GeoTechs, as there are more of them and they could probably benefit the most
    – Don’t make it about you – make it about the mission and the target audience – don’t do the presentations yourself – find a peer or different topic (are you a GeoTech??)
    – Don’t worry about the funding, that’s the easy part… it really is… if you have good content and an audience, you will have vendors begging you to sponsor
    – If you a doing it for fun and as an excuse to find more time with your peers – realize what it is and realize that you will not make a real impact – the gig is probably not for you
    – Remain independent (no vendors) – choose the content that will bring in the audience
    – Don’t underestimate the value of the website, or how many people read it when it offers new and valuable content. It’s also the first port of call for people searching for the group or looking up the next meeting time. Do not have multiple channels of communication – this confuses people and lists start to get lost, transferred and harder to manage over time
    – Refresh the committee regularly, and somehow, determine who the guardian for the group will be for years in the future (for example, someone like Charles Fried). This can be a tough one, but I really think is needed to protect the group from ego and self interest.

    Even in Denver, we have seen attendance fall and movement away from our constitution over time. For someone who is not involved anymore, it’s obviously a challenge for those who are new to this… but hopefully mistakes are learned and not made twice. I give the Denver folks hell every now and then when I think the constitution has been trashed (it happens at least once a year). I really think that staying focused on theme and target is the key to making a difference and having a successful group that will last the test of time.

    Anyways, hope this helps someone and helps add value to those who really want to facilitate the learning process.

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