OLPC User Groups for the XO: Why Face-to-Face is Critical


Let's hack the OLPC XO!

This week those of us in the U.S. and Canada have been ordering G1G1 XOs, and I think there are bound to be local gatherings of new buyers who want to do more than write email, make comments (here), or modify wikis devoted to the topic. They will want to start local user groups.

I am Steve Cisler. This is my user group story.

I did not touch a computer until I was 41. It was 1984 and I was running Pinole branch, a library in the San Francisco Bay Area. The California State Library had grants for libraries that wanted to provide public access to one (1) computer.

People's Computer Company provided us training. I had seen the Macintosh at Macy's and decided that would be the easiest for me and the public to use. I was the only library out of 60 or so that bought one at that time. Most of the others were Apple II, and the PC.

The public loved the Mac, and along with another colleague I started the East Bay Mac Users Group. Other owners brought their 128K Macs to the library to share, sort of like guys bringing their 50's Chevys etc to the drive in. The group ran for four or five years, then went dormant.

Two years ago in the same Berkeley library a new group formed. Same name but absolutely no knowledge of the one we had started. We have very short memories here in Silicon Valley. I happened to see the meeting notice dropped in, and told my story. Blew their minds.

I use a Mac but I'm not an Apple zealot any more, though the user group changed my life because it led to working at Apple running the Apple Library of Tomorrow program for about nine years, until Mr. Jobs came in, cleaned house, and shut down the Advanced Technology Group in 1997.

How does the eReader work?

I have not attended any user group meeting for many years, but with the rollout of the XO, this is a great opportunity for people in one locale to get together, if only to test the mesh network! Some user groups have been large, well-organized, and long-lasting. The Capitol PC User Group is a good example.

It's a 501 (c)(3) educational non-profit, but others are totally informal with no officers or structure, other than having a time and place to meet. ( I also started a home winemakers group years before the MUG that worked this way.)

I work at Santa Clara University in Silicon Valley, so this is an early call to others interested in the XO. You need not be an owner. Wayan Vota will be starting a OLPC Learning Club for the DC area, and if you are in Churchill, Manitoba or Redford, Texas, feel free to see if others in your area want to meet.

Face-to-face is critical. It's very high rez, and the bandwidth is amazing.

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Ok, sounds like a great idea. Is there a wiki page or a forum where people can start exchanging information? Say for example for starting a Boston Metro area users group?

I know of the Meet Up group, "Mod the XO Laptop", which is the Boston Metro area. http://modifyit.meetup.com/14/calendar/6523842/ Is this the way to go?


I would humbly propose this post as a good starting point.

I'll have details about the OLPC LC/DC up this weekend, once we get organized. You can organize a OLPC LC/Boston if you want. I can point a boston/olpclearningclub.org URL to you too.

Steve said "Face-to-face is critical. It's very high rez, and the bandwidth is amazing."

Outstanding comment, that's going into my quotes collection!

From our experience here at OLPC Austria (www.olpcaustria.org) we can also say that meeting people IRL (in-real-life) is extremely important and makes everything much easier, more efficient and more fun!

One of my goals for the next few months is also to build a strong European OLPC community. One of the things we definitely want to do is organize a meeting somewhere in Europe in Q1/2008 so we can all get together, discuss and the work on the project while having a good time!

In case you're interested in attending such a meeting please don't hesitate to contact me at 'christoph.derndorfer [AT] student.tuwien.ac.at' so we can get in touch!

I like the idea of user groups. But I bet that I can't find any around here. I am in Waldron, AR. I'll bet there are no other people in a 50 mile radius that have ordered an XO. Maybe it I look further afield. Maybe there are some people up in Fayetteville or in Little Rock. I am interested in hearing from anyone who wants to form an Arkansas user group.

Do to the obvious connections with Linux (the OLPC's underlying OS) the many Linux User Groups around the world would be a good place to start.

There is a directory here:

In fact given how much of a nerd the average LUG member is, they'd probably plead with you to bring your XO to a meeting.


I just ordered the XO and am in the interior of Alaska. I would be interested in finding others in my area who have also ordered it for their kids too.
It seems to me that the Mesh function will be less useful in an area like mine, where people are pretty spread out but that something similar could be set up in an online community for the kids. It would be neat to find out if something like this is planned or already set up.

Yes. I think it's a great idea to start local OLPC user groups for all the reasons you mentioned above.

I would like to see a group started for San Francisco, or the Bay Area in general. Any other readers out there who hail from SF?

Sara and Steve Cisler,
I'm in San Francisco, I did my G1G1 at 4am November 12th, I hope it arrives soon! I look forward to "meshing" with you when mine arrives.

The local Linux User Groups appear to be http://www.balug.org/ and http://www.sf-lug.org/

Can I make an odd plea. Could you not have the OLPC owners group inside local Linux groups?

If One Laptop Petr Child is an education project, not a laptop project, the user groups should be learning-focused, not operating system focused.

I really like what is happening with the the OLPC learning groups. I live in the boon docks and f2f will be hard to manage, yet I know we can develop interaction that can be replicated world wide.

I'm in LA and would love to be a part of an LA XO users group, though I'm moving next year, it would be cool to get things started--unless I'm the only one in Los Angeles who ordered one :(

Anyone in LA can contact me through my website.

me too! I'm in nyc and I work for a public school...

Google is your friend:


This looks like the start of a very promising group.


I am not too impressed by OLPC Help. It seems to be a bulletin board set up in early 2006 and not used much since then.

I would much rather see local learning clubs where people could interact in person, with those findings spread via the Internet.

Wayan, I'm really enjoying the OLPC News.

Yes, OLPC Help is fairly sparse with postings right now. I wonder if activity will pick up when more XO's are out there being used. My fear is that there may not be a lot of users in my area for a local learning club, so a bulletin board or user forum would be more helpful, but I guess time will tell...

Hey, Steve, great to see you again not that long ago. As co-founder of the original BMUG (Berkeley Macintosh Users Group), and as someone who has been doing community organizing through Apple and Mac User Groups for a quarter century, I agree: it would be great to see people get together and help each other with support.

Part of the success of Mac User Groups in general and campus groups in particular was Apple's LACK of support... we got quicker, better, cheaper answers from each other, and built the capacity to provide out of necessity. On that base new innovation followed.

As a G1G1 buyer, I'm looking forward to the XO.. and to what the community will be able to do with it. A laptop without consumer-grade support and one that gains new features when you bring multiple units together seems ready-made for creating community.

While nothing beats the bandwidth of Face-to-Face (F2F), the world of User Groups has evolved some since 1984. There's this little internet thing that might be handy and take on some of the functions previously available only through groups... there will be less of a 'guru gatekeeper' role, although we may be more dependent on Linux sysadmins and hackers for custom integration and for reaching deep into the bowels of the machines, less connected to meeting frequency for meeting's sake and more able to focus on special events and topic- or project-specific MeetUps with more of an ad hoc membership, rather than duespaying regulars funding newsletters and other publishing ventures.

I do believe that coworking facilities will be one of the places that we will be able to rely on for ad-hoc XO collaboration, between the density, spontanaeity, and spirit of those places.

Has anyone who has possession of a Beta machine hooked up a USB keyboard too it? I'm thinking of getting one of those keyboards you can roll up and store in your luggage to use on the XO when I take it on trips where I might need to do a lot of typing.

Late post, but, I would love to see someone start a group in Toronto, right after Canadian G1G1-ers get theirs. Wayan I agree with your point, I'm hoping to see groups that would be conducive to the involvement of non-developers and the non-Linux-initiated--researchers, teachers, students, etc.

I'm also in the L.A., Ventura county area and I'm looking around for a user group, so far to no avail. I assume once the XO starts showing up on people's front door, a group will crop up in L.A. lickety-split, but I'm gettin' impatient.
I have nothing to contribute except enthusiasm (no programming experience since Basic in the Apple 2e labs at Jefferson elementary). But I realize that while I'm used to finding some free open source program to accomplish most of my computing tasks (and some I've never even thought of), in this case, given the XO limited distribution and spanking newness, some of what I want the XO to do I gotta get it to do myself. If anybody is planning on starting up somethin', drop a post and we'll hook up.

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