Affiliate News

Washington Area Affiliate Thrives

WAUUG has expanded from 200 to 1,400 members in recent years

Founded in 1987, the Washington Area UNIX Users Group (WAUUG), is one of the healthiest in UniForum's worldwide family of affiliate organizations. Headed by a full-time executive director, Alan Fedder, WAUUG's membership has grown from 200 in 1989 to more than 1,400 today, some 475 of whom are joint members with UniForum. Membership has nearly doubled in the past two years. WAUUG holds its own annual trade show, Open Systems World/Fed UNIX. It publishes a thick monthly newsletter that's mailed to a wide Washington-area audience, and attracts up to 200 attendees to its monthly meetings.

When WAUUG was founded, it combined two older UNIX groups, one for federal employees and another for the private sector. Fedder, an early member, remembers that the initial goal was for the founding members, mainly independent software developers, to find a marketplace for their products. "They succeeded," Fedder says.

The turning point in WAUUG's story came in 1989, when Fedder was hired as executive director and the organization raised its goals. An aggressive corporate sponsorship program was begun. That gave the organization the resources to improve its services, including the quality of the newsletter and speakers. Fedder was appointed an ex officio member of the UniForum Board of Directors in 1992, representing affiliate groups.

The first conference was held by WAUUG in December 1989, called the Federal Open Systems Conference, and had 100 attendees. "It was really designed to help senior-level federal executives learn about standards and procurement, to educate them about what was coming," Fedder says. Since 1990 a trade show has been held in conjunction with the conference. This year's event will be held in the Washington Convention Center Nov. 28 through Dec. 2 and is expected to attract 10,000 attendees. Included in the conference are nine tracks including six developers' conferences, 20 full-day tutorials, and 50,000 square feet of exhibit space. "The conference is known for its heavy-duty content," Fedder says. This year it includes a version of The Santa Cruz Operation's SCO Forum, as well as developers' conferences for SunSoft/Solaris, Novell, Windows NT, World-Wide Web/Motif, and Linux users. Information on the conference is available by calling (301) 953-9600.

To expand its membership, WAUUG mailed its newsletter to a wide audience and set up booths at every major Washington trade show. "We got good speakers and our reputation grew," Fedder says. "There was a fair amount of controversy and we didn't shy away from it. The word was out that if you wanted a fair forum for your point of view, this user group was not going to jump on you. We were interested in the success of UNIX, not anybody's particular version. So we had a reputation as a great place to air out disagreements."