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New Virtual Java Users Group Goes for Global Membership

Ready for a shot of "Vitamin V"? If you're one of those Java jocks with no access to a local User Group, that's just the professional supplement you need, say the folks at Zeroturnaround's RebelLabs. The Java toolmaker's research and content organization has launched a new virtual Java User Group (vJUG) that aims to provide "a central online hub of Java-related knowledge, accessible to developers everywhere regardless of location," according to the company.

Although it was officially unveiled Tuesday, this online version of the real-world social component of the Java community already has almost 400 member signups. The vJUG initiative is sponsored by RebelLabs and it was launched by the company's technical evangelist, Simon Maple. "Whether you don't have access to a local Java community, your current JUG isn't active, or you are simply looking to expand your network, vJUG is the modern solution for today's developer," Maple said in a statement. "You can think of us like a supplement for existing JUGs, 'Vitamin V' if you will…."

JUGs have long been a valuable community resource for Java professionals, not to mention a great place for cheap beer and pizza. These volunteer organizations create opportunities to share information and to network with other Java practitioners. Most have some kind of Web presence, of course, and there are virtual groups out there. But the essential purpose of a JUG has been to get people together, in the flesh. (And to drink beer and eat pizza.)

"We're not looking to steal the spotlight [from] local JUGs," Maple said, "which we love. In fact, the opposite: we want to work with JUGs to expand the benefits of membership and give the community more content, ideas and reach."

And yet, in its announcement, RebelLabs sort of damns the status quo with faint praise. To wit: "While traditional Java User Groups act as the main official Oracle/Java-endorsed vehicle for collaboration, conversation, and various opportunities within local developer communities, vJUG provides a central online hub of Java-related knowledge, accessible to developers everywhere regardless of location."

And then there's a comment in the press release that I think is attributed to Oliver White, head of RebelLabs (the punctuation makes that unclear): "Local Java communities benefit most from remaining tight-knit, and we're excited bring support to a community that some say has lost much of its former strength and voice. Through vJUG, we hope to reinforce the global JUG community with more interaction, stronger networks and a louder voice."

The Java community can always use more resources and opportunities for interaction, and if vJUG fills a real need, it should get a big thumbs up. And I get that they're going for a global version of the local organizations, an entity that "aims to close the geographic constraints among Java developers around the world."

I'm not sure, however, about this idea that the existing JUGs are losing their "strength and voice." According to Patrick Curran, chair of the Java Community Process (JCP), the recent success of the Adopt-a-JSR program has been largely due to the efforts of JUGs around the world. In fact, as I reported last month, that program is considered "JUG-lead," and was the brainchild of two user groups: the London Java Community in the U.K. and SouJava in Brazil. Both are voting members of the organization, which gives them a pretty big voice. The list of participating JUGs also includes GoJava (Brazil), Houston JUG (US) and Chennai JUG (China).

Also, it's hard to get excited about virtual beer and pizza.

BTW: The java.net Web site maintains a nice list of JUGs and JUG resources.

Posted by John K. Waters on November 5, 2013