Greater Orlando Linux Users Group Presents
The Rise of Multiple LUGs in Orlando

GoLUG was formed February 21, 2004. In January 2005 two more Orlando LUGs formed -- the Forensic LUG and the UCF LUG. Orlando's LUGs are listed below, in order of age:
The UCF LUG could be considered the oldest, preexisting all Orlando LUGs, including the now defunct ELUG, but in fact it has had a several year interruption, and therefore is most accurately considered to be brand new.

Why did this happen? Until 2004, conventional wisdom held that an area so geographically small and technologically unsophisticated as Orlando could sustain only one LUG. Indeed, when ELUG split into ELUG and LEAP in 1999, ELUG died in 2000.

What has changed is barrier to entry. A LUG can now be formed at zero cost by anyone with a commercial website and the required level of leadership skill, because modern web hosts allow multiple domains. Even for those without commercial websites, a web/email host can be found for less than $10.00 per month. Additionally, more locations than ever are willing to host LUG meetings.

In hindsight, it was expected. Years ago there were only a few magazines serving the entire population. Now we've entered an age of specialization, with magazines serving a narrow niche. Now you not only have sports magazines, but magazines for each sport, and within each sport different niches. Same with television. The 1 indy and 3 network stations of the 1950's has been replaced by hundreds of cable channels.

In larger cities such as Los Angeles, there are many more LUGs than could be justified by geography or drive time. This has been a nationwide trend that is now coming to Orlando.

Geographically Orlando might be able to support two LUGs. Geography has little to do with the proliferation of LUGs in OTown. Instead, the LUGs distinquish themselves in issues of focus, culture, dues, audience and other factors.

With the barrier to entry being almost zero, I predict even more LUGs to come. Newer LUGs will be small enough to meet in small offices or even homes. As they grow larger, their members will have enough ties to the community to get larger meeting places.

This does not bode well for corporate LUGs, which by law must maintain a bank account, file taxes, and file a yearly report. Bank accounts cost between $5.00 and $15.00 per month. Taxes are miniscule, but completing them typically requires the services of an accountant, which isn't cheap. The yearly corporate report for a not for profit in Florida is $61.25.  All of this money must be paid for by member dues. Collecting dues isn't difficult in a one LUG town, but in an environment where several LUGs cost nothing, it could prove difficult.

LUG cooperation presents an opportunity and challenge. The opportunity is the ability to bring big name Linux people to town in conjunction with trade shows. The challenge is working within the framework of the culture differentiation that caused multiple LUGs in the first place. Only the future will tell how this all shakes out.


In the last couple decades there's been a trend away from generality and toward specificity, in television, magazines, and websites. As barrier to entry became cheaper (Internet, on-demand publishing, cable TV), specialty media emerged for the simplest possible reason -- because they could.

We've seen the same trend in LUGs. Forming a LUG in 1998, back when web hosting a single domain cost $40.00 per month, was an expensive affair. Starting and maintaining a LUG was difficult.

Today, if one looks hard enough, one can get such hosting for $6.00 per month. Moreover, most web hosting now offers multiple domains and mailing lists, meaning that someone with an existing hosting account can host a LUG's website and mailing list free of charge. Anyone can form a LUG. Keeping that LUG vital and active requires only leadership -- a quality very prevalent in the Linux community.

I believe there will be even more Orlando LUGs in the future, super-serving smaller memberships than today's megaLUGs. Hopefully the LUGs will cooperate to bring in big names and events.