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Investigating Free Software Users Groups in South America

by xavier last modified 2009-06-30 11:00

Free software has an important difference compared to privative models: their users are able to cross the line of being just consumers and become providers of technology. This fosters the development of a social environment in which users, developers and different organization join with the purpose to socialize, study, improve software, share knowledge and promote. Such spaces are known as Users Groups.

Based on articles by Roberto Allende: users-groups-part-1 and users-groups-part-2

This article investigates the creation and development of successful users groups in South America. After detailing the organizational aspects of users groups, it presents a number of successful Users Groups in South America.

Background and growing maturity

From the beginning, Users Groups have contributed significantly to free software. Their activities are usually aimed at promotion, education, support and socialization. According to an investigation that took place within several open source communities, as Users Groups mature, their activities evolve following 3 stages.

The first stage is centered on devices and the community generated around it. For example Linux and its related users groups. A second stage of evolution happens when sub-projects develop around the core technology. For example, the Linux distributions and related Communities. In the end, the third stage of maturity is reached when the communities acquire a power of lobby and have an impact on the technology adoption.

Luciano Ramalho – “Python Brazil is now in the second stage. The Community began from devices such as sites and mail lists. Lists are easy to administer but not the sites. In consequence, it appears the necessity to organize a group. Besides that, the Association is generating new projects, such as formation of local groups, the conference PyCon Brazil, etc.”.

Spreading Free Software and fostering innovation

Users Groups have been successfully able to spread Free Software technologies, collaborative model and philosophy. It is amazing to see how far users groups have progressed taking in account that most activities are supported by voluntary work. By regrouping people sharing the same interest and values, users groups make possible the creation of truly collaborative environments. These motivating environments foster innovation and are the base of the open source model sustainability.

South America a fertile ground for Users Groups

This part presents several South American users groups closely related to the Python/Zope/Plone technological stack.

Plone Southern Cone - Plone Cono Sur

In 2005, PloneConoSur founding members attended most Free Software events in South America to promote Plone. Plone Southern Cone was founded after a year of establishing contacts in different parts of the region. The group aims to develop cross border collaborations and tackle more efficiently common issues. The group is now reaching 150 experts from 14 countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela.


Python Brazil Association

The Civil Association was founded in 2007. It counts 70 active members. Python Brazil began with two discussion lists, Python Brazil y ZopePt (Zope Portuguese). Both groups have a great amount of users: Python-Brazil counts 2847 members and ZopePt 1039 members. A third list, Django-Brazil,  counts 945 members. These lists were created the same year than the International Forum on Software Libre (FISL), which served as a foundation and a meeting place for members.


PyAr, Python Argentina

PyAr joins Python’s users and developers. This group began in 2004 and it does not have formal structures. Nowadays, it has 30 active members and 400 subscribers in a mail list. PyAr turn to foundations as Vía Libre to carry out acts that require legal standing, such as events organization or financing of activities.