Last week, I went and scouted a local user group, both to keep current on some tech issues and to start thinking about what TechRepublic can do to help user groups operate more effectively. After all, UGs are basically offline versions of our community–talking (mostly) tech, sharing solutions, and bucking for free swag–so it seems a natural fit.

 A lot of ideas came up: a private forum, maybe some gated FTP space, maybe a private newsletter (or a private version of a larger newsletter), almost certainly some online-invitation functionality. Nothing groundbreaking; it’s all about ease of use and, of course, being free of charge.

In the middle of the meeting, however, one of the attendees tqlked about his efforts to collect obsolete laptops for refit, so they can be sent to GIs in Iraq for personal correspondence purposes. This resonated with a few people in the room, as they themselves were ex-military or military reservists.

This fits with what I’ve noticed anecdotally in our forums–there are a lot of military, reserve, and ex-military IT pros. I don’t know how many there are–heck, maybe we should make military experience a field on the profile page–but I suspect that its not an insignificant number. I’m wondering if we should have a “Military IT” forum or newsletter, or maybe some kind of authenticated badge for ex-military members. Just a thought, maybe I’ll float it as a thread later this week.