Saturday, June 22, 2013

Community Conferences Changed My Life, and They Can Change Yours

2012 was the first time I attended a community conference.  I'd been hearing for years about Codemash, and I finally got it approved so that I could attend.

No kidding, the conference changed my life.

Up until then, I'd been a corporate drone.  Excited about my craft, sure, and always engaged in learning more.  But otherwise shielded from the true development community by a familiar company directive: "We're not a software company; we're a <insert domain here> company."

Codemash really opened my eyes to the world behind the world.  It woke me from the Matrix.  And since then I've decided to speak up, and be part of The Cult of Do.  I want to be a driver, not just in my life, but in the community that I see can benefit us all so much.

It motivated me so much that I decided to commit to something crazy.  I decided that I was going to become a voice in the community and recently gave my first big-boy technology presentation at the Lake County .NET User Group meeting.  Another great community organization dedicated to making great technologists even better.

And yeah, I'm a .NET guy.  I have been since 2001, and I know it best.  But I'm interested in all kinds of technology.  I had a great time meeting up with the guys at OpenHack Naperville and talking Ruby, for example.  I love mobile and HTML5 development.  All of it is fun, and it's like I've rediscovered everything I liked about programming.

Now I don't want to diss big conferences like Build, Mix, or TechEd.  They have their place, and I've learned a lot from them.  The community conferences, however, are so much more vibrant and full of life.  They are places of people sitting and coding in the hallways.  They are places where the speakers are so excited about their topics that they donate their time to evangelize.

And then Clark Sell and I got to talking.  He was starting up a community conference in the Wisconsin Dells called That Conference.  I had to be part of it.  I worked with a fantastic group of volunteers to put on what was the best technology conference I've ever been to.  The most energetic, the most engaging, and the most educational conference I could have asked for.

That was just the first year.  Last August.  2012.

Recently I had a discussion with an engaged, enthusiastic, and very talented developer I work with about the relative merits of TechEd and That Conference, both of which he's been to in the past year.  He told me that TechEd was good, but that the enthusiasm of That Conference was infectious.  The speakers didn't all have the same corporate polish, but what they brought was something more.  Something different.

And that's what we're offering with That Conference.  It's the importance of community. It's completely technology agnostic, and there are sessions for everything from hardware to software. I think you should come out and join us.

Better still, we've inked a deal with the Kalahari Resort and got That Conference scheduled out for 2014 and 2015 already!  Plan your training budgets accordingly!

Change your life.  Enjoy your career.  Come have dinner or a beverage with me, and let's talk about how community can work better for you.  Or contact me through my website.

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