It’s interesting – sitting here writing a few emails, sending a few tweets – I was reminded of a me from not so long ago. He was the one that tried to convince you that conferences aren’t about the talks. He pointed out that the real key to conferences was the people you met there. I’d sort of forgotten him until just this morning, and I wanted to invite him back to the stage.
See, the key to it all is the people. Sure, you can talk about one confernece or another specifically, but then you’d lose sight of the one thing that binds them all together. Without the community attending these events, well, there’d be no event at all. It takes all kinds too. There’s the first-timer that’s not quite sure about everything and everyone, but recognizes names from blogs and the speaker list (hint: this was me). There’s the seasoned conference-goer that has been around the block a few times and knows how things really work and then there’s the tireless staff of the events that work sometimes all year long to pull these events off as flawlessly as they can. Each and every one of them has a place in this community but the key is – they’re all people just the same. Without that human connection between them, the community fails and falters and could just sputter and die like we’ve seen from other languages in the past.
Conferences with their talks and tutorials are great – don’t get me wrong. That’s what gets me to the event half the time. There’s several sessions that I’m looking forward to at this year’s tek and PHP Community Confernece (oh, how I wish i’d been accepted to DPC) but what I’m looking forward to the most is seeing my friends. IRC and email just doesn’t cut it. Sitting down with a group of people that get me and know me, either through the work I’ve done or just from talking online, is priceless. We bounce ideas off of each other, crack jokes about the downfalls of other languages (with names based on precious stones) and just generally have a good time.
There is no other place like it and my wish for you is that you pick one of the upcoming conferences and get out there. Sure, the talks are great, but being able to sit down with other developers that understand where you’re coming from and might know where you’re headed is something to treasure.
Oh! And don’t forget – if you can’t make it to a conference, there’s an excellent alternative….your local user group! There’s a whole group of people right in your backyard that have all of this and more.