Let's be honest, I spend a lot of time at conferences. Over the past 2 years or so I've averaged more than one speaking engagement at a conference per month, including a half-dozen keynotes. I've also helped organize several conferences, mostly DrupalCamps and DrupalCons. I'd estimate conferences make up more than a third of my professional activity. (Incidentally, if someone can tell me how the hell that happened I'd love to hear it; I'm still confused by it.)
As a result I've gotten to see a wide variety of conference setups, plans, crazy ideas, and crazy wonderful ideas. There are many wonderful things that conference organizers do, or do differently, and of course plenty of things that they screw up.
I want to take this opportunity to share some of that experience with the organizers of various conferences together, rather than in one-off feedback forms that only one conference will see. To be clear, while I definitely think there are areas that many conferences could improve I don't want anyone to take this letter as a slam on conference organizers. These are people who put in way more time than you think, often without being paid to do so, out of a love for the community, for learning and sharing, and for you. Whatever else you may think about a conference or this list, the next time you're at a conference take a moment to find one of the organizers and give them a huge hug and/or firm handshake (as is their preference) and say thank you for all the work that they do.
Over the last few years, one of my foci has been bringing together the PHP community and taking the time to celebrate the PHP Renaissance. That effort has taken me all around the world, from Paris to Toronto to New York to Costa Rica to New Zealand. And this summer it's taking me to the Midwestern US as part of the Crafting Code Tour.
Pay It Forward was a 2000 romantic drama featuring Kevin Spacey, Haley Joel Osment, and Helen Hunt. Decently well-received, I found it a good, heart-warming, thought-provoking movie.
It is also an allegory for how open source works.
For those who don't know him, Aaron Seigo is one of the leading KDE developers and community leaders. (KDE doesn't have a "lead developer" position, just as Drupal does not, but my understanding is if you merge Earl Miles and Angie Byon you sort of have Aaron's role within the KDE community.) He also blogs far more than is probably healthy, but his posts, while long, tend to be very spot-on.
His latest article is one that is of particular interest to the Drupal community, I believe, because as a large, minimally-structured, Open Source development community we face many of the same challenges that other such projects do, such as KDE. In particular, the challenge of who to listen to.
The latest in a long line of DrupalCamps was held this weekend at the Milwaukee School of Engineering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It wasn't my first conference or my first BarCamp, but it was my first DrupalCamp. It was also the first event I've been at as a member of the Drupal Association, which meant it was my first event where I was supposed to actively flag for it. No one complained, so I guess I wasn't pushy enough. :-)
Although the turnout was a tenth that of the last DrupalCon, about 40 people, I have to say it was still a blast. Maybe it's just proximity, but I'd almost say it was even more fun than DrupalCon.
January 15th, a day that will live in infamy
I am generally not a very religious person, but sometimes things come together in ways that make me wonder if there is some strange and inexplicable order to the world. 15 January 2008 is one of those days, when three important things happened to me.
The first is, of course, Drupal's 7th birthday. OK, it is not specific to me, but it's still a curious irony given the restof the day.
The second is the completion of the project that got me into Drupal. The reason I use Drupal is finally complete.
And third, I got a new job. Well, sort of. I got more work. :-)