Meetups, usergroups, conferences and YOU are the blood in the body of each technology

This is a post that I wanted to write for a long time. I’ve never really finished my thoughts, but I think it’s now time to get that out of my head.

Let’s start with a very important statement: I won’t write about a specific technology or vendor in here. What I want to say is about technology – and passion – in general. Even if my experience is mainly bound to some specific technology.

For the last 16 years I’ve business-wise mainly worked with IBM’s software. It started in 1999 with OS/2 – some fellow readers of this blog may still know this kick-ass operating system – and Lotus Notes, which is known today as IBM Notes. Since then I’ve added lots of stuff to my personal toolbox like enterprise Linux administration, certificate cryptography, web frameworks, different Java technologies, native iOS development and much more.

One thing that has always driven me while learning those new technologies was to exchange knowledge. To learn from others and help others to learn from me. We all have our similar experiences – and do the same mistakes. Learning should be bi-directional and not a one-way street. Especially in those times where everybody seems to solve his problems with Google and Stackoverflow.

So what’s the best way to do that? “In real life” is my answer. There are lots of conferences, usergroups or meetups happening around the world. Every single day. To nearly every technology. Even if you think it’s a niche technology.

I was a long time listener (== attendee). Which has changed in 2009 where I had my first engagement as a speaker. I remember as it was yesterday. It was at UKLUG (the predecessor of ICONUK) in Edinburgh. How would you feel at your “first time”, also not speaking in your native language with a packed room of around 90 people? Knowing that the lead developer of the technology you’re speaking about is also in the room?

It scared the sh*t out of me. And it was great!

Over the last years I’ve taken the opportunity to speak at several national and international events. From large conferences with some thousand attendees down to small meetups with 20 people. Why I’m doing it? Because I can interact in real life with other people that share the same passion (ok, for some it’s only a job but that’s fine for me). Nothing is better than talking during breakfast or late in the evening at the bar about the stuff you like. And believe me – it’s much better than Stackoverflow. 😉

So why I’m writing this?

Because all those events are about YOU. Those events won’t happen if you don’t visit them.

The speakers don’t do this for their own glorification. The organizers don’t do it for their own pocket (except some media corps which organize large events like Jax). They do it because they’re passionate about their technology.

So if you haven’t visited an event till now or if you haven’t visited an event for a long time: Go! Invest your time! Maybe invest also some money (meetups and usergroups are mostly free or only charge small money to cover the expenses for the location or for charity). It’s all worth!

Besides the large IBM or Apple events I’ve visited I’ve compiled a short list of events where you may find me (and for that are highly recommended ;-)):

  • OpenUserGroup Westfalen – a small collaboration user group in Germany
  • ICONUK – the largest IBM User Group event in the UK (it is in September and slots are filling up -> REGISTER NOW)
  • EclipseCon Europe (the name says it all, right?)
  • JavaLand – a newly established Java User Group event in Germany with lastly 1.200 attendees
  • (some more that are not determined at the moment)

Go – visit them. You learn about the stuff you like. And most important: you’ll meet people in real life for exchanging ideas, pain and fun!
PS:
Another good way – besides “googling” – is to use Meetup.com. You can easily find people that share the same interests (not only technology related!) in your area. And hey – if you don’t find anything – start it by yourself. It’s easier than you may think. And believe me – it’s worth.