Conferences and Tribes

A few weeks ago after I attended Web Directions South, I read a great post by Mark Boulton, Being Together, that got me thinking quite a bit about conferences and why I make it a point to attend and what I would really love to see happen.

I attended my first conference 4.5 years ago when I made the trek up to Seattle to attend An Event Apart. It was a fantastic conference. I was blown away by the speakers, the attendees, and the entire experience. I came back with a mind racing full of new ideas that I couldn’t wait to start implementing. So the next year I made it a point to go again and I had the same experience and this time actually got to meet some of the speakers and share lunch. Again, the experience was great. I have attended for 4 years running and then this year I also thought about trying out a different conference, to see what the differences would be. So we decided to vacation in Sydney at the same time as Web Directions South and I attended. The experience was different since it was a multi-track conference and I had a lot more choices on who to hear speak and what topics I would delve into, but the quality of the speakers and the attendees was the same. I walked away thinking about many new things, many of which I am still contemplating.

But then I read Mark’s post, if you haven’t read it, please go ahead and do so, this will make more sense if you do. I have no experience with the Drupal community, but what he described is exactly what I truly love about going to conferences. For me it is about being with my tribe, it is about being in a room full of people who get it, who understand that standards, accessibility, good design, usability; they are important. The attendees at the events are my people. Since I work in a large bureaucracy, it is so wonderful to have two days together where I sit with people who understand and most of all, people who are probably going through the same things I am when I’m back in the office. I spend a lot of time fighting to get things done well, to make sure everyone can access our sites, so to be able to sit in a room full of people and agree on that and then push past it to delve more deeply into different topics is a true joy.

Mark proposes creating a web design association of some type to mimic what the Drupal community does. To have people come together just to be together to make our field better. Discussions would happen more organically and everyone would be able to participate. This sounds so awesome to me. It is something I would definitely want to be a part of because as I’ve continued to attend events in order to be with my people, I will admit that the talks are not as great as they first were. I am so immersed in the community now that I feel I am hearing and reading about a lot of the same things over and over again.

To be able to just be together, that would be wonderful and I would pay to get there to be with my tribe.