Only made possible because of Devs Like You

Last week, I had the honor of keynoting LibertyJS, the regional Philadelphia JavaScript conference that I helped found 4 years ago. During my keynote, I gave a talk on serverless compute (and why you should care) but then included a microtalk at the end about tech community organizing.

Credit given where due, I took the idea from a session I saw at HOPE last year where Jason Scott followed a fantastic talk with a very moving one about suicide. I was shocked IRL (hi, content warnings are a thing, and one of the ones I need to know is that one), though I was ultimately very moved by the session.

My session was not recorded, which made me feel more free about what I was going to share. After thinking about it, I’ll do my best to relay what I gave. (semi transcript appears after slide embed – this is from memory, so it will not be complete)

[After first part of talk]

That’s not all though. I once saw someone do this at another conference, give a surprise talk, and I thought it was lovely, and also I have the keynote slot so I can do whatever I want.

I was on the founding team of this conference four years ago, and I think there’s something really wonderful about keynoting a conference you help found, and I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about the origin of this conference and tech communities, and I’ll glance over to James [another founding team member], because I didn’t confirm any of this story with him beforehand.

We started LibertyJS because I was talking to James about how I really wanted to have a roof-deck JavaScript party [James nods enthusiastically]. That’s why the first two LibertyJS conferences were in the summer, for roofdeck season. How many of you were at the first LibertyJS? [hands] The second? [hands] Thank you for supporting us. They were great events and we had a great time.

[Slide: It was not always fun] But it wasn’t always a great time.

[Slide: Containing stupid feedback] This is some actual feedback we got from an event. Now, you should fill out your surveys because they’re valuable, but maybe think twice before leaving stupid feedback. Imagine how it feels to pour all this energy into an event, something you created, and have people disparage it.

I was really glad when Jenn [Voss]’s remarks kicked off this conference reminding you that this is a volunteer-run event. These organizers work really really hard for no money.

While I love conferences, most of the tech events I have benefited from are not conferences.

What I did is I went on Meetup.com and went back to 2011, when I first moved to Philadelphia, to see all the events I attended from all the meetup groups. This is not a complete list, because I probably didn’t RSVP to everything, and some of these are from memory, or I cut some out if they weren’t completely technical [the list of communities spans two slides]. I did not include any groups that I organized, meaning these were all run by other people.

Conferences are also great! Especially locally-grown grassroots conferences like LibertyJS, BarCamp, DrupalCamp, or WordCamp Philly.

These things are all only possible because of devs like you. It’s a PBS joke, okay.

I want to see you invest in your locally grown tech communities.

Because I guarantee you have something to offer. Organizing is wonderful, it’s very difficult to get people to step up as organizers, but not the only thing. You can offer space, sponsorship, speak at an event, bug your friends to speak at an event, sell out your friends for them to speak at an event, did I mention speaking??

As to starting your own, there are so many great existing communities out there. I have so many times seen someone start their own group when I really wish they would put their efforts to strengthen an existing community, or form under the big tent of an existing meetup. Niche technologies have niche communities, which isn’t bad, but is much more difficult to sustain.

If we could take a moment to clap for the organizers of LibertyJS. [clapping] Now, I’d like to ask the other meetup and local conference organizers in the room to stand up as you are able, so we can clap for you. [clapping]

Thank you very much, for real this time, I hope you had a lovely conference, feel free to talk with me after about communities, or serverless, etc. Thank you.

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