With all of the CFUnited buzz going on this week, I figured it made a nice segway to something I have been giving some thought to lately. That is the question of “why attend these ColdFusion [or insert your own technology here] conferences at all?”
For those of us that stay somewhat active in the community the answer is fairly obvious. It is a great opportunity to sit and chat with some of the people you may have worked with on projects, helped out sometime, or been helped by over the years. It is also a chance to see first hand some cutting edge products, projects, and methodolgies you may have read about but haven’t gotten the opportunity to work with. It is also a chance to get some face time with potential clients and such. These things are a given.
However, this blog post is more targeted to those that just come to the office, punch the clock, slop out some code, punch out and drive home to turn on the TV. For developers that blog or read this blog regularly, it is easy to forget that outside of our little myopic view of the ColdFusion world where everyone seems to be pushing limits and working on bleeding edge technology, there are tens of thousands of developers that are just like I described above. I have worked with some that simply view their programming as a “job” that is nothing more than a means to an end, with just a general apathy about their career. Not only have I worked with some, I used to be that guy! That said – and I know that what I am about to say will sound overdramatic – but I honestly mean it when I say to those developers:
Attending conferences can be life changing!
If you are a developer that fits the description above, I urge you to attend one of the big conferences such as CFUnited. Why? I will share my personal experience.
I am unfortunately not attending CFUnited this year, but have done so the previous 2 years. Before the conference in 2005, I was in a complete and utter programming slump and had been for a few years. I was just banging out sub-par code and punching the clock as I described above with no passion at all about what I was doing. I didn’t follow any blogs, email lists, etc., and was fairly oblivious as to what was going on in the ColdFusion world. In fact, I had been hanging around a .Net developer that almost had me convinced that ColdFusion was dead and I needed to get out while I could. I went to CFUnited that year because I thought it would be pretty fun to go to DC, and heck… my employer was paying for it, so why not? What I returned home with was priceless.
In the Monday and Tuesday prior to the official conference kick off, I had the opportunity to take pre-conference classes. Day one was Hal Helms‘ “Domain Model” class followed by Joe Rinehart‘s “Forms and Beans” – I think that was the name anyway – on day 2. I had never seen OOP concepts before and was truly blown away. It was like a light switch turned on that Monday in Hal’s class as I saw what a big world there really was out there that I had been totally unaware of! In some respects, I almost felt like Neo when he began to see the Matrix, for lack of a better analogy. Suddenly I was exposed to all the exciting stuff happening in the ColdFusion community that had been hidden due to my self-imposed blinders. The second day Joe walked through converting a legacy application strewn with inline cfquery calls to one that used Bean/DAO/Gateway objects and I was so aware at how far the world had moved forward while I had been sitting still. With my head spinning from the pre-conference classes I eagerly went into the conference and was exposed to concept after concept that I had never seen before, many of which are now routine components/skills that I carry in my tool box.
When I got home I just wanted to spread the gospel about how bad ass ColdFusion is, and couldn’t wait to start my next project. This was about the time that Matt Woodward and Peter Farrell had taken over the Mach-II project and I began using Mach-II 1.10. It was an amazing contrast how much fun my career had just become. I was soaking up every blog and every podcast that I could and learning at a dramatic pace after sitting stagnant for so long. It was in these next few months that I teamed up with Aaron Lynch and we incorporated World Wild Web Systems Inc under which we built InstantSpot , where this and now about 550 other blogs reside! I am still as fired up about what I do for a living as I was when I returned home on July 3, 2005, and we are still steaming along with InstantSpot. Last year I took over as manager of the Dallas/Ft. Worth ColdFusion User Group, and I am now part of Team Mach-II. Looking back a few short years ago, that would have seemed like a laughable secnario.
I can truly say that attending CFUnited that year was a true turning point in my life. If you are one of those developers in the shadows that basically just gets by year after year with no joy in it, *you* are the ideal person to go to a conference. Hopefully I will see you there next time!