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The Reluctant Blogger Blogging not because I have to, but because I want to

It’s been a few months since I last blogged (not that I blog much to begin with), but things have been busy.  We all have a lot going on in our lives, but I’ve had one item that has taken up a surprising amount of time – Pittsburgh TechFest 2012.  After the event, I went through some minutes of the first meetings for TechFest, and I started to think about how it all came together.  I think what inspired me the most about TechFest was how people from various technical communities were able to come together and build and promote a common event.  As a result, I wanted to blog about this to show that people from different communities can work together to build something that benefits all communities.  (Hopefully I've got all my facts straight.) 

TechFest started as an idea Eric Kepes and myself had when we were planning our next Pittsburgh Code Camp, probably in the summer of 2011.  Our Spring 2011 Code Camp was a little different because we had a great infusion of some folks from the Pittsburgh Agile group (especially with a few speakers from LeanDog).  The line-up was great, but we felt our audience wasn’t as broad as it should have been.  We thought it would be great to somehow attract other user groups around town and have a big, polyglot conference.

We started contacting leaders from Pittsburgh’s various user groups.  Eric and I split up the ones that we knew about, and we just started making contacts.  Most of the people we started contacting never heard of us, nor we them.  But we all had one thing in common – we ran user groups who’s primary goal is educating our members to make them better at what they do.

Amazingly, and I say this because I wasn’t sure what to expect, we started getting some interest from the various leaders.  One leader, Greg Akins, is, in my opinion, Pittsburgh’s poster boy for the polyglot programmer.  He’s helped us in the past with .NET Code Camps, is a Java developer (and leader in Pittsburgh’s Java User Group), works with Ruby and I’m sure a handful of other languages.  He helped make some e-introductions to other user group leaders, and the whole thing just started to snowball.

Once we realized we had enough interest with the user group leaders, we decided to not have a Fall Code Camp and instead focus on this new entity.

Flash-forward to October of 2011.  I set up a meeting, with the help of Jeremy Jarrell (Pittsburgh Agile leader) to hold a meeting with the leaders of many of Pittsburgh technical user groups.  We had representatives from 12 technical user groups (Python, JavaScript, Clojure, Ruby, PittAgile, jQuery, PHP, Perl, SQL, .NET, Java and PowerShell) – 14 people.  We likened it to a scene from a Godfather movie where the heads of all the families come together to make some deal.  As a result, the name “TechFest Mafia” was born and kind of stuck.

Over the next 7 months or so, we had our starts and stops.  There were moments where I thought this event would not happen either because we wouldn’t have the right mix of topics (was I off there!), or enough people register (OK, I was wrong there, too!) or find an appropriate venue (hmm…wrong there, too) or find enough sponsors to help support the event (wow…not doing so well).  Overall, everything fell into place with a lot of hard work from Eric, Jen, Greg, Jeremy, Sean, Nicholas, Gina and probably a few others that I’m forgetting.  We also had a bit of luck, too.  But in the end, the passion that we had to put together an event that was really about making ourselves better at what we do really paid off.

I’ve never been more excited about a project coming together than I have been with Pittsburgh TechFest 2012.  From the moment the first person arrived at the event to the final minutes of my closing remarks (where I almost lost my voice – I ended up being diagnosed with bronchitis the next day!), it was an awesome event.  I’m glad to have been part of bringing something like this to Pittsburgh…and I’m looking forward to Pittsburgh TechFest 2013.  See you there!

Posted on Sunday, June 10, 2012 10:32 PM User Group , PGHDOTNET , Thoughts , Pittsburgh TechFest | Back to top


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