PHP Community: Of Leaders, conferences and Union
Note: This article was originally published on the march/2011 issue of php-architect. If you like it keep a close eye on the Community Column in the magazine, where i get the chance to write alongside other awesome community people.
"Our function as community leaders is to enable people to be the best they can in the community that they have chosen to be part of." -- Jono Bacon
This quote comes from Jono Bacon's book: "The Art of Community", and I like it because it puts somethings in perspective. Communities are a interesting manifestation of human social skills, a truly incredible joining of people by a single motivation, in our case the motivation is PHP, be it helping, learning, self-promotion, work or any more of a wide gamma of roads that lead to getting in touch with this great force. Community leaders are even more intriguing species, people who try to lead and organize this controlled chaos, and they don't even get paid for it.
PHPSPUG during our TestFest lunch
But as Jono puts it, the Community leader is really not a leader, someone on top of the stage with all the flood lights on him. The leader is a catalyst, that spark that can lead to a forest fire, ok not the best reference, but you get the point. Leaders are there to inspire people, give them the initial push and then literally get out of their way and let them go where their inspiration and self-drive takes them, as Jono says, an "enabler".
Its very interesting to observe Communities, their manifestations and their growth. They seem to have life of their own, to grow, mature and expand as a group in this kind of biological process, leaders are always present, but they are a cyclic occurrence, old ones move on, new ones take over and yet the community keeps going. I have been observing communities for a long while, here in Brazil and a few overseas also, thanks to opportunities from all the major conferences that help all of us "community geeks" get together and start brainstorming, sort of like this column.
Our community seems to have started somewhere in 2006, the first User Group showed up with what was, back then, this crazy idea to hold a national PHP Conference. They started small with a few local events in SAo Paulo. By the time the conference came around there was this great sense of awareness that we were not alone. I quickly made the wise choice to gather a few savings and get myself a ticket over. It was truly an incredible experience for me, my first PHP Conference, this incredible feeling of being in a place with so many other people speaking the same language, same topics and understanding when I started talking about frameworks, mvc patterns and how to deal with heavy traffic. See, back then I was a one-man team and had barely started using mailing lists, that conference was an eye opener, it showed me that I was naught but a mere beginner in this great career of a PHP Developer. It showed me there was this incredible source out there, one you could tap into and get this amazing collection of knowledge. I stood there watching all of those speakers talk about these incredible things, sharing all of this information, an overdrive of ideas and inspiration.
By the end of the conference I had one clear though: "I need to learn, and I want to share, next year I want to be a speaker". That moment changed my life professionally and that conscious decision to be part of this "community" has been paid back in much more then triple. As history goes that year along with two great friends (Adler Medrado and Pablo Sanchez) we founded our first User Group, PHPDF on Brazil's capital. And we were not alone, that single conference put so many ideas in so many heads that User Groups started popping up all over the country. The PHP community in Brazil started taking shape, we started to see that we were not quite the "few and scattered" group we believed, we were huge and ready to move to new heights.
Fast forward to 2010. Brazil has over 21 User Groups, almost one in every single state, from the amazon to the atlantic forest and going through all our huge metropoles. That national conference is now just the crowning conference at the end of the year, numerous other smaller conference are held during the year, producing new ideas and more and more groups every year, not to mention launching new speakers and bri
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