Why Community Mattersa
It's easy for us to look around at the technology we work with every day and think that we can solve all of the worlds problems with a few lines of elegant code. We think that just because we have a mastery of our language of choice, that we can conquer any challenge we might face. The only problem is that we're forgetting one thing. No matter how much code you write or how much time you spend pouring over that shiny new architecture you've dreamed up, there's one thing that can never be replaced - the human element.
Most of the developers I know have started off with a language the same way - they heard about it from a friend. They casually heard the name aoPHPa dropped in a conversation and either (depending on how outgoing they are) jumped in to the conversation or made a dash home to look up what everyone else seemed to be talking about. Without this word of mouth, I dare say quite a bit of the technology that we have today wouldn't be around. Think about it - how many times have you looked at a new language or bit of tech just because someone else you trust said it was cool. Sure, it might sound a little like siding with the popular kid, but what happens if that kid's the one who's right? That language may be the next big thing - if not for the online community as a whole, then just for you and your development.
Think back to when you first started programming PHP (that may be yesterday, that may be ten years ago) and think back to all of the influences you had along the way. Chances are you didn't make it to where you are today without a little help. You found blog posts of others that solved the same problems, you hopped on IRC and talked with like-minded folks trying to overcome the same hurdles and you shared you own experiences for the future generations of web developers to learn from. You've come full circle, sharing what you know back with those who need it the most. You're a contributing member of the community.
So, why am I writing this if it's all so obvious to even the most casual observer? I wanted to reinforce the fact that, even if you're new to the community or you've been writing PHP so long you dream about namespaces and PHP3, you can always be more involved. Technology is great, but really - people are better. I can't recommend enough the effort that the PHP Community Conference is doing to bring this human aspect back into the conference scene. They've taken the traditional conference mentality, turned it on its side and put it back into the hands of those that matter - the people active daily in the community and the ones that honestly want you and your journey through the web dev world to be a fruitful one.
If you haven't looked at the conference, time's getting short - it's happening about a month from now, April 21st and 22nd, in Nashville. I'll be there as a speaker talking about my first PHP love - PHPDeveloper.org and doing what I can to give back as much to the community as possible. Because really, without each other to help us through, none of us would be where we are today.