Christmas is a time that you catch up with old friends, spend time with family and the like. I class myself as fortunate to have so many friends both here at home and around the world in the virtual community. I’ve got friends from all kinds of different backgrounds. The one thing in common with them all is that I’ve met so many of them via the online communities. Back in 1995 I first got into online communities when I was installing Exchange v4.0 for the first time. I found a mailing list focused on Exchange issues run by a guy called Peter Bowyer (if member serves me correctly). This list had a huge amount of knowledge on Exchange and I was trying to get something working between Exchange and MS Mail. I was provided the answer via this list in a very short time and I was able to solve my problem. Some weeks later another new soul asked the same questions and this time I was able to help them out with the answers… then I had a post from one of the list gurus (I think it was either Ed Crowley or Ed Woodrick) saying “that’s 100% right Wayne” and I felt good about having helped someone else. This was really my introduction to the online community overall. The feeling of an “atta boy” from someone I considered to be a “god” was huge and addictive. Shortly after this SBS 4.0 was released and I found an SBS mailing list run by a kind old soul called Grey Lancaster. Grey is a real gentleman and hails from South Carolina. He ran this list of a mail server that was owned by one of his clients. Anyways, I started asking a few questions and before long was answering a heap of them too. I met more people on this list, Steven Teiger from Israel, Calvin McLennan from Canada and a whole heap more people. Many of these people were just names, but over time they became much more than that. The SBS list morphed into an egroups list and then later into a yahoogroups list. The one thing that has remanied the same overall is the sense of tolerance and community. I think that Grey instilled that into us and helped us grow as human beings. He taught us to be patient, he taught us to be tolerant of the new user. He also taught us that we had to teach people how to fish rather than to feed them all the time. I started up a website called www.sbsfaq.com to provide a place to store all those tidbits of information that people needed to have. I also started another yahoolist focused more on the consulting side of the SBS consultant called smallbizit. Over time things got bigger and I was noticed by Microsoft as being of community spirit. I was nominated for an MVP award and had no idea what that was all about. I accepted and then later that year was invited to an MVP summit where I finally got to met not only Grey, but Jeff Middleton, Susan Bradley, Steve Foster and a number of other people. I was sitting in the conference hall and there behind me was Ed Crowley and Ed Woodrick – one of which gave me the original “atta boy” that really got me going into this. I then started Australias first SBS User Group nearly 4 years ago now – the Sydney group has grown over time and now has around 40 or so people to our monthly meetings – you can find out more here. I’ve been involved in trying to get usergroups going all over the world and have in conjunction with a few other like minded souls launched www.sbsgroups.com site back in September. I’ve been to four MVP summits now and watched the ranks of the SBS MVP family grow from strength to strength. I can say that this MVP family is something so very very different and I treasure the friendships I have with all of them. It’s been a great experience for me and my life is richer for this for knowing the people I’ve met along the way.
So in this time of reflection, take a moment to think about where you’ve been over the past year, the past 5 years and heck even the past 10 years. Chances are you’ll think of people that you’ve not said hello to in a long while. Drop them a line, an email or even a phone call. Just don’t forget them because they are the reason YOU are the person you are today.
Happy Holiday season to you all – I wish you all safe travels and relaxation over this holiday break.