I first attended Lotusphere in 1999. I was an exhibitor (I hesitate to say “booth-babe” – my legs aren’t good enough), barely knew a soul, and was on the stand for long hours every day. It was the year of R5, 10,000 people, split Opening General Sessions, split dining, the zip wire, and Jeff Papows hindering the exit from SeaWorld by standing there shaking everybody’s hand like royalty (by the time I got to him I wanted to punch him rather than shake his hand – in retrospect probably I should have done). Of course, all of this didn’t stop me staying out late at parties, and not getting to bed until 7am on the final night. I have always been me.
Wind forwards to 2007, I’d been freelance as “Axiot” for a couple of years, and decided to make my way to Lotusphere as an attendee for the first time. I still only knew a tiny handful of people upon arrival, mainly Mike Smith, but looking like a lost little lamb at the airport I was quickly offered a taxi lift to the Dolphin by Jon, Justin and Catherine of Prominic: my first inkling of what a generous and warm community this ‘Lotus’ world really is. Once there I soon got to know many of my fellow Brits: Warren and Kitty Elsmore, Paul Mooney, Matt White, Bill Buchan, Gab & Tim Davis, all* of whom I respect and love as friends more than they probably know.
Of course, there aren’t just Brits at Lotusphere. And in that first year I met others who, despite only seeing them in the real world once a year (less, now, in some cases), I hold dear to my heart: John Roling, Devin Olson, Bruce Elgort, Tom Duff and Rob McDonagh, as well as Andrew Pollack, Jess Stratton, Mitch Cohen, and so many more.*
(I have to give special shout-out to John Roling: his analysis of our friendship is right on the button)
That Lotusphere I learned, laughed, and partied, more than I had in any single week before in my life. It was exhausting and exciting, inspiring and invigorating, and really, without descending too far into hyperbole, life-changing.
Each year since then I have made the pilgrimage to the Swolphin in January. And each year I have depleted my physical batteries enthusiastically, but recharged my professional and personal ones immeasurably.
It wasn’t long before Matt White, Mark Myers, Ben Poole and I had joined forces as London Developer Coop. We’ve had huge fun producing our giveaways: years of 6 or more different shirt designs per conference (“Back in Blue” being my personal favourite), and then the crowning glory of the infamous Conference Survival Kit – all credit to Mark for dreaming up that one. We dropped the lengthy name in favour of just “LDC”, and then in 2015 arrived as LDC Via with our new product and brand. Life and technology move on.
Eight years of my life have been waymarked by Lotuspheres. One year I came a few months after the birth of my twins, the next year shortly after my mother’s death, and a year later just days after my father’s death. Lotusphere and my friends there have been instrumental in getting me through those emotionally-crippling times. I’ve continued to make new friendships: Carl Tyler, Krupa Patel, Rob Novak, Julian Robichaux, Alan Lepofsky, Sandra Bühler, Jamie Magee, Darren and Lisa Duke, Susan Bulloch, Mat Newman, Tony Holder, Roy Holder, Abigail Roberts, HP Dalen, Theo Heselmans, Amanda Bauman, Ray Bilyk, and many others*. I miss you all.
I was going to include some thoughts on this year’s conference, and the future, but this post is long enough already, so I’ll do that in a second post. Suffice it to say, it was a Surprisingly Good Conference. And now, back to the nostalgia: some personal highlights down the years have included:
- Kimonos, with shouts of “sake!”
- Stealing umpteen raincoats from Animal Kingdom, then having no use for them
- Neil Armstrong
- Most of the closing session speakers (except the eating-live-creatures guy: that was odd)
- UK Night(s)
- Pretzel cookies
- Creating the #pretzelcookiegate hashtag
- Lots of learning, especially sessions by Andrew Pollack, Gab Davis, my colleagues Matt White and Mark Myers, and Rob Novak
- Worst Practices
- My year as Penumbra Group president
- Mat Newman hugs
- Skipping the park party for dinner with Eileen Fitzgerald, Matt White and others.
- The Penumbra alcoholic milkshakes (the bacon and maple one – oh boy!)
- Catherine Emert’s cookies and pastries
- The Great Geek Challenge
- Some of our LDC giveaways especially the survival tins
- Compiling the 2015 crossword
- Project Drunken Leprechaun
- John Roling and Rob McDonagh (more recently Ray Bilyk) singing “If I had a million dollars”
- Amanda Bauman singing “You shook me all night long”
- Marmalade vodka
- The traditional Dolphin Rotunda final-night die-hards drinking session
- and – of course – my traditional post-conference pre-flight frozen margarita.
* With apologies to anybody I’ve missed: I’m writing this while watching the Australian Open so my attention is not undivided.