Letter from the Editor: Fellowship of the U

Growing up I fit the geek stereotype rather well. I liked to play video games on my original Nintendo, and later my Playstation. I pretend to design websites on Livejournal. I played role-playing games, including pen and paper ones that got passed between me and my two friends in class.

I also went to thirteen different schools from the course of kindergarten and my senior year in high school, which culminated by my graduation from my small private school. I was one among a class of nine. Yes, nine.

As you might imagine, I had a hard time fitting in. Between moving, changing from public to private school, and my love of what was considered non-traditional girl things, I had very few friends, and all of us were outcasts. It's a story that's been told as many times for as many people as any fairy tale.

Where do I belong?

My family got our first computer when I was ten, which would have been 1993, and it was rather technologically progressive of them. My parents are still progressive, sporting smart phones, texting easily, and even enjoying things like animated gif memes. That computer on the other hand, didn't survive the years so well. It had a giant hundred megabyte hard drive, Windows 3.1, and I used it primarily - as a ten year old - for Jill of the Jungle, e-mailing my cousins, and 'drawing' in MS Paint.

My second computer, and the one that I used primarily from sixteen to twenty, changed my life. That computer had a one gigabyte hard drive, 100 megabytes of RAM, and could play video games like Final Fantasy 7. It also introduced me to a world outside of my small high school and my small group of friends - the Internet.

How the Internet Changed Everything

Somehow, in the crazy era of 1998 when parents didn't monitor every single thing their kids do online for fear of creepers, I found myself in a place that I began to feel accepted. MysteryandMagic.com doesn't exist any more, but it was a website that ran text-based roleplaying games and had a wide userbase from sixteen year olds to adults in their fourties. We all logged in and wrote back and forth, telling wild stories of characters in worlds that didn't exist. But, more importantly than that, we became “online friends”.

I recently read an article about the phenomena of the '’online friend'’ and how people view them differently than a “real friend”. I have to admit that when I speak about people I know only through the Internet - which likely includes many of you whom I haven't met at conferences, meetups, or other Umbraco events - they still scoff at me. How can people that you have met only over the Internet be REAL?

My question is - how, in 2015, are we still doubting that other people on the Internet are real?

My first boyfriend was online. We used VOIP calls to talk from Washington to East Coast Canada over a thirty second delay, and the first question I was always asked when I mentioned him was “How do you know that he's who he says he is?”

That was sixteen years ago, and I'm happy to say that while our wild and crazy long-distance love relationship never worked out, we're still friends. Although time has changed us both, he's still who he said he was.

The Internet and the people who use it became my place and taught me how to fit in.

With the craze of online dating, remote employees, and the ability to talk to anyone almost anywhere at any time, it's time to accept that the people we see only in a twitter icon are people that we can not simply be 'online friends' with but simply... friends.

The Internet and the people who use it became my place and taught me how to fit in. In the midst of geek culture battles, designing websites on LiveJournal, and posting art on DeviantArt, I found what I'd been looking for. I found it again, and stronger, when I joined the rest of you.

Community.

Fellowship of the 'U'.

I'm fascinated by the meaning of words, so when I decided I wanted to talk to you about my fuzzy feelings regarding community I instantly went to dictionary.com to read about what the word 'community' means. It has seven definitions, and to be honest with you, all of them basically said “community means community.” Which is not an enlightening or interesting answer.

To me, the words “Umbraco” and “community” are used almost as one.

So, if community means community, then perhaps we would find out more by looking up where the word comes from. This, I felt, was worth sharing with you.

Community is from the 14th century, spawning from an Old French word - comunité - which is in Modern French is now communauté, and also the Latin word communitatem. Etymonline.com makes this great statement about communitatem:

Latin communitatem "was merely a noun of quality ... meaning 'fellowship, community of relations or feeling"

A fellowship? I don't know what you think of when you hear the word “fellowship”, but I think of going off on a grand adventure with a wizard, a dwarf, an elf, a couple humans, and some hobbits. However, as silly as it is, making a reference to the Lord of the Rings does in fact mimic my feelings on this matter. The people in these stories put their lives on the line for each other every day and the bonds they held between them were stronger than time or distance. Don't we do that?

To me, the words “Umbraco” and “community” are used almost as one. Sure, I speak of Umbraco as a CMS. But more often than not I'm making some statement about “the Umbraco community.” I don't even know why I say it any more since in my opinion the two words are exactly the same.

Umbraco is Community

When people told me that Umbraco is the friendly CMS, I didn't really scoff about it. I’ve played with a few CMSes that drove me bonkers, that had less than helpful communities (can we even call them that now that we've fallen in love with the idea throwing a ring of power into Mordor together?), and even more than that, didn't actually engage me as a person at all.

Beyond that, they often never even wanted to engage with me, nor I with them. On the other hand, as soon as I'd posted anything about Umbraco on my Twitter feed it was received almost instantly with feedback, commiseration, or friendly joking.

I'm not one to name names, but I have to say that during the brief amount of time I worked in WordPress, there was never a moment in which I got online and went "I work in Wordpress! Do you work in Wordpress? Can we help each other out? Let's be friends! I want to know all of you!". Not only would that have made me incredibly uncomfortable, but I think what's more telling is that the thought never would have occurred to me. Not even crossed my mind.

Umbraco is so different from that. I have friends in web development and design who I talk to on Twitter, as well as a random plethora of other unrelated people talking about unrelated subjects, but these days when I check my Twitter account to see if I have new messages, or when I make a post, the people I find myself most interested in engaging with are you. I do want to go on twitter and say "I work in Umbraco! Do you work in Umbraco? Can we help each other out? Let's be friends! I want to know all of you!"

And it's not a lie. I do.

I think a great example of this is a couple weeks ago, I was having a lazy Sunday afternoon on vacation in Hawaii, and I happened to have some sleepy beach time where I was sitting underneath an umbrella, on the beach, far away from the rest of the world, and there I was checking Facebook. One of our well-known and loved Umbracians, Bob Baty-Barr, was at a gymnastic event for his daughter. Man, I was hooked. All I could do was sit on Facebook (not really a hardship on a sunny beach), watch the videos he was posting, and cheer his kiddo on. That's community. That's Umbraco.

People have asked me, personally, on multiple occasions if I'm going to be at Codegarden (I will be) because they want to meet up and it's been so long since we've seen each other, and they can't wait, that's community. That's Umbraco.

When I got back from Hawaii, which I had gone to over my birthday, I had a random Skype message from Mark Bowser of ProWorks wishing me the best of birthdays. That's community. That's Umbraco.

People have asked me, personally, on multiple occasions if I'm going to be at Codegarden (I will be) because they want to meet up and it's been so long since we've seen each other, and they can't wait, that's community. That's Umbraco.

I would like to think that at the end of the day, if I posted on twitter that the world was ending, I had a ring of power, and we needed to find a mountainous lava pit to dump it into, I'd have some people sending me messages on twitter saying "Take me! I'll go with you! I don't suppose this volcano is in Hawaii, because that would be awesome...?"

Yeah. That's community. That's Umbraco.

Thanks for taking me on this grand adventure.

 

 

About the Author

Janae Cram is a co-creator and the code behind Skrift. She's a bit of a perfectionist and likes her code to look as pretty as the front-facing applications she creates at Offroadcode. She has an odd collection of My Little Ponies, loves to play video games and dress up like a geek for LARP on Friday nights. Her D&D class of choice is Bard, because if you can kick ass and sing, why wouldn't you?

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