Thanks to the nature of the Internet, I’ve been fortunate to have friends in many countries and time-zones around the world. Furthermore, thanks to the ubiquitous nature of the English language, I’ve been able to communicate with most of them without having to resort to my incredibly poor Spanish, or entirely non-existent proficiency with any other language whatsoever.
When it comes to my actual feet, it wasn’t until last year that I had travelled far. My prior thirty-seven years of life could be summarized with small journeys across the west coast of the USA, going as far south as California and as far north as Washington.
Heck, it wasn’t until this year that I’ve visited the east coast of the USA, travelling to Florida for uWestFest. Of course, as it turns out my country is a staggeringly vast one by comparison to most, as proven by the fact that it took less time for developers from England to reach Florida by plane than it did for me to do so from Seattle.
It was coincidence that my financial ability to travel more extensively lined up with my growing participation in the Umbraco community. I was fortunate enough to speak at Umbraco UK Festival in London last year, and finally made it to the promised land of Copenhagen for Codegarden this year. My passport finally had some stamps.
As far as I’ve gone, what impresses me at every major Umbraco event I’ve attended is how much farther others have travelled. Despite being the plucky newcomer of Umbraco festivals, at uWestFest we saw attendees from Europe and South America. And at CodeGarden there was a developer from Mauritius and several jet-lagged Australians who had been in transit for more than 24 hours!
I know that our community isn’t the only one to create such passion in its members, but in my life experience I’ve never personally been part of a movement of any kind that ran as deep and far as Umbraco does with its developers. It’s a mere content management system, a convenient bit of software for websites. Yet, for some reason, I care about it, deeply. I track the hashtag on Twitter daily. I visit the forums. I follow complete strangers in social media and have made friends with them with nothing more in common than the software we work with.
Skrift came about from this community’s passion, and a desire to help foster it. And the international nature of its readership humbles me. We’ve been fortunate to have readers and authors on both sides of the Atlantic, joining the Americas and Europe together. Our breakdown of visitors geographically are unsurprising at the top, with western Europe and the USA taking the top spots.
And then there’s the other, surprising part of the list.
The ninth and tenth highest number of visitors by country belong to China and Japan. Last month, each brought roughly two percent of the traffic to our site, and fill similar numbers in our newsletter’s subscription list. These are small percentages to be sure, but in my opinion not insignificant ones, especially when you consider the relatively lower percentage of English-speaking members of those countries.
For a few years now, I’ve been thinking about the growth of the web, and the visitors to it. Every day, more and more people across the Pacific are gaining access to it, building in some cases entirely parallel experiences on the web that never interact with our own, using their own social media, visiting their own news sites, and getting their directions from a website that features a panda flying a spaceship on its login page instead of a Google doodle.
And it’s a staggeringly huge amount of people. China’s Internet users already number over 649 million. That’s more than double the entire population of the United States, or well over a hundred times as many people as Denmark. Throw in the rest of Asia, let alone Africa, and we can quickly begin to realize that the major sphere of tomorrow’s Internet will not straddle the north Atlantic, and won’t be speaking a European language.
By happenstance I live in Bellingham, Washington, a lovely city sandwiched between a snow-covered mountain and orca-filled bay on the Pacific coast. It happens to be where Umbraco HQ’s American presence is centered. It’s also seven miles (11km) closer to Tokyo, Japan than Odense, Denmark, where the Umbraco HQ makes its home base.
I know dozens, perhaps even hundreds of European developers. And engage with them on Twitter, read their articles, and meet them in conferences. I’ve invited many of them to write for Skrift.
I’ve yet to meet a single developer from Asia.
As the Umbraco community keeps growing, we’re going to have to engage more fully with our peers to my west, and not just my east. At least, if we want to be relevant in 2020, let alone 2030. Which means I may need to get around to the item in my bucket list that involves learning Mandarin.
Let this be my first step in reaching out. Are you an Umbraco developer in Asia, or do you know one that you could get me in contact with? I’d love to talk about the Umbraco community and experience outside of the West. Do you have any interesting lessons with Umbraco to share, or would you like to talk about using Umbraco? If so, maybe you’d be interested in writing for us?
I’m not done adding stamps to my passport. Now that I’ve got a taste of journeying elsewhere, I have every intent to explore more. But thanks to the Internet, I’m hoping to expand my knowledge of our community’s global reach faster than my feet can take me.