Back in 2001, I started a website dedicated to homebrew development and coding. I was only 14 but, at its peak, the site was generating an enormous amount of attention. With tens of thousands of readers per day, full ad sponsorships, and a team of developers behind me, I had built something great -- something to be proud of. But despite these achievements, I never told a soul.
I'm ashamed to say I felt a tremendous sense of worry for sharing my true passions -- for talking to people and explaining to them that I'm naturally fascinated by technology. None of my friends shared even remotely similar interests so, accordingly, I kept the site to myself. I wrote under a pseudonym. I kept my developers at arm's length, and I certainly never voiced my current progress with my peers. I didn't even tell my parents.
From a young age, I clearly had a penchant for technology. When we moved to our second house, at the tender age of 4, I would spend hours, I'm told, deconstructing old remotes and trying to put them back together in a different way. When my parents bought our first computer, I was thrilled. Within days I had mastered building simple websites and navigating my way through an environment primarily characterized by the gaudy glow of neon GeoCities pages. When I was given game consoles, I immediately looked to the Internet to see if there was anything further I could do -- if I could run a pointless demo, or wedge Linux onto it.
In short, I was, and still am, a geek.
Despite that fundamental awareness and acknowledgment, it has taken years for me to embrace it. Even with this blog, I only hesitantly know how to discuss it with friends and family. When they ask (with genuine interest and pleasure) about what I'm up to, I'm only barely equipped to reply. But that's changing.
Over the past four days, I have spent time with some of the most intelligent, kind, and brilliant people I've met in a very long time, and I'm better for it. Whether it was walking around San Francisco, looking out the window of the Caltrain, or sitting in a quiet coffee shop overhearing the conversations of like-minded people, I felt home.
Prior to flying out, having read various takes on Apple's earnings report and its reflection on the Apple community, I began to draft an article entitled, "The Community." I innocuously decided to hold off on hitting publish until after Macworld, and I'm certainly pleased I did. What I feel on the other side of this long weekend is something entirely unexpected and brilliant. That is, I feel a very sincere and palpable sense of belonging.
Twenty or thirty minutes after meeting some of my favorite writers, we were sprinting across a train platform like it was normal. Hours (hours) later we were sitting on the Cupertino campus, chatting about life, kids, and technology. On the train home, I opened Instagram and saw that Shawn Blanc had posted a picture of Ben Brooks and I. Perhaps this all sounds very run of the mill to you, but it was truly explosive to me. Having gone from being somewhat quiet (if not silent) about my website, to actively discussing my writing and opinions with some of the community's most renowned writers? Utterly surreal.
Sitting in bars and having texts pop up from people I had otherwise perceived as existing only as ethereal Internet entities is something that will take quite some time to get used to. I doubt the novelty will ever quite wear off.
You can argue about the relevance of Macworld as a product showcase for days, but its relevance as a summit for like-minded people is irrefutable. The products on the show floor are all well and good, but having the opportunity to meet so many people that believe in, and immensely care about, all that you care for is a truly brilliant and confidence inspiring thing.
As someone who has often withheld his affinity for technology, the Macworld weekend was a strange and poignant moment of liberation. Walking in and amongst swathes of intelligent and talented people is a humbling, heart-warming, and genuinely fantastic thing to have done. Armed with stacks of new business cards, new friends, and newly informed insight, I feel even more optimistic about what I'm doing with ONE37 than ever before. The site's not even three months old, but now it has some semblance of direction, endorsement, and tangible purpose. That knowledge alone is worth the expense.
My most sincere thanks go out to Ben Brooks, Brett Kelly, Pat Dryburgh, Shawn Blanc, Stephen Hackett, Thomas Brand, and all the others I can't alphabetize/remember, for having me along with you. Massive margaritas, sprints across bridges, strolls through the city, "next generation flashlight apps," and obnoxious drum circles characterize a fantastic learning and humbling experience, and I thank you for sharing it with me.
Knowing that there's plenty of real people out there thinking a lot like I do is of wonderful comfort, and I'm unquestionably better for it. As so many people have written in the past few days, this community is truly astounding. You might scoff at that, or cringe at the slew of post-Macworld "people" posts, but the message is unilaterally positive, and that says a lot.
...See you next year?