Ruminations of J.net idle rants and ramblings of a code monkey

Bikers, Geeks and Community

Idle Babbling | Community

When motorcyclists pass each other in opposite directions, they wave at each other. Watch them sometime; you’ll see this happen. A lot of non-motorcyclists (we call them “cagers”) don’t notice this until it’s pointed out but you’ll see it if you look for it. It doesn’t matter if you are riding a crotch rocket or a Harley, a Goldwing or a dual-sport, if you are suited up in all leather and a helmet or are riding with no gear at all, bikers will still wave. If a motorcyclist sees another biker stopped on the side of the road, they will usually stop to check and see if they are OK. That’s just how it is. When commuting, bikers will also sometimes join each other in traffic and ride together for a time as their commute allows. Again, you’ll see this. But I’d bet you never even considered that those two bikers didn’t know each other. There are also biker-specific forums – I’m on Two Wheeled Texans – that all kinds of bikers participate in. There are also group rides; random people hooking up just to ride together. Some are random groups from the boards, some more “organized”. For example, TWT has a monthly “Pie Run” to a small restaurant in a small town in Texas and there will be anywhere from 80 – 250 bikers show up, on ALL kinds of bikes from ALL over Texas. I even saw someone at one of the Pie Runs on a vintage 1943 Army issue Harley! Bikers will also get together for a “Bike Night”. As the name implies, it’s an evening for bikes and bikers to hang out together at a local restaurant/ice cream shop/parking lot/whatever. I can often be found at “Katy Bike Night” on Wednesdays, munching on empanadas with anywhere from 3 to 20 fellow TWT’ers.

There is a strong sense of community among motorcyclists that is built on a common, shared experience … namely riding a motorcycle. We share a love for riding, feeling the wind blowing over us. We also share common dangers and risks - for the most part, “cagers” are the greatest risk but that’s not the only one (think … weather … a 45 MPH crosswind is absolutely, positively NOT FUN). Sure, we have our differences – every group does - but the sense of community is stronger than that. Yes, there are some individual exceptions to this but, as a rule, that’s how it is. And those that get snobby about their “group” are considered rude at best. And I won’t even mention “squids”.

Why do I mention this? Well … it’s that community thing. I’ve been involved in the developer community for some six years now and the biker community for about 2 years. I can tell you, the biker community is much stronger and, even more importantly, much more inclusive. In the developer community, there is – and let’s be honest here – a huge wall separating technologists with different specializations. Java guys don’t talk to .NET folks and they don’t talk to PHP folks. Linux folks don’t talk to Microsoft folks. Sure, there are exceptions here and there but the rule is different; we don’t intermingle. Do you know of any boards online where you have PHP and .NET and Java folks all mixin’ it up together in harmony? I certainly don’t. Even boards that cater to all types of technologists will have different forums where techies of like technologies congregate, with very little interaction between the groups. We tend to get wrapped up in our own areas of technology and look at technologists in other areas with wariness at best. Certainly one difference is competition … if Java is chosen as a technology at a given company, the .NET folks will be looking for work. And, again, vice-versa. That’s not the case with motorcyclists – it has no impact on my life if a fellow biker buys a new Ninja or a new Goldwing … I can appreciate both and it has no bearing at all on my ability to provide for my family (even if you won’t get me caught dead on a Goldwing!).

But there’s something more than that – overall, there also seems to be little interaction between infrastructure/network folks and developer types even in the same technology area.

When you think about it, it’s actually quite silly. Yes, there is that competition but I can’t see why we can’t be more like the motorcyclist community … inclusive and sharing what we have in common (which is quite a bit) rather than focusing solely on our differences. All of us have a love for technology and we all have the same gripes and issues with end users, customers, managers and the like. Regardless of our technology, there is much that we can share and much that we can learn from each other. Even if that’s only an appreciation for other technologies.

I think it’ll be interesting to walk into a PHP user group. I’d bet that they are little different from the .NET user groups that I go to. I won’t say anything. Well, I’ll try not to say anything or too much at least. Not there to convert them, spy on them or any other such nonsense. Just getting a feel. Who knows … maybe I could persuade one or two to see what a .NET user group is like. And get them cross-pollinating with .NET folks going to PHP user groups. It won’t be the end of the world by any stretch of the imagination. But it certainly make the community much more interesting. And maybe … just maybe … we’ll take a step towards breaking down these silly walls that would divide us.

We’ll see …

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