I'm not sure what has happened in the last three and a half years. It could have been one serendipitous meeting where the right mix of people were in the room, or it could have been a half million things that all happened all around the same time. I guess it doesn't matter how it happened, but it did.
I'm talking about how there's a torrential wave of excitement, engagement, growth and community in the Nashville crafter scene. It's an almost palpable entity that is quickly outgrowing its protective cocoon and ready to enter the world stage in all its beauty and wonder.
You can feel it every time crafters get together. You can hear it when you listen to the Twitter chatter.
A flavor for everyone
When I moved to Nashville almost 7 years ago, there wasn't much of a community to speak of. Oh, the people were starting to converge on the city, but there was no glue yet, no lasting social structure existed yet that provided the scaffolding for greater things.
Times sure have changed.
There's a Meetup in town now for practically every programming language, technical curiosity, and analytics idea. Here's some of the ones I can think of off the top of my head.
- Interactive Developers of Nashville
- Data Science Meetup
- Nashville Ruby on Rails Meetup Group
- Nashville Brigade
- Nashville PHP User Group
- Nashville Java User Group
- Nashville UX
- Nashville Mobile Development User Group
- Nashville MongoDB User Group
Homegrowing our own talent
In an effort to try to sustain the need to technical talent locally, John Wark started the Nashville Software School so that people who were interested in changing careers to programming, analytics, or possibly QA would have an affordable and qualified route to get their feet in the door.
Bringing people together
Remember when I said that 7 years ago there was no glue holding the community together, and no platform on which we could build a strong community? No longer.
There is now a long list of events started by folks who are heavily invested in making Nashville a place where crafters can build strong relationships, and strengthen their skills all at once.
Believe it or not, the Hack Nashville event is turning out to be the envy of the Southeast, and it's not all by accident. There's only been three events so far, but the last one turned out a staggering amount of professional quality demos that could easily be turned into small businesses.
One key to the success to some of the projects was the usage of Pinch, a fully baked process that is a mindset and framework for compact start-ups, proof of concept, and prototyping. It works perfectly for the weekend Hackathon format.
I actually participated in one of the projects, called Review, that utilized Pinch and it was the main reason we were able to have a working demo, with a marketing site, with shopping cart integration all in a weekend.
The Nashville Coderfaire has quickly become one of the premier conferences in the area. It's hard to justify not wanting to go to this, because after only two Faires, the professionalism in which it is operated, the quality of the session and keynote speakers, and the comraderie of the hackathon are unparallelled.
Both years, the event sold out far in advance of the first day, and the organizers and volunteers to a fantastic job of making sure it is a craftsperson focused event and sponsors are top quality, but unobtrusive guests who are there to make the community better, and not hawk their products.
After last year's PyCon, some amazing folks in the Nashville area decided that the time was right to hold a locally sourced Python conference. PyTennessee was born from that, and I have a feeling it's going to be a great event.
At first, I thought it strange at the number of non-Python talks that ended up in the final schedule, but the more I thought about, I think it will enhance the event to show how Python fits into the large ecosystem of development - how it integrates with other techologies.
The Jumpstart Foundry is a place where would-be entrepeneurs can connect with local investors, mentors and business partners to launch their idea into a successful business. With the abundance of technology thought leaders in our area, it is only natural that such an organization would emerge to help get craftspeople the resources they need to help make the world a better place.
Mitigating risk amid the euphoria
The metropolitan area technical crowd is active and engaged like never before. There is a buzz about town, with startups and investors firing on all pistons, talent moving here from habitual tech hubs like Austin, Silicon Valley and D.C. and a groundswell of seasoned veterans passing down their knowledge to the next generation of movers and shakers.
There's one remaining bonding thread, or ideal, that needs to spread amongst the nascent wizarding community in the city - that the financial and technical realms are equal partners when it comes to taking this to the next level. The antiquated idea that the people who write the checks are endowed with superior intellects, skills and abilities must be swiftly swept into the dustbin. The financial backers need the craftspeople to execute their ideas, just as the craftspeople need the financial backers to execute their ideas. It's an equal partnership.
I trade my vast experience and knowledge of building world class products for remuneration, and not just a paycheck, I'm talking about an equity stake in the product that I'm building with my blood, sweat and tears.
It's not about leverage, or power, but simply a transaction amongst equals.
This is the risk, because our craftsperson community is still growing, learning, and maturing; it must also be consolidating and sharing wisdom about how to train people how we should be treated. The ancient stereotype of the computer geek sitting in the cold computer room cranking out code and drinking soda is due to retire.
It simply does not have any bearing on reality any more.
Today's savvy technical leaders are excellent communicators, experienced strategists, and seasoned team builders who know how to execute a plan that accounts for cost, risk, and scalability while integrating creativity, autonomy and fun.