It feels as if this year the feelings are not too raw anymore to even consider writing about Joel. Can anything new be said that hasn’t been said better by much more important people. Probably not, but their story is not my story.
A day honouring Joel is not just a day his name brings out a flurry of blogs and tweets. It is a day to remember who he is. There is no was about Joel, his life has a lasting impression on anyone he touched.
I was by no means a close friend of Joel. He was of course much more important to me than I was to him. I feel that is probably the case for just about everyone. But he is the essence of “they will soon forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel”. Joel had the ability to make anyone feel like they for a moment were the most important and interesting person around. I don’t even know how anyone would imitate it. I think the thing is that it cannot be imitated, it has to be 100% honest.
I have been at conferences where Joel stands in a room surrounded by Oracle fanboy superstars. The likes of which we all know the names by heart. I’m not a shy person but I shy away from crowds I don’t feel I belong in. So I end up elsewhere in the room talking to someone, having a beer or just thinking about the conference. Joel would while he is busy being the life of the party for some 20+ people see that I passed by and at some point make his way over to chat some and do his best to introduce and make me feel at home with the in-crowd.
Such discussions with Joel made the community come to life for me and while there are rough edges in it, Joel saw none and exhibited none. He was for community to a point I know few who can. People on his level has worked hard to get there and as such want to be seen. Joel was always the center of the attention but always made every attempt to direct the light at the community and the user groups.
The community is what it is because of Joel. I think even Oracle is what it is because of him. Oracles “back to cool” and developer focused initiatives seemed to get more and more traction at the same speed as Joel got the community to see itself as a world wide phenomenon. How things changed can probably be seen in the number of said superstars that has returned to the mother ship over the last few years.
So what is the point with all of this? Who knows. I’m probably just wanting to remember Joel and to wish for a community where light is shone at the audience and not the superstar speakers. Bringing the community together the way Joel did with no thought of who is good enough, if you want to be part of it then you are.
Thinking about Joel being gone and his big smile not waiting for us at the next conference makes me sad. But what he created and how it continues with a community that has very few “mean boys” makes me very happy. People like Joel that makes any community easier to enter and less pain felt for not yet being at par with the best is what makes the APEX community such a rock star community. I have been part of many communities in tech. I’ve been proud to have been in some. But the APEX community is the only one I’m proud of. Not proud of being in it, just proud of what it is and what it stands for.