Lotusphere 2010: Family

January 22 2010

The press loves to describe Lotusphere as a "reunion of the faithful".  The reality, though, is I saw tons of "first time" buttons this week (I think Bob Balaban ran out), and I had plenty of "this is my first Lotusphere" conversations.  The next sentence was usually "it's fantastic".  Lotus Knows that part of the reason is the way in which Lotusphere attendees, and the conference itself, are so into working together that the genuine feeling of unity and camaraderie is infectious.  It continues, even at my fifteenth, to be as exciting as the first.  Sure, the people change, the dynamic adjusts, but the true spirit feels now like it did for me in 1996 -- and that despite holding eight different jobs within the company at that time, Lotusphere remains a constant.  There's nothing else I've done for as many years as this conference.

So it is no surprise that for me, as for many of you, spending a week at Lotusphere is time with family.  It is not a perfect family -- there are strong personalities, squabbles, dark secrets -- but this week in Orlando, with our almost instinctive connection with each other, is in fact much like a family reunion.  Some members of the family choose to be quiet and anonymous -- there are people every year who I want to meet and never do -- while others are on stage five or six times and seem to always be available for insight or a laugh.  It is comfortable, it is emotional, and it is, on some base level, a need to be with you all at this event (and clearly the reason we are doing so many successful user group meetings these days).

This week members of my family helped out with my real family -- welcoming my wife Deborah, cooing over Chloe, and even baby-sitting so Deborah was able to watch "Lotusphere Idol" and enjoy a little bit of being here.  It was fascinating to watch Lotusphere 2010 through my wife's eyes -- she has never been to a conference like this, and her only preconceived notions came from me, reading some blogs and tweets, and that scene in "Up in the Air" where they crash the A-Tech party.  The warmth and graciousness you all exhibited in reaching out to us -- heck, some came running when they saw the baby stroller -- was very special.

Unexpectedly, last night this Lotusphere family helped us get through a very trying night.  Just as I walked off stage after this picture (credit: Greyhawk/by vowe)

Deborah called that Chloe had a 104 degree fever.  My family helped by loaning us a car, ensuring we knew where to go for treatment, and most importantly, supporting us through ten tough hours over Twitter.  Chloe is fine this morning, and we're headed home to Chicago today.  Where I will immediately start missing my family.

Like real family, I may not always remember your name or where we met or how we're related, but I'll always remember the face, the place, and what we have shared together.  There are 5000+ of you and I don't and won't ever know you all.  200 new Twitter followers this week shows that new members of the family are always joining, wanting to connect.  I love that I can jump off stage at Lotusphere Idol and spontaneously ask two dozen people in the audience, by name, for commentary -- that we're all that comfortable with each other.

As with real family, there are way too many people I owe deep, deep debts of gratitude for which not even a rich uncle could repay.  I can't name everyone and when you forget to thank Aunt Gertrude, the guilt lasts forever.  Most of you know who you are, though some of you will never know.  

Either way, thank you -- from my family.  See you on the road (I think I had about 30 different invites this week), or right back here in Orlando on Deborah's birthday -- January 30th, 2011.

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