In the spirit of creating a lively discourse about the South Florida Tech Community, I figure I should revisit where my involvement began. This story begins in 2005.
Prior to the creation of RefreshMiami I had been to maybe a handful of Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce events, in particular the tech committee events, and was completely unaware of any other pre-existing groups. When I created Refresh Miami 4 years ago (registering the domain and setting up the google group yada yada), I was looking to connect with other geeks and web professionals. I wanted to find a group of people to bounce ideas off of and to share tips and techniques with for building things on the web. Along the way I’ve met lots of great people, lots of characters, and been continuously impressed with the caliber of people down here in South Florida. As a native South Floridian, yes there are some of us still left here, I’d set my expectations incredibly low for what to expect from tech in South Florida. Yet despite my initially low expectations, I now believe we have the pieces here to build a vibrant and prosperous technology community in this area.
When Refresh began, I had no expectations for it. I’d have been perfectly content if it hadn’t grown beyond a few dozen people. I didn’t care. I had no financial reason for needing Refresh to be big. It was purely a social outlet for me. Over the years I’ve come to realize there are some major benefits to the Refresh community by having it grow (job opportunities, business partnerships, increased exposure, etc.). So who knows, maybe my naivete in the beginning was detrimental to the growth of Refresh. Maybe had I been more focused on growth and expanding it, it could be 10x bigger than it is now. It is possible, but I think we would have imploded as a community if it had grown too fast. Refresh has a very tight knit community, much more tightly knit than any other group of its size I’ve seen in South Florida that is loosely formed around a professional or educational interest. These bonds are one of the reasons why I love Refresh. The discussions that emerge throughout the community are the other.
Refresh is about communication, ideas, and their free exchange. Refresh is about democratizing the tech discussion. This ethos is why we let anyone with an idea to share present (excluding sales pitches, those are strictly forbidden; if I am going to see a sales pitch, I better be getting tickets to Disney World or something). So Refresh was started to spark the discussion. These discussions have spread and flourished throughout South Florida, many spawning their own social groups.
When I hear complaints/comments about the community having too many meetups and tweetups, I think we as a community have done our jobs well. The fact that there is now enough demand for discussion about Social Media to warrant its own club is fantastic. Same goes for PHP, Ruby, SEO, WordPress, whatever. The more clubs/groups/meetups, the better. That means there are enough people living in our community who are so passionate about technology that they need to find other people to meetup with to bounce their ideas off of, and to share tips and techniques for their particular craft.
I can only hope that these new groups in turn spawn a thousand more groups on every topic from using iPhoto to Photoshop, iMovie to Premiere, iWeb to machine language.
I can only hope the next 4 years are even more exciting. So let’s get out there and spark a discussion. Cheers to you South Florida, for Refreshing this community.