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Hey, Microsoft, why don't you grab a beer with us?

It's time for Redmond to get a round in, says Phoummala Schmitt

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Opinion The IT community can be a wealth of information and support. There is always someone out there that has an opinion - good or bad - or a problem that is similar to yours.

When you don’t know someone, you can bet that at least one of your contacts does. It’s like reaching out to the fifth cousin of your third uncle.

I wouldn’t be here writing this article if not for the IT community. The people of the community have opened opportunities that otherwise I probably wouldn’t have seen elsewhere. Through social networking, people are exposed to all manner of other people, and connections of their connections, and so on: it is powerful stuff.

Taking the bad with the good

It’s not all puppy dogs and smiley faces, however.

The IT community is vast and diverse, with subsets for just about every major IT trend or topic you can think of. Like real families, the IT community is not perfect and some parts are more broken than others; some suffer from lack of communication and even have scandal. (*cough cough* donglegate.)

As a sysadmin my exposure to the IT community has been primarily through the VMware & Microsoft communities. Each has the same overall goal of bringing people together to discuss the product and ecosystem, but they work in very different ways.

My experience of the VMware community has been quite positive, but that’s not to say others have had the same experience. It is, however, slightly different than my experiences of other IT communities. It’s not immune from the cliques, but overall the wealth of information and knowledge sharing is quite impressive.

When I first joined the VMware community back in 2010, I was low key and stayed within my comfort zone of reading the many blogs and attending my local VMUG events. I really didn’t utilize all the benefits the community had to offer. To be fair my local VMUG chapter is pretty small and not very active so access to in-person community events is limited.

Ride outside your comfort zone

It was just over a year ago that I decided to take another plunge into the IT community using the infamous social media outlet Twitter. This time I was amazed by how many total strangers were out there sharing knowledge of VMware, virtualization, storage, or sometimes just plain water cooler gossip about the latest episode of The Walking Dead.

Within the VMware community, finding someone to assist on an issue is easy. Recently a co-worker and I were working on a problem and we turned to the community. After a single tweet asking for some PowerCLI gurus' help, we had several DMs within minutes, and by the end of the day had a working script that solved our problem. (Shout out to @discoposse and @sixfootdad for their assistance.)

The thing that still strikes me is how the VMware community, being quite diverse, can pull together. Take for instance vBrownbag: a purely community-driven study group started by Cody Bunch in 2011. The idea of an online community study group became so successful that now there are EMEA, APAC, and LATAM versions.

This community has even pulled together to help out charity causes such as Podcasting for Cancer, run by - among others - El Reg contributors Trevor Pott and Josh Folland.

Social amongst equals

Not all communities are created equal. Take for instance the Microsoft IT community. Similar to VMware’s community, this is large and has many subsets, but lacks the sense of wanting to go and talk geek over a beer. Again based on my personal experience, this community is somewhat harder to break into.

When I decided to get active in the IT community, my initial intention was to start with my background, Microsoft. But the "community" was difficult to find. Sure there are blogs and the typical Microsoft-sponsored events but very few totally community-driven arenas that were unbiased and free. I have often described the Microsoft community as the club that nobody wants to admit they belong to.

The majority of us use a Microsoft product in some way shape or form so why is it so difficult to get people together and share knowledge that has not been driven by a vendor or sponsored by Microsoft?

The truly community-driven arenas and events like the Microsoft Management Summit have all either been swallowed up by Microsoft or died away.

IT/Dev Connections is an example of an unbiased arena that allows sysadmins to discuss and learn about Microsoft products. I had the opportunity to present a session at IT/Dev Connections this year and was impressed with the content that the conference provided. Unfortunately, for professionals that don’t have an endless budget for paid tech conferences, attending an event like IT/Dev Connections may not be possible.

Where are the Microsoft vBeers equivalents?

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