After several years of hiatus via pandemic cancellations, business leaders from the DNN community finally met in person again for a 3-day conference.
At IgniteTech, a sponsor of DNN Connect 2022, we were ready to participate in our first Zoom-less conference in a very long while. With Cody joining from Kenya and myself from the US, we set out for Millau, France, where the event was set.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for us. From my perspective, DNN Corp had a turbulent history that impacted the businesses that would be in attendance and the reputation of the open-source DNN project. Many at the conference have donated much of their time to the open-source code base. As the product owner of Evoq (the commercial version of DNN acquired from DNN Corp), I might own that history. I was going to DNN Connect to hear grievances, present my team's contributions and plans, and find a path to move forward together.
I was scheduled in the main room, just one session after the keynote by Peter Donker and Will Strohl. Jet-lagged and under-caffeinated after 40 hours of transit from the US, which included flight delays, a missed train in Montpellier, no cell coverage, and a tense negotiation with a rental car agent, I waited for the keynote to start.
Then as Peter Donker stood at the front of a formal-looking stone hall to start it all off, I witnessed something unfamiliar in conference etiquette: undivided attention.
Everyone was looking at him intently, with no cell phones in their hands or laptops open to email or side chatter with their neighbors. I was getting a little nervous. Of course, I wanted people to pay attention to my session, but I hadn’t expected it would be this focused. What was I about to walk into? Maybe it was just the keynote getting all the attention? The first session didn’t put any of this to rest. When a relative newcomer to the community, Aranka from Bond, presented her recent experience with a security penetration test, the attention continued. Like everyone else, I followed every word on the slides and listened wholeheartedly, my inner monologue forgetting that I was up next.
Suddenly, it was my turn. Since unnecessary slides and live demos aren’t my style, I had planned my session as a roundtable. Over the coffee break, I rearranged the first few rows of chairs into a large circle. “Have a seat up here. There won’t be any slides.” The seats quickly filled in.
I started by laying out the engineering work that IgniteTech was making towards the next release of the open-source DNN, 9.11, which had been missing for a few years before the acquisition. As I looked around the circle, there were some nods and a few “oh, I didn’t know that”s.
Now to the controversial bit and the heart of my session: “We can double the metrics by the end of 2023”. I paused to scan the room for reactions.
I couldn’t be sure if I was seeing looks of “yeah, right” or “go on.” I elaborated on the number of PRs, installations, upgrades, sites running, modules, and themes. I explained that not long ago, there were three times as many sites running on DNN. The value proposition hadn’t changed. No other technology was materially better but, in my estimation, the decline resulted from dwindling commercial commitments to distribution – and we were here to restore them. The discussion went straight to “how,” “where,” and “who,” but no rejections or rebuttals. By the end of my session, we seemed to have aligned on a distribution plan.
There was something intangibly valuable going on at DNN Connect.
The undivided attention carried through, session after session. It was supportive and generous. How did this become the norm? It couldn’t just be the terrible internet. This must be by design, deliberate.
Terrific stories were shared between sessions, at meals, and during happy hours. Countless anecdotes of the community coming together to help each other through hardship, epic road trips, mountain biking adventures, and the greatest hits from past events. Their stories were all celebrations of each other, strengthening their community. Despite being business competitors in many respects, they were all on the same team, and this was their reunion. I could have felt like an outsider, but I didn’t. By lunch on the first day, I was among the tribe.
I realized this was the main point of the event. It was right there in the name.
For those who couldn’t make it to Millau, here’s what you need to know: This community has a unique strength. And thanks to that, DNN is growing, its future is bright, and we have work to do.
We need your stories, modules, themes, and PRs.
Good or bad, we’d love to get your feedback. Share your stories and your ideas over at DNN Community. Connect.