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SharePoint Saturday - What is it, and why do we do it?

I've had this conversation here and there among my fellow SharePoint Saturday speakers and organizers, but rarely to anyone outside of the SharePoint community (my wife being the primary exception). But today, I came across the first time I've seen the tech media intersect our ever growing circle, and it was not in the best of light (about 1 hour, 9 minutes in).

For those of you that didn't bother to go look, the good folks over at Twit.tv, specifically the very good Windows Weekly podcast/vidcast/program/whatever, briefly discussed SharePoint Saturday: The Conference. One of the program's co-hosts, Mary Jo Foley, is speaking at the conference on the first day -- giving the trio a reason to bring our community into focus for a moment. During the brief time that was spent on the matter, the difference between the monumental community effort that is SharePoint Saturday and the thing that we tend to do after such events, SharePint, was lost.

Having just come off of organizing the SharePoint Saturday event in New York City, with all of the work that goes into that for myself, the other 4 organizers, our volunteers, and our speakers, to have the whole thing shrugged off as a goofy event somehow mixed up with boozing it up... well, I was irked:

http://twitter.com/ghurlman/status/99563974361751555

A few hours later, I got this reply:

http://twitter.com/maryjofoley/statuses/99661642677227520

Since such a thing would take too long for 140 characters, I thought I'd put it -- at least, my take on it -- here.

SharePoint Saturday, to me, is nothing short of a miracle. It provides first-class conference content to anyone that wants to see it, absolutely free of charge. Paid for on an event-by-event basis by industry sponsors, the events draw out people from the SharePoint community: developers, IT folks, managers, consultants, end users, and more to all come forward, without being paid a dime, to put on these great events.

Let me say that again.

From the people that organize and host the events, to the speakers that travel from around the world, to the volunteers that help run the events, not a single one of us collects a nickel for our efforts. We don't work for Microsoft, we don't get paid by the central SharePoint Saturday organization, and many of us don't get our expenses repaid by our employers. We lose money, and we lose our time (lordy, so much time) to these events - and, I feel, we are all richer for it.

The attendees get to see the same conference content you'll see at SPTechCon, the Best Practices Conference, or even the Microsoft SharePoint Conference -- all for free, and very often in their own neck of the woods. The speakers get to grow their professional network, gain experience doing these kinds of presentations, and drum up business for their companies or themselves. The volunteers get to help out their local community in a very tangible way, and the event organizers get to not just help the local community, but, speaking for myself, help to guide the SharePoint community not just locally, but very often for a whole region, by bringing in great speakers & content from all over.

Yes, when everything is said & done, after the event comes to a close, it has become tradition to have an unofficial networking event, often at an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages - and these events are colloquially known as "SharePints". They are fun, a chance to relax, but they are not nearly the focus.

Do not group the community of people that does all this as "SharePinters" - to do so minimizes the work that hundreds of people do, year round, to put these events together. We are a community of professionals, working together to make our work -- and so our lives -- a little easier, a little better, for ourselves and all those that surround us.