The IT Certification Resource Center

Featured Deal

Get CompTIA, Cisco, or Microsoft training courses free for a week.
Learn More ❯

Spiceworld 2018 Shows the Astounding Power of Community

Spiceworks, a community of IT pros that shares educational content, product reviews, and free apps, recently wrapped up its annual SpiceWorld conference in Austin, Texas. Ed Tittel attended and likes what he saw.

The annual SpiceWorld event in Austin, Texas, get its juice from energized IT pros.Once upon a time, a long time ago (circa 1993-1994), I filled a job at Novell wherein I was responsible for technical content for trade shows and the BrainShare Developer conference (8-to-10 of the former, and 2 of the latter). That experience changed my attitude toward trade shows forever.


Ever since I left that job in May 1994, my policy toward trade shows has been, “I don’t go, unless somebody else pays me to.” For me, SpiceWorld is the exception that proves the rule. It’s such a powerful and positive experience that I am happy to attend without being paid for my time or travel.


Fortunately for me, SpiceWorld happens in Austin, so it’s only a 25-to-45 minute drive to get there each way (depending on traffic). But wow! It is so much fun and so educational to spend two and half very full days with that crowd, that it reminds me of how much power an enthusiastic and motivated group of IT professionals can wield.


The Spiceworks Story, in a (Very Small) Nutshell


Spiceworks is a kind of self-help community for IT professionals that does its thing through a pretty impressive website. The company’s been around since 2006, and they were founded on the proposition that IT people would tolerate well-chosen, minimally intrusive advertisements for access to a peer-professional forum where community members could learn from each other (as well as from the sponsors and advertisers, where appropriate).


SpiceWorld 2018 was the 11th such event and, because it’s annual, I can safely deduce that the first one must have occurred in 2008. Over the years, Spiceworks has increased its forums and coverage, and made it possible for large numbers of IT pros to interact and exchange info.


Though they started out offering a free (vendor-funded) network inventory, management, help desk, and troubleshooting software environment to members as well — they still do, in fact — the Spiceworks community has proved to be its most important and valuable asset.


How important and valuable? Enough so to attract around 7 million users as of this month. Until a couple of years ago, Spiceworks required members to run and install their software to qualify for membership. No longer, however — these days, anybody can join the site who wants to.


Spiceworks has often been described as “social media for IT professionals.” And indeed, that seems to be its core source of value and interest to all parties nowadays. The company has received over $113 million in venture funding over the years, and remains very much a going concern.


I have to believe an IPO lies somewhere in its future. Apparently, it just keeps getting better at doing what it does.


What About That Community?


On the face of it, SpiceWorld looks like just another small-end tradeshow. Around 2,000 participants, two full days of content, with two 1-hour keynotes each day, and four technical sessions around those keynotes (six or eight tracks wide). Light breakfast and lunch is included for all attendees, and it’s usually one or two steps above “rubber chicken with cardboard potatoes.” There's a small tradeshow booth area, with about 70 vendors showing their wares.