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In 1999, the Australian rock band You Am I, a trio since their inception 10 years earlier, decided to hire a second guitarist. They could have had their pick of any number of white hot players who could learn their repertoire.

Instead, they chose an 18-year-old fan who had come to their attention by accurately transcribing their entire most recently released album for a fan website.

He already knew every song inside out.

The risk the band took in hiring an unknown was mitigated by his obvious love of their music. Davey Lane has been with the band ever since, has been nominated for several Best Guitarist awards and has guested with the likes of Jimmy Barnes and Crowded House.

I feel a bit like Davey Lane.

I’ve been an unabashed fan of Web Directions since I went to their first (then Web Essentials) conference in 2004. I’ve been to every Web Directions conference in Australia since, I even went to Vancouver for a Web Directions North conference in 2008 (best conference ever), and I’ve attended any number of their other local events. I have the conference bags. All of them.

My annual professional development budget is split between attending Web Directions events and buying books and online courses (hello, SitePoint). A considerable proportion of the technical expertise I have comes from following the work of people to whom... read more