Posted October 9, 2008 9:56 am by with 20 comments

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By Brent D. Payne

As most of you have probably heard at this point, the IM Charity event was an all out blowout event in more than one way for me. I had the opportunity to meet several people that I had only met previously on Twitter, via SEOmoz, via IM, or via email. As part of this experience I had several that offered to buy me shots, strong drinks (beer and other drinks were free to attendees), etc. and I accepted their generosity.  I even had one guy buy me a shot just to cut in front of me in the bathroom line (yeah, it was that long). Needless to say the night got pretty crazy.

The exact events that occurred I will set aside. I’ve heard several versions of the events that followed and the versions I hear are actually more entertaining than the true events that occurred so . . . I’m leaving it alone and letting it build to whatever it may become. Setting the record straight would only go against the fun, light-hearted, friendly spirit that I have experienced and hear in every version of the story.  I’d rather let the story grow into legend. My mindset is that everyone has had ‘that night’ at least once in their life and the stories that live after it should become more and more entertaining as time continues to pass and the more often the story gets told.

I would like to highlight one aspect of this situation though—the quality of people. I have often mentioned that the search industry has the largest group of quality individuals within it. There is an immediate acceptance that one feels within the industry.

Whether it is writing a blog post for the first time on YOUmoz (or now here on, going to your first conference, meeting up with a group of people at a restaurant or bar, or. . . um, ‘more complicated situations’ that I found myself in, the collective group of people in search greet you with open arms, and willing to give you the shirt off their back (or a really large container of water in my case).  I don’t think we talk enough about how great the spirit of this industry truly is. We tend to mention the small quibbles that occur here and there.  What this blogger said about that blogger or this search engine employee did to that webmaster, etc. We tend to focus on the occasional negatives that pop up instead of focusing more on how healthy the spirit of this industry really has become and how many quality individuals we have within it.

I was greeted tonight to a room full of people that knew me mainly via Twitter, perhaps an occasional blog post, or because they knew someone that knew me via one of these mediums. Tonight, though, [the night of the party] these ‘online friends’ bridged the gap from ‘online friends’ to ‘real world friends’. And they did it in just one evening. Isn’t that what real social networking is about? Making not only friends just online but making, well . . . friends? I do.

Oh sure, some may say that the context is questionable. The events slightly embarrassing or something that needs to have proper ‘reputation management’ applied. I say, “To hell with all that!” We live our lives in the spotlight when we engage in social media. I chose several months ago to open my life to the world versus maintaining multiple online personalities like I have had in the past. I chose to let the world know the true me. And you know what? I like what I am finding. Like . . . people that will be there for you when you need them. Like . . . people that invite you into their own glass house versus casting stones (or more literally, in my case, let me crash in their hotel room). I’m finding good people. I’m finding really good people.

Furthermore, I hope that the spirit of the events during the past few days will continue to press forward in the search community. That crazy, funny, stupid, dorky, unique things that may occur in the future within our industry can be expressed and shared in a way that was as open and accepting as I experienced. I’m not saying open up everyone’s skeletons. I’m simply saying that I hope others get the opportunity to experience the realism that I experienced this week. The realism that it’s okay to be you. It’s okay to let people behind your vale. It’s okay because this industry is one of acceptance, understanding, and kindmanship (note: I think I just made that word up, at least MS Office thinks I did).

It is in this spirit, that the group of people that were there with me during ‘that night’ have created a Twitter hash tag (#bigwater), Twitter profile (@bigwater), and even purchased a domain ( to continue on with that spirit. I support them in that cause and the spirit in which they do it. Have fun. Share stories. Build upon whatever foundation has been created this week. Let’s show the world that our industry is a little bit different than most out there. That we are an industry of friends doing business together and, in some cases, a group of friends doing business competitively against one another. But, in the end, we are an industry made of a group of friends.

A huge thanks to everyone. And I mean truly everyone in the search community. I hope to get to know each of you all better and better as the years roll on. I’m going to make a significant effort to meet as many of you as I can. Whether it be on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, something that we haven’t even heard of yet, or the traditional (and still the best). . . face-to-face.  Perhaps someday I’ll be in the position to help you like others have helped me . . . in the meantime . . . BIG WATAH!, BIG WATAH!

About Brent D. Payne

Brent D. Payne is the person leading the charge for SEO within Tribune Interactive where he recently doubled the number of unique visitors from search engines (year over year) for the Tribune Interactive properties such as Chicago Tribune and L.A. Times. He works closely with both editorial leads and technical leads within Tribune as well as working with external companies such as search engines, outside consultants, or other enterprise sites. When Brent isn’t doing SEO, he is . . . well, doing SEO. Yeah, it pretty much consumes his life . . . at least when he doesn’t have his 5-year old son.