After seeing how chummy many of our faithful community members have become in the Discussion forums, I'll air out a harebrained scheme I thought of during our experiment with Community Roadshow live events: TechRepubliCon.
(No, that's not a new subset of Transformer, though that would be pretty cool: Transformers Community Wars - TechRepubliCons vs. GameSpotoBots!)
No, TechRepubliCon would invert the notion of several small local events and create one large (inter)national event for TR members. It would be a full-scale convention, with workshops, panels, contests, the works. Instead of frittering out our engagement efforts piecemeal, we'd have one big throwdown with all the trimmings. Get some vendor weight behind it, load up on the swag (yes, including TR coffee mugs). Promote it in advance, let everyone make some travel plans, and TR fans could converge from the four corners of the Earth.
You folks could actually lay eyes on one another for the first time (except for Maxwell Edison who, if he did attend, would do so in disguise. Hmm...maybe we'd need a costume ball).
Oh, and here's the kicker--I'd insist that it be free. If our members have to pay to travel and stay at the hotel, I'm sure as shootin' not going to charge them to attend. We'd waylay the cost with vendor sponsorship. And no, this would not be a series of vendor salespitches. We learned that much with the Roadshows. At best, we'd let the Con guests be a volunteer focus group, offering input to product developers, not generating compulsory leads for business developers.
Oh, and for kick-butt members who can't afford to travel, we might just "hire" you to be a citizen-panelist, with your compensation being travel, room and board. That gets us around some sticky legal issues of international contest prizes. Believe me, vendors would love to have a featured panelist culled from the community. You might have to wear a free vendor polo while at the Con. Oh well.
That's the dream, anyway.