In my five or so years as a volunteer editor at DMOZ/ODP, I have made many interesting acquaintances from all over the world, and some wonderful and trusted friends. I have spent many happy hours chatting with them on IM and IRC, exchanged Christmas cards with several of them, and even spoken to a few on Skype (it's a rather unnerving experience to hear the voice of someone you know only through words on a screen!).
But in all that time I have never actually met anybody in real life.
Normally, I live about 2000 miles from my nearest editor friend, but as I am currently on a rather exciting holiday in the UK (of which more in my next post), I could not miss the opportunity of meeting some of the people I had "known" for so long. I was a little bit nervous, to be honest, because I am well aware of the potential differences between the internet persona and the true personality, but I am delighted to say that my concerns were unfounded.
Not only did this person drive 50 miles into the centre of the city on a busy Saturday just to meet me, but we greeted each other with all the easy familiarity of work colleagues or (as I put it at the time) fellow resistance fighters in an ongoing war. ;-)
The next three hours flew by with a lot of laughs, reminiscences, and an entertaining diversion in the form of three young American students doing a survey on attitudes towards their fellow countrymen. As we had just been discussing this very topic ourselves, the interruption could not have been more timely LOL.
It was strangely reassuring to have confirmation that this editor (just like all of us) had a family, a past and present life, opinions, beliefs, hopes and concerns completely unrelated to his volunteer work at ODP/DMOZ. Of course most of our very enjoyable conversation concerned the directory and all the personalities, minor and major difficulties, triumphs and failures associated with it, but I am pleased to say that we did manage to discuss other things as well, proving that although some of us may be regarded as obsessive, we are not exclusively so. :-)