In forums, I have met the majority of people that I consider close friends. One of my best friends is Jared W. Smith.

I’ve mentioned Jared here on numerous times, including in my article on how much I love when people who have worked under me go on to do great things.

I have known Jared for over 10 and a half years. Last Saturday, he married Stephanie Coccaro in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and I was there.

I drove 4 hours to Raleigh, North Carolina, flew to Charlotte, North Carolina and then to Savannah, Georgia. Finally, I drove another hour in a rental car to Hilton Head Island. I really wanted to be there.

I don’t throw around terms like “close friends” and “best friends” lightly. Jared is a great guy and, over the last 10 and a half years, we’ve developed a strong friendship. Where did that friendship start? On one of my online communities, Shortly after I launched the site in April of 2001, Jared came across it.

When I launched the Support Forums in May of 2001, he was the third person who registered and was part of the initial staff as a member of the Support Team. He was a great team member and he was very supportive at what was a crucial time in the site’s history. We faced some interesting challenges and we learned a lot – things that I believe would prepare us for some of the tasks we’d have ahead.

When Jared left the staff, it didn’t affect our friendship as we simply stayed in touch through other means and, even to this day, once in a long while, I’ll ask him for input on something related to the site.

In the mid-2000s, an editor at Apress, a large publisher of technical books, contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in co-authoring a phpBB book. I knew I wasn’t the one to do that, but I knew who would be perfect for it. Jared secured the deal and did a tremendous job on what became “Building Online Communities with Drupal, phpBB, and WordPress.”

On their wedding site, this is mentioned on “The Groom” page:

What many don’t know about Jared, though, is that he is a slightly successful writer.

Indeed, it was the book that helped sell him to Uncle Mike and Stephanie’s Dad, John.

I got quite a kick out of that.

Prior to the wedding, I had met Jared in person three times – at ConvergeSouth in 2008 and South by Southwest Interactive in 2010 and 2011. Meeting in person didn’t necessarily change anything – it simply confirmed that who we are on the internet is also who we are off of it.

It was great to be able to attend the wedding and share in that special moment. It was great to meet Jared’s family and tell them how great a guy Jared is and to learn what they have heard of me. It was nice to hear how much the book meant to them and how proud of him they were and are.

On the wedding day, I had an idea. Jared told me that he planned to livestream the ceremony and a light bulb went off. He is a noteworthy figure in the history of, so I wanted to do something special on the site: for the wedding day, we would dedicate the homepage of the site to the wedding and embed the stream. No ads, just a simple white page that made it easy for anyone who wanted to skip on by to do so.

The ceremony went well – the best weather of the day presented itself at the perfect time – and it was a great evening and experience that I won’t forget. Congratulations Jared and Stephanie!

Anyone who tells you that meaningful friendships and relationships don’t come from the internet is wrong. Very much so. My story isn’t a unique one. Your online community is probably trivial, but the strong bonds that your members make with one another are not.