Take two unrelated events and put them together, and sometimes you get an unexpected result.

The first event is the recent untimely death of Captain Carroll LeFon, a retired Navy pilot who died when his Israeli-built Kfir fighter crashed at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada. I never met Captain LeFon. He wouldn't have been able to pick me out of a police lineup. However, I felt as though I knew him thanks to his very popular blog, Neptunus Lex. He was a fine writer, a stalwart patriot, and by all accounts a damned fine pilot, and I feel simultaneously glad to have known him through his writing and sad that he's gone. If you spend a little time poking around, you'll find a fairly large number of eulogies and memorial posts for Captain LeFon-and many of those writing admit to knowing him only online.

The second event is the recent announcement that Microsoft is bringing back the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC). I first learned that MEC was returning at this year's Microsoft MVP Summit, and the reaction from the assembled MVPs was immediate, unanimous, and strongly positive. The online reaction since the public announcement this week has been the same; it's clear that the return of MEC will be a real crowd-pleaser.

Most of you are probably wondering what on earth these two things have to do with each other. After all, the overlap between "people interested in Exchange" and "people interested in naval aviation" is probably pretty small. The answer is simple: community.

Lex will be missed by his community, a broad and diverse group of people interested in various aspects of naval aviation and aviation in general. MEC is being welcomed back by its community-those of us who work in or around, or are just interested in, Microsoft Exchange Server as a technology and a product. This community sometimes seems a bit nebulous. By comparison, the Microsoft SQL Server world has the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS), the large international SQL Server users' group. iOS and Mac OS X developers have a thriving community, too, both virtual and physical. Other technologies and platforms have similarly robust communities, but something's been missing from the Exchange world since MEC's termination.

The fact that Microsoft is choosing to spend some of its finite Exchange marketing budget on providing a community event tells me that they get it. They understand that the ongoing march of cloud technologies doesn't eliminate but rather reinforces the need for Exchange administrators to have a means to share information with their peers-not merely technical information, but campfire stories about the way things work, how to best use Microsoft's technologies and features, and so on. This kind of unofficial information exchange was a hallmark of the old MEC, and I look forward to seeing it rekindled in the new conference.

Microsoft has yet to announce many details of the renewed MEC-apart from the dates and location, we'll have to wait and see what they've got planned. Despite my general dislike for Orlando as a convention venue, I'm making my plans to be there . . . for the community. I hope you'll join me there.

Now I'm off to reread a few of Lex's choicer blog entries while lifting a glass in his memory and honor. Fair winds and following seas, Captain.