Whether it's at the upcoming Webmaster Access show in Atlanta, the bi-annual industry-leading Internext Expo, or at any of the other regional, national, and international adult Webmaster gatherings, nothing can beat the opportunity to spend 1-on-1 "face time" with your peers.
Even if you're new to the business, immersing yourself in the chaos and community these events provides will pay dividends, and make any of the other networking opportunities discussed below even more productive: after all, you won't simply be another anonymous noob, you'll be the guy we had drinks with in Vegas!
One of the most basic networking tools available to newbies is e-mail. When you're first starting out, you'll more than likely have lots of questions about things like sponsor programs and traffic sources and the like.
If you're not sure about a part of a sponsor's Terms & Conditions, or you need help with building your site or increasing your sales, send an e-mail off to your sponsor's "Webmaster Support" department or other contact address listed on their site, and ask for help. Not sure if your gallery meets a link list's or TGPs requirements, and reading the rules first didn't answer your question? E-mail the site's Webmaster.
It's better to ask questions than to be banned and not paid, and the people you meet via e-mail can go a long way towards helping you out. Remember – they don't succeed unless their affiliates succeed.
ICQ & IRC
An arguably indispensable networking tool, ICQ is the "default standard" of instant messaging applications, allowing for quick and easy contact between parties with a more natural "chat" flow than is possible through e-mail. While having this program can become a serious distraction (depending on how "chatty" your "friends" are), it is a handy tool when you need instant answers, or results.
IRC, or Internet Relay Chat is most often encountered along with the many Web-based "radio" and "TV" shows that are becoming ever more popular. Typically accessed through the ubiquitous mIRC client, or through a Java-based interface on the site hosting the chat, this networking tool allows you to chat in real time with any number of other users in a group discussion, often about the topics being presented on the radio show, or on a specific topic set by the chat's host or moderator.
Message Boards & News Groups
While they were once "the only game in town," Newsgroups have lost much of their appeal and audience to the immense crop of Webmaster message boards and community forums currently available; and if you can't find a board that suits you, simply wait a minute – new ones appear almost daily.
While message boards tend to gain and lose 'regular' members as the community that evolves around them takes shape and defines itself, a handful of industry pillars (such as the community here at XBiz) retain long-term value, even as their makeup – and post count – changes.
Subject to the fickle vagaries of an often fad-driven audience, the board du jour might see an amazing increase in traffic, but quantity and quality are two different things; and where one board might provide newbies with thoughtful responses and helpful replies to their questions and comments, another board might subject the poster of those same questions to infernal (and eternal) ridicule. Once the crowd moves on to the next day's "hottest board on the Net," thread stagnation tends to set in on all but the strongest communities.
Regardless of what boards you find, try to "lurk" long enough to get a feel for the community's character before posting. Once you find a helpful forum and understand how best to fit in, there's no limit to the amount of help you might receive – and in turn, be able to offer...
Regardless of how you interact with your peers, the bottom line is that you "just do it!" ~ Stephen