How to Community

July 7, 2009

Obligatory cheesy cavemen community illustration.

Obligatory cheesy cavemen community illustration.

The concept of community is one that has been around for quite a while (see image at left).

Originally at least partially defined as a group that shared a common physical location, this term over the last decade, with the help of the Internet, has vastly expanded to include virtual communities.  (Obviously other media before the Net like radio, TV, snail mail and smoke signals have helped to knit together physically separated individuals, however the Net has simply done it on a much larger and more immediate scale).

Powering Software and Presidents

As for its power, it was the Community that became the central driver behind a “new” model of Software creation, Free and Open Source Software.  No longer was code solely written by a group of engineers holed up in a room and fed pizza by sliding it under the door.  It was written collaboratively by a community of mostly volunteers located around the world.  And in a very different arena,  it was the power of community that recently helped propel our current President to the White House.

Now with tools like Twitter and Facebook new communities are being created by the minute and companies and causes all want to know how to harness and leverage the power of community.  Marketing guru Seth Godin has even jumped on the bandwagon with his book “Tribes” an inspiring but content lite work discussing how ideas, people and leaders can be brought together to accomplish big things.

“I’m in charge here” doesn’t work for a Community

Although it may be obvious to some, the most important thing to know about a community is that its about influence and not control.  You can’t direct a community to do anything.  What you can do is provide great products, ideas etc that your community can get behind, promote and help make better.  Its about acknowledging their help and providing the tools and resources to help them help you.  As Max Spevack, the former Community Manager for Fedora Linux once told me, “It’s about the power of persuasion and ‘thank you.’”  Or as the motto of Obama’s field campaign states: “Respect. Empower. Include.”  [Note: this paragraph is recycled from a previous entry]

Learn How to Community

If you want to learn more from the folks actually doing it you may want to check out The Community Leadership Seminar that is being held on July 18-19  in San Jose, CA.   The event is the brainchild of Ubuntu Community manager Jono Bacon and is supported by O’Reilly events.  As the website says

The event pulls together the leading minds in community management, relations and online collaboration to discuss, debate and continue to refine the art of building an effective and capable community.

In true community fashion the majority of sessions will be an unconference format where the topics for discussion will be decided on the day and will be characterized by discussions as opposed to lectures.

And the cost — FREE.  So if you’re heading out to OSCON, which runs from July 20 to 24th, you may want to come out a couple days early.  Or you may just want to attend the event.  Its got an amazing list of attendees already signed up.

Pau for now…


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