What does community mean to you?

That word is thrown around a lot in our industry, building communities and all that. I think sometimes it is used as an empty buzzword, and other times as an accurate description of a gathering of like minded people.

The community, any community is made of disparate souls with their own self serving interests, but those interests more or less align themselves in some fashion that provides the glue to keep the community together and hopefully growing. As long as the community means something, and I dare say stands for something “bigger”, a higher purpose if you will, it will flourish. The nay-sayers, dividers, and ignorant take the stupid with them as they leave.

Within a broader community like business, there are subsets like the web crowd, the retailers, and the bean counters. At Social Media Club tonight, (after Sally‘s awesome preso), Francine Hardaway brought up an issue that faces all communities: how to outreach from the subset to influence, educate, and embrace the broader community that shares common edges with the subset. What is the answer here?

At Gangplank, the focus is community. Nurturing a new one into life.  People there are looking to do something bigger, better, awesomer, with more collaboration, more outreach, more education, and less bullshit. The form of community outreach there involves an open door that invites everyone to participate. There are photographers, web marketers, muscians, and the occasional mortgage meltdown refugee sharing the free co-working space. How do we take it to the next level? How does a group of smart, driven people break down the walls that from our side seem paper thin, but from others; appears as thick and unyielding as a brick. Does one build a ladder over the wall, a bridge around it, or do you quietly infiltrate the headquarters of the old guard establishment and drop a few percussion grenades to snap them out of their idea and energy deprived coma?

At what level does community leadership become a hindrance? Is taking a hands off approach akin to letting the insane run the asylum? Or is it necessary for some form of leadership, to establish a clear mission and objective that everyone can rally behind. You need the detail minded and big thinkers,  as well as the disruptors and technicians. What is that happy medium between input and mutiny?

One advocate shouting from the soapbox touches few, an army marching in the streets stops traffic. A coordinated campaign of education makes communities grow.

Welcome to the knowledge economy.  Participate, collaborate, and grow.. or die tryin.

2 thoughts on “Community”

  1. Josh,
    let me preface this comment by saying I love you buddy and respect the amount of heart you put into pushing GP and other endeavors. Your post read really well and clearly has passion behind it but upon finishing it I tried to recall the essence of what I had just read and I couldn’t. So I read it again. And I’m still not sure what exactly you’re advocating or pointing out. It seems like there are maybe three separate parts:

    -What makes communities work? There is an entire field devoted to this subject on a grand scheme (sociology). Clearly there’s a lot to answering this question. I think it’s really interesting subject though (heck it’s what i proposed for my SXSW panel) and it’s a question worth constantly revisiting for anyone trying to build one. Communities exist on so many scales and there are undoubtedly commonalities that can be found. I think that as with many scenarios we can learn a ton by examining analogues and extracting insights from parallel yet different situations. That could be a life’s work though.

    -The middle part of your post is flag waving for GP and totally appropriate. It’s truly a great thing you guys have going. We’re big believers in it and I constantly refer people towards GP. We’d be there more often but the whole proximity thing is a showstopper for us right now given our location and that we need to have laser focus. I like the social aspect of GP but the last hacknight I attended, I found that I got very little work done. Maybe the social benefits outweigh the ability to focus but GP for me right now is like New York: an exhilarating place to visit but not somewhere that I could live.

    -In the last part you raise questions on the superiority of centralized vs. headless communities. Again, I don’t believe there’s a blanket answer here that is right for all scenarios – the right answer is “it depends.” I can say the groups that I’ve been involved with and that had good longevity were ones that evolved as organically and decentralized as they could be without unraveling completely- like loosely-channeled chaos. I’m not professing that this is some design pattern for success in this realm but it’s been a common trait from my experience.

    My one gripe/concern with SMC and other such groups is that there seems to be this rabid desire to disseminate the gospel of social media as if exclusion and failing to use it is some kind of heathen, lesser form of being. The reality is it may not improve the quality of life for people any more than christianity improved the QoL for the indians. Why do you feel like we need to be constantly finding new ways to pull people into Skullz or SMC or Gangplank etc? I said it back in the day: “these groups will be what they need to be.” I feel like people exasperate themselves trying to recruit new converts instead of just focusing on making the existing thing work. To quote the brilliant author of “Innovator’s Solution” – “Be patient for growth and impatient for profitability.”

    Anyways, that’s a long-winded response to your post. I’d say keep the energy level where it’s at, just direct it inward at making a few successes rather than outbound recruitment efforts. If you build it they will come 😉


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