This blog post is long over due and has been rattling in my head for long time. Simply and boldly put it, community is everyone involved behind the result of your search for a particular problem. And by that I am referring to the IT community.
Community (from now on, I am referring only to IT community) consists of people that are contributing and sharing their knowledge, experience, questions, solutions, FAQ, etc to broader group of people. Many (if not most) of us are doing this:
- for 0 monetary exchange
- in free (or extra) time
- for building up a wider knowledge base
In return many of us expect from others:
- same behavior – sharing when they find an interesting solution to a problem
- Sharing their time, energy with helping others
- participating in read and gradually answering questions from other users
- gratitude and respect to others.
In the past couple of years I have seen decline in the above sharing-caring type of exchange and interaction. Yet, what I have seen more and more is:
- decline in awareness of how much community is worth
- decline in respect (disrespect) and gratitude to other fellow and community people
- aging of the community
- decline in general interest
Let me address each of the topics separately.
1. How much is the community worth?
Yes, what a bizarre question. And for sure, I can not answer it. But I will paint a different picture. We have all heard sayings like: “programming is just learning how to google things”, but not everyone have had asked themselves, what does it mean. And where does all the hits, results, solutions come? From community. And from people stepping forward and taking time to invest into understanding someone’s problem and solving it. Or people investing time and giving a lecture for free at the local meeting. Or people taking time and writing a blog, posting a youtube video on how to do something. These are all the people that are contributing to this knowledge base. And next time, when you have a question or a problem that you would need to solve, remember, that there was a person or group of people that have invested more time into solving this issue before you. Remember this. This is how much the community is worth and much more.
2. Decline in respect
Pay respect to community people. You ask yourself, how to pay respect? It is very easy, how to show respect:
- Say thanks, thank you (at the end of the forum post, at the end of the blog post, after listening to video online or after community event) and be grateful.
- If you disagree or if you have a better solution, engage into conversation and propose the solution. But be polite, nice and respectful. Your improvement will be highly appreciated.
- Give feedback, your words can count, especially when you describe your point of view
- Don’t be afraid to give praise or to give critique. In general, when giving a positive or negative review, keep in mind to be precise and objective. Think about the others when writing either. Will it be helpful and worth to others or not?
- Get involved and start helping others. Become an active member, start with observing, reading, listening, conversating and after time, start giving back; answers, ideas, blog posts, videos, speeches, etc. Don’t be afraid, if you are polite, kind, sharing and warm, community will embrace you.
- Words like: “sorry”, “I don’t know”, or admitting that you didn’t know or that you were wrong are not the sign of weakness, but are the sign of learning. this is the path for getting more knowledge and getting on track to start helping the others.
- Respect the general conduct of the website, of the event or of the product. Play by the rules.
3. Aging of the community
The fact that the community is aging has to do with the social phenomenon – lack of available literature before popularity of internet. Those, who were spending long period of times in libraries, analyzing every single page of available book, know and understand the the importance of available materials. Majority of these same IT-people are the community contributors themselves.
These people have been growing with community in past 20 years (massive emergence of internet and democratization of mass media) and these people are also the big majority of community that are still giving back to community. Drawing a line with any type of IT event that had been around for more than 10 years and you will find same people at the first iteration of these same events 10 years earlier.
Teaching the community to give back the knowledge, encourage them to start participating more and more in any kind of community work should start at young age. And convincing younger generation to start participating and enjoying the community should also be introduced and discussed. Only in these manner, the knowledge will be returned and not taken for granted.
4. Decline in general
How we live our lives and how technology had changed our habits directly (or indirectly) influence the community as well. With more and more different options to same subject-matter, many people have the capability to choose. Which is absolutely great, but can have a negative aspect:
- people apply on way to many free videos, webinars, events, far more than they are able to attend,
- people are subscribed on way to many free and open posts, forums, aggregates, making them confused when choosing
- more options is not necessarily a good option
- To study one topic, people still need to take time, study it thoroughly
- Fast changing technology and market needs make users hindered
- Too many technologies, too little time
I have been involved in community over 20 years, covering variety of topics, programming languages (Delphi, .NET, Python, C#) , statistical languages (R, Python, SAS, IBM, SAP, Machine Learning, Data Science) and database software (Microsoft SQL Server, SAP Hana, Oracle) and I have seen a decline in general, especially due to lack in general, lack of time, age gap and content gap. But at the same time, I have also seen many new – more practical – events, blogs, vlogs, articles, that try not only to make the existing community stay and tickle their brains, but also engage new people, younger people and teach people that sharing is also caring, and caring is building new connections, new ties and new possibilities.
Lastly, this is my personal view on the community, community work, evangelists and knowledge builders. Many of their them / us, do this out of sheer enthusiasm, energy, passion and drive and not because of – as many would have though – recognition or financial aspects. I love to share the passion, the energy, enthusiasm and drive with anyone, who wants to get started on particular topic. But only you must find this in yourself, otherwise it is useless.
Feel free to share your personal view, your opinion, your positive or negative feedback, I would love to hear your view. Much appreciated.