Once, at an event in late 2005, the CEO of a very up-and-coming company met me at a conference. I shook his hand and told him how much I loved his company, and how his efforts had really changed the way I looked at the tech space, and media making in general. He sniffed, said thanks, and asked what I do. I didn’t have a great answer at the time, and he sniffed again, and moved on, not that interested in me. I remember how much it bothered me, that I’d given him a very warm compliment and that he responded coldly. (This could happen online without either of us knowing it, but in this case, it was face to face, and he could’ve been a lot more polite.)
Two years later, his company was sold for pennies on the dollar and I was deep into my own career. He knew my name by now, knew what I represented, and found himself needing my support for a project that was important to him. I smiled briefly at the request, and then, I did what I would always do: I offered to help.
This one can’t be faked. This one isn’t something that many companies can pull off. This whole idea, that communities are powerful, either is or isn’t at the core of your belief system. And I know within a few sentences of talking community with people what side of the fence they’re on. Some see “community” as synonymous with “group I can milk for my profits.” I know about you, too.
But oh, the people who live for community, the ones who know that the human-shaped web is much more powerful in the longer run than any technology out there today, those are the ones to watch. If you run across someone who feels that strongly about community, and who knows what to do with those feelings (because remember: execution is everything), make friends, build a relationship at once, and work forward into what you can do together.
Community is at the very core of everything I’ve done successfully since I started. Every time I find a way to involve a circle and then grow that circle, I learn another way that people can win over systems. I learn of other currencies of exchange (like bartering) that convey with them much more than just a simple transaction (what’s the difference between doing a favor vs paying for a service?).
And community is also not a lot of things. It’s not static. It’s not single-minded. It’s not an unending resource. It’s not self-sustaining. It’s not orderly.
Think about this. Decide whether your projects and your goals and your worldview revolve around community (or more realistically, many communities) and then whether you understand how to work with that force for your own goals and aspirations. Is community part of your vocabulary? Is it in your blood? And how will you interact with the systems and forces that make a community?
Oh, and thank you for being part of this community. It matters to me. YOU matter to me.