I have just gotten back into the swing of things – reading all the blogs I should be etc. I am starting off where I put things down about two months ago (I have 4000+ posts to scan/read in my identity streams folder).
Reading this post by Mary I remember the citizens jouranlism day that was less then ideal. The whole event got me thinking about the art and skill involved in creating good containers for people to gather in. The day was a disaster on a bunch of levels.
- First of all there was no clear map to get to the location. After we arrived Mary and I made a sign out of a paper bag to make sure others coming after us would actually know where to turn in.
- It was summer in SF at the Precido – for those of you who don’t know that means it will likely be very cold, windy and foggy. People were not warmed of this and so basically everyone was freezing.
- This was a meeting about internet citizen journalism – I had assumed we would be meeting in a building with wifi – not the case.
- When one calls an event and it has a start time – it is good for the host to actually show up prior to that time to welcome folks. Our host that day arrived an hour late and got to saying hello to everyone at 1.5 hours after the stated start time.
- It is good to feed people at events – so there was some effort made in this direction – hotdogs and hambergers. No one was really organized to actually cook the food. Two of the women who were just there to participate ended up taking the lead in preparing food. They had not volunteered for this role before hand but no one was doing it so they stepped in and cooked.
- After introductions concluded we all moved down to the internet archive – this was a packed room and 30+ people were trying to have one conversation. We were all looking to the organizers for some structure to the conversation – none was really provided.
- I am told that after I left the conversation did get better.
I am not writing this to be purely critical but to highlight some real world examples of the challenges that aries when organizing in person event. Consciousness about how to bring people together could be further cultivated in this community. 40 amazing people were asked to and willingly volunteered 6 hours of their time on a SUNDAY to join this discussion. More attention and for thought could have been given to the container created.
This metaphor of the container is one that comes from my work in spiritual activism. How are you going to honor peoples time and the gifts they are bringing to what ever purpose you have. This container involves the whole of the event:
- the initial intention
- who is included in manifesting the intention
- who is invited
- choice of process and facilitation
- proposed goals outcomes
- the physical aspects of the event –
- Location – inside/outside – bigroom/lots of small rooms – bathrooms or not
- nourishment needs (food and drink)
The creation of a strong community container is one of the keys to success for online worlds too. Claire from SUN has this post referencing Caterina Fake about how they (FLICKR) focused (and continue to focus) very strongly on the container of community. This positive field of feedback has drawn energy towards them.
People are more likely to work well together well not only when they have a common interest or shared set of goals – but also when there is a personal connection. I try to work well with most people, but I’m much more motivated to to cut people slack when I know a little bit about who they are, when I can tease them about their taste in a band called FloggingMolly, when I know that they like to delve into 1337 5p34k on occasion, or if I know that her talented brother went to RISD and is friends with the infamous creator of of Andre The Giant Has A Posse.
Caterina Fake of Flickr fame recently blogged about building a flickricious sense of community (gotta love that word) – and the importance of personal connections caught my eye. One relevant quote from Caterina – the part about personal – and authentic – communication is at the end of the paragraph:
“In the beginning, the creators of the community space have to create the tone and attitude of the place, set the parameters of what is and what is not allowed, and participate heavily, engaging directly with other people, mercilessly kicking/banning trolls, creating a real sense of there being a there there. Friendster, and the banning of “Fakesters” is often used as an example of a misunderstanding of online community — but I think this misunderstanding went back further, to the beginning. I was an early member of Friendster and, the first message I got was from the founder. “How do you like the service?” he asked, and not — and this is really the crux of it — “Pynchon! Man, how can you read that stuff! DeLillo is 10X better.” or “ZEPPELIN ROX! Zoso is my favorite album!!!” I’d filled out a profile. See what I mean?”
What’s the conclusion? Growing the OpenSolaris community is going to involve building lots of these personal connections. Personal and authentic, not stiff and corporate. Cool.