May 6, 2012

How Do You Define Community?

I’ve been thinking lately about community. Thinking about eLearning community, about the Captivate community, sure… but also about all sorts of communities. Do I really know what community is? Could I poke it with a stick if I saw it?

I’m originally from Wyoming. I mean that I was born in Wyoming. For those of you in the broader world, Wyoming is a rural state in the US known for its deep roots in the American West. With nostalgic links to cowboys and independence, Wyoming is among the most sparsely populated places in the United States. While my years in Wyoming were short and early, I remember those years fondly and they are filled with memories most often including family and close friends.


One of my paintings – Reflections on my childhood in Wyoming.

When I think of my uncles and my father running high into the sage brush to pee out a fire from a rogue rocket on the fourth of July, is that community? When I think of neighbors and friends gathering at the corner market and talking for far too long while mud-smeared companions run circles around plastic flying elephants, is that community?

Later in life my memories of belonging to a set tend to fall upon school. Most of my formative years were spent in the corn-and soybean shadows of Iowa. Thanks to facebook, many of my original classmates are still just an Instant Message away. We chased and swung and climbed together. We ate together, took naps together, read together and studied together. Most of us no longer live anywhere near one another, but still we chat and email and share stories. Is this community?

As I began my professional career I met tens of thousands of students, worked with hundreds of educators, created spectacles with a myriad of artists and performers. We drank and sang and swam naked together. We laughed and cried and learned together. Is that community?

More recently I’ve encountered modern social communities. I’ve been working with several friends over the past six months to help create a centralized resource for the Adobe Captivate and eLearning community. It wasn’t long after I joined the eLearning team that I began to notice a pattern. Upon joining the team I’d gone online and searched out thousands of documents across dozens and dozens of web sites all very helpful but also a bit difficult to find.

I realized fairly quickly that while there is an enormous, productive and very generous community of Captivate and eLearning Suite users, they had never really centralized upon a ‘common watering hole.’ This would present itself most often when I’d try to explain to someone where they could get help on a given issue. The answer was usually to point them to several different resources online. As we looked at the core problem, we wanted to identify a solution that would provide the community with a mouthpiece – something that would enable community members and leaders to share their amazing talents. We also realized that we’d need to create something that had the potential to fit into the lives and schedules of as many of our customers as possible.

It isn’t like our goal was to create community, after all – the community of Captivate users was already there, just a bit disconnected. And our goal wasn’t to denigrate in any way the amazing efforts that individuals were making to create great destination resources. Our goal was to enhance the potential for communication by creating a convergence in the stream. The core idea was to provide a common landing ground that would be an excellent way to share messages about everything that was being written, filmed, shared and created that might be of interest to users of Captivate and the eLearning Suite.
After quite a bit of investigation we decided that rather than re-invent social networking, we’d use the most popular channel online today for social networking, and focus on enhancing its functionality in order to provide people with valuable information via the channel most of them are already using. We decided to offer the Captivate community a watering hole, centered around facebook.


http://www.facebook.com/adobeCaptivate/

I think it is important to note here that community is a blessing. It is a gathering of people with common interests and goals. It isn’t something that any given corporation can control, buy, sell or claim ownership over. The eLearning community exists with or without any of its individual participants, so it is absolutely not appropriate for anyone to try to claim ownership of a community or steer a given community. Like each individual member of the community, the best a company can hope for is to facilitate that community.

I’m pleased to say that this mission is going quite well. Today there are nearly 35,000 people connected to the Adobe Captivate facebook page. We’ve held two great contests, displayed loads of great community created content, answered hundreds of questions for hundreds of customers, shared blogs, videos, projects and more focused on a variety of topics of interest to those creating eLearning. We’ve centralized the schedule listings of our eSeminars, making it simple to find and register for any of the amazing and innovative eSeminars we provide to community every week. We’ve shared our blog posts as well as those of dozens of bloggers from around the world, and have an extremely active core of more than a dozen Adobe eLearning employees and even more dedicated community evangelists that are constantly working to bring the latest news, stories, examples and experiences to our wonderful community.

The Captivate community is enormous, so big in fact that it may be difficult to spot that community if you aren’t standing far enough back. The Captivate community is extremely active. The Captivate community is proud of the amazing accomplishments they’ve made, and they have every reason to be so. The Captivate community is generous, patient and thriving. Every day I meet new members. Every day those choosing to join us via the facebook watering hole increases substantially. The Captivate community is you, and you are important to me, and important to the other members of this community.

So if you’ve got something to share: a project, a story, a tip, a trick, a problem or a bug, an announcement or anything at all you think your colleagues should know, I hope you’ll share it with us. You can post it right on the facebook page, tweet it with hashtag #AdobeCaptivate, add it to the support forums via http://captivate.adobe.com/ or GetSatisfaction on our facebook page, or join us for one of our amazing eSeminars.

What do you think community is? How does it impact your day to day experience? How has it helped shape who you are today? What have you done to be an active participant in your community? Post a comment in the section below – We’d love to hear your ideas on the subject.

Posted by Allen Partridge8:57 AM
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  • http://blogs.adobe.com/captivate Shameer Ayyappan

    Wonderful post Allen! I can clearly associate with your description of the community- and what we’ve tried to achieve for Captivate. Of-course, we still hear that we don’t have a ‘common watering hole’ for our users (and there are a lot- we have more than half a million just in Australia!). And the large diverse userbase is possibly the key reason we do not have a common watering hole – yet. Our users have found their own comfortable niches- be it the very informative and active linked-in groups or the community on twitter. It would be very interesting to hear the community’s take on us choosing to create this ‘common watering hole’ on Facebook.

  • http://twitter.com/PTSBregenz PTS_Bregenz

    Well, how do I define community?
    For me a community is something “open” – for example this blog or a forum. I can add my opinion or my question, get (hopefully) response to it (not only from “normal” people but also from the guys from the Captivate-Team). I also can make “critical” statements and will not be ignored because of that but starting interesting discussions. That’s for me a community.
    I don’t want to make Advertisement but there’s a company outthere (no, it’s not Adobe) which “checked” the power of community.

    For me a community is NOT (but this is my private unterstanding) to “force” people into Facebook. I love Twitter and a lot other social networks but Facebook is something I refuse at all. And I think I’m not the only one.

    • http://twitter.com/AdobeELearning A Partridge

      Hi PTS,

      Thanks for sharing your ideas. We knew some people prefer not to use facebook so we’ve done a couple of things to ensure participation is easy and accessible for folks who for whatever reason aren’t joining facebook.

      First, you can always access the getSatisfaction community support using any of several logins – you don’t have to go through facebook. Here’s the URL for that http://captivate.adobe.com/

      You can also view any of the content on facebook even if you aren’t a facebook participant. I know that you are correct, that there are those who don’t want to participate in facebook for a variety of reasons. We are very glad to report that there continue to be tons of places to be engaged and involved, and you can read and access (though not post to) the facebook page even if you aren’t a facebook member.

      You might also like this resource: http://memolane.com/shanhassa/Rapid%20eLearning%20Resources

      This is a timeline based aggregation of all things Captivate and eLearning Suite.

      Finally, I sense an implication from your response that you feel that critical comments are unwelcome or that you’ve not gotten enough feedback from them in the past. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been disappointed in that regard. I hope you’ll always feel free to reach out to me personally if you feel you aren’t getting a response to a question, comment or concern.

      • http://twitter.com/PTSBregenz PTS_Bregenz

        Hi Allen,

        thanks for your response and sharing the links with me. They are very helpful.
        Yes, in the past I often had the feeling that Adobe is not really interested what their customers think, love or “hate” about Adobe products. Maybe I have to specify this: I had the feeling that Adobe is not interested what educational customers (schools or teachers like me) are thinking.
        But – to make my posting more positiv – I see there is something going on and you are on the right way. I visit this blog a lot, I follow you on twitter and I really enjoy Adobe Education Exchange. Hope that this is only the beginning of exciting times.

        Regards Christian
        (a not anonymous Teacher at the PTS Bregenz ;-)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000814302259 Miles McDude

    Beautiful…

    My two cents…

    I have been thoroughly impressed by Allen’s video efforts, and they have directly affected the learning experience of thousands of my students. I can very clearly tell that the guys who are steering this vessel very clearly understand the needs of the crew, and are truly making the effort to bridge the gap between the anonymous user and the very large company.

    Adobe has the community already. It is the communication and connection of the user to this community on Day 1 that is lacking. When I recently sampled a competitor’s product for testing, I was issued a very inviting, very personal sounding letter that immediately ushered me into the thriving world of their product’s benefits. However, a good bit of that is just salesmanship, smoke, and mirrors.

    Having worked closely with Adobe for some time now, I promise you that your competitor is more of a show than substance. When I come to Adobe, I get real help. I have a real impact on the direction of the product, and I am not told politely that the ship is too big to steer in any other direction. You guys are amazing…. We just need to find better ways to welcome people in.

    Duke

  • http://twitter.com/CaptivatePro CaptivateDev.com

    Great post Allen! You and RJ (sorry that he’s gone) have been a wonderful breath of fresh air to the Captivate Community. You’ve done an amazing amount of work to steer things in the right direction and I’m happy to hear that Adobe is looking to address the “watering hole” issue because the sheer amount of eLS related info out there is overwhelming and dispersed. For instance, there’s Twitter hash tags #cptips #AdobeCaptivate, multiple Cp LinkedIn Groups, FaceBook, Google Groups, multiple Adobe Cp Forums… it’s everywhere and “no where” at the same time. Meaning even the curators are having a hard time finding and deciding what’s important to promote and where to promote it. Promoting everything just makes that source…. another source.

    I’d be curious to know what Adobe is doing to address this problem. And we aren’t just talking about content… we’re talking about a people problem. People generate this content so the solution is convincing people to go to the watering hole first to contribute… find info, and find more connections. Facebook is problematic because some people have ethical reasons why they don’t want to use it… and primarily because businesses typically block it since it’s considered a black hole of wasted employee productivity.

    I’m sure you’ve looked at Articulate’s model. What are they doing right? How are they fostering the community to come to their watering hole? What types of resources do they have dedicated to fostering community? Are they using forums, groups, or employees dedicated to monitor their forums? What are they doing to make their forums positive, pleasant, helpful, and responsive? Are they interested in helping cultivate eLearning beyond their product… helping others strive to be better at their craft? I’m not saying their model is going to work for Adobe, but it’s an example of what’s working for them so why not take the best from it?

    I know you all hate the competition, but I see things quite differently. Good competition allows the community to have better tools. After all, if it wasn’t for the browser wars between IE, FF, Chrome and Safari, we wouldn’t have the great browser UX we have today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/donaldleegraham Lee Graham

    Community is simple… it is place where you and me and everyone else can come together to share something in common. It has to be open, a place where people feel safe and free to share their thoughts.

    I work for the largest open source company, Red Hat. The company is 100% built on community. Everything from the hiring process, to meeting, to projects. Everyone and anyone has a opportunity to share their thoughts. The goal being, “We are smarter than Me.” While not everyone’s feedback can be incorporated in a project, we strive to be open, collaborative and ultimately… better because of community.

  • Aining Xiaoqiao

    Wonderful article by Dr. Allen Partridge and it provides us new perspectives on how to define community in tech-rich society. It is not one individual’s effort, but the “collective unconsciousness” (Jung) which enhances the development of the Adobe community. Previous beliefs on community focused mainly on individual community. However, today’s community (such as Adobe) is seeking to find the intersection between diverse communities with various interests and thus offer the most desirable information and community service. In this sense, it is very necessary to divide the traditional community into two dimensions: subjective community and objective community. Subjective community involves people who share similar interest and beliefs and contribute to the targeted community while objective community aims at information sorting and aggregation which can optimally suit the need of customers and interest group by providing information, services and resources needed in a timely and user-friendly fashion. These two dimensions of community can be embodied by the practices of Adobe system and the watering hole (no matter what forms) has been under constructed by concerted efforts of Adobe system and people who are interested in Adobe community as described by Dr. Allen Partridge.

  • http://twitter.com/Lasers_Edge Joanne Nichols

    Thanks for sharing Allen. For me community is life sustaining. It lifts you up when you are feeling down, it carries you when you cannot walk, it guides you when you are blind etc etc. Yes for me community is friendships.

    I also come from a small town, in the Blue Mountains in Australia, being half way around the world can make it difficult to participate in alot of the live seminars due to the time difference, but as a eLearning developer and trainer I have found the captivate community a wonderful bunch of people who are willing to give of themselves and help each other.

    Love the idea of using facebook but most of my clients do not allow access to facebook so it is not feasible for me to use it as the first source. On a personal note I do not tend to browse the captivate page often as for facebook is my personal place and I tend to spend my time on facebook catching up with friends not thinking work.

    When training I love the fact that I can give out pages of links to people who are passionate enough about captivate to create their own blog, and are willing to share there ideas and tips.

    My first source for captivate links is twitter, I find it the most amazing source of great information, and that is when I usually end up on the captivate facebook page, following a twitter link.

    That said I am fully supportive of the concept and will try to drink more at the watering hole, I guess it’s just changing habits and I look forward to making new friends whilst there.

    Jo

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  • Rick Zanotti

    I agree with you, Allen! Communities are a way to reach out much farther than our normal reach would normally allow. They create friendships, bonds and knowledge. They help people thru hard times, both personal and technical. They let us know we’re not alone in a world increasingly marginating the individual.

    Communities are make up of like-minded or like-interested people. It’s all about people and how they interact with others. From community leaders to the participants, one gets out of the community what one puts in.

    A solid community is backed by solid teams of developers, sales people, pundits, etc. It takes a lot of parts to make the whole…

    Good post! Thanks…

  • http://twitter.com/damienbkx Damien Bruyndonckx

    Great post! Thanks.

    First of all, I would like to thank the community for taking me where I am today with Captivate. When I was a beginner, It is the tutorials, article, blog posts and forum replies of the community that jump started my understanding of Captivate.

    What I really like in this post is the emphasis on the Human side of a Community. To make is short, a community is a group of people. It is all about people actually and that’s what makes communities wonderful. Let’s not forget that all these pieces of software, all these great tools have been invented by the people, for the people. Technology should be at our service, and not the other way round like it is the case too often. When it comes to developing a new version, creating a new project, defining a strategy, … it is the People that should always be (and stay) the central piece. Exactly like in Education : our students are at the very center of the Puzzle.

    If Captivate is the brain, the community is its heart. The brain makes things work, but the heart makes them beautiful, engaging and inspiring.

  • Jonathan Shoaf

    I’m glad to see all the community chatter the last week or so. Community is so critical these days. Best practices, examples, ideas, and troubleshooting are all part of the day-to-day life for content developers. A good community to support these day-to-day activities can go a long way towards both product satisfaction and productivity. For Captivate, I’ve found the Twitter community to be the most helpful but I’ve also dabbled in LinkedIn and the Adobe Forums. Allen, you are right about all the variety of communities!

    That said, I think striving to improve these communities is warranted. In most of these Captivate communities I find troubleshooting techniques. I have not yet found the ideal Captivate communities for sharing examples, ideas, and good practices. I’m sure its out there, I just haven’t looked in the right place nor found a way to absorb it from where it is.

    Your reasoning on Facebook is sound. Unfortunately, its not the ideal place for me. I have places I go to immerse myself in work and places I go to immerse myself in life outside of work (yes it exists!). For me Facebook is the latter.

    One last point…the product and the community should appear one in the same. I think this is what Articulate is doing so well right now. Captivate is heading in that direction. For example, I see the Facebook links on the product page now. But the community links are at the bottom after scrolling down! The community will thrive better if you let the folks know when they buy the product, they buy the community too! It’s a feature!

  • Ane

    can i record at full screen size so I capture everything and then tell it to publich to a smaller size?

    • Ane

      version 5

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