Posts in Category "Community"

Learning From When Things Go Wrong

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One thing you learn early on in community work (as in life) is that not everything works out the way you think it will. This is especially true when you’re trying to start a new event or user group.

New user groups face a lot of challenges when they get started. Finding a place to meet is a huge issue for some. For others, it’s finding local speakers. Still others struggle with how to get the word out about the group and attract members. And then there’s the whole budget issue … it is not easy, and many groups can’t get takeoff velocity despite the best intentions.

Putting on a bigger event, like a conference or a camp, is even more challenging. Even a small conference in a less-expensive part of the country can run up a five-figure budget, and for the bigger conferences the costs spiral up fast. It’s not easy and when things don’t go as planned, it can cause a lot of financial havok for the organizers.

It’s always sad to hear when a conference fails, whether it’s one that has been around for many years or is trying to become a new conference. The fact is, trying something new is always a risk, and inherent to risk is the possibility of failure. You don’t get one without the other.

And that’s OK. It’s more than OK, in fact – it’s necessary. You cannot learn or grow or build anything new without risk.

Even worse, sometimes people who fail at bringing a new conference or user group into a community will feel they’re not able to participate at all; that they don’t have “what it takes”.

If that’s you – please, don’t take the wrong lessons from failure. Learn what you need to learn about why you failed, and take the steps necessary to fix them. Maybe you need to find a partner who has some of the skills you lack. Maybe you need to change your focus, or try a new approach to your outreach. Maybe you were too ambitious in your goals, or maybe you overestimated the demand in your area. Whatever it is, though – push through it.

And once you’ve learned what you need to learn, if the fire to make something happen is still there, try again.

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ACP Appreciation

Everyone likes to be recognized for their accomplishments. Whether it is a promotion or a pat on the back.

Since I took on Manager of the Adobe Community Professionals, I wanted to find a way to show the world how awesome these individuals are.

I thought about hats, t-shirts, bags, etc. Then I thought about my Adobe Badge I wear every day and how proud I am of my accomplishments. So I ordered small magnetic metal pins with the ACP logo and shipped them along with some product stickers to each person. It was a small gift but I knew they would wear them proudly at their next conference, training session, or award event.

I received many emails full of Thank Yous, Twitter messages with Twitpics, and even a blog entry! I got the sweetest delivery today to my office in McLean, VA. The card said:

Thanks for All You Do For Our Team

- Have a Great Weekend With a Big Smile All Weekend.

I think I know who this is from but he didn’t enclose his name, so I’ll leave it out for now. But I’d like to say You’re Welcome and I will forever be proud of the ACPs. Please continue to help me build a great community and you will be seeing more from this program. Pins are just the beginning!

Community Leadership Summit 2010

It’s been a week since I returned from the Community Leadership Summit in Portland and I’ve had a chance to digest the event. The CLS is a 2-day unconference organized by several longtime community managers, including Jono Bacon, Michael Van Riper, Marsee Henon, Dave Nielsen, and a bunch of others as well.

Unconferences are a tricky thing to pull off well, but the CLS team did a great job with this one. The 100+ CLS attendees came from all over the technology (and physical) map – there were tons of open source folks, representatives from major companies like Google, Oracle, Microsoft, PayPal, (and Adobe of course), Portland natives and people who’d flown in from Europe and even India. Piggy-backing the event on OSCON helped a lot, but I was far from the only person who came in just for CLS.

Sessions at an unconference are much more like focused discussions than they are presentations. The posted topic and what actually gets talked about can end up being very different. But that’s OK. I “led” two sessions (one on community conflict, the other on community lifecycles), but that essentially means I thought up a catchy title & put it up on the schedule board – the stars of my sessions (as all the others) were the participants.

I can’t say I walked away with any earth shattering new information but a few themes stood out:

We’re far more alike than different. Regardless of whether you’re involved in a technical open source community, a local block association, or anything in between, the challenges each community faces are remarkably similar.

It’s always a challenge. Conflict is virtually inevitable when strong-willed people are involved. You can’t avoid it but you can take steps to make conflict less frequent and painful.

Community == People. This one was particularly apt for technical communities. Your community is not composed of the tools you use or the bits you create – it’s the people at the other side of the screen.

I have a feeling I’ll be blogging more about these themes in the future as well. :)

For other takes on the weekend, check out the blog posts by Evan Hamilton and Andy Oram.