BarCamp PDX: Collaboration in Communities session

Dawn Foster, one of the BarCamp PDX organizers, is facilitating this discussion. She’s interested in how people build communities.

How is collaboration changing within communities? Moving from mailing lists, newsgroups to blogs, wikis, forums …

Face to face (F2F) interactions build more trust than you get online.

How to bring non-technologists into online communities? Knitting is one of the biggest of these.

People treat each other differently F2F than online. Educating newer generations in social norms, cultural differences, etc all play a role.

How do you find forums moderators, e.g.? Let people who might want to contribute know where you need help. Not just technical but someone to set the expectations for community norms. Important to create a sub-community for the moderators.

Communities self-organize their structures more than being placed into a hierarchy.

Network weaving: intentionally creating tighter and more connections within groups. People apparently do this for a living?

Building a strong community, from a corporate standpoint (or any project), means that people have got your backs when bad PR comes up. Give trust to your community, and they’ll reciprocate. Companies have done this forever as product advisory councils, which also provides a beta testbed.

Building an internal corporate community is required before you can build a strong external community. And letting your internal engineers or whatever hear real customers firsthand sometimes makes the difference. Connect the creators to the users.

Business models move more toward ecosystems and away from your traditional corporate structure. Away from a two-state system and toward a spectrum — no longer just producer vs consumer.

When do bloggers become marketers? Are they still impartial if some company pays them to blog about its products? Does it matter?

More stuff. Funny relevant comic at

Why Gentoo?

I just came across another good post on why it’s worthwhile to use Gentoo, if not permanently, at least temporarily. Kathy Sierra posted on the Passionate Users blog about the inverse relationship between efficiency of your tool and your understanding of what it does. The more autoconfiguration there is, the harder it is for you to figure out what to do when you’ve got a setup that doesn’t autoconfigure.

A commenter on that post pointed to an earlier Joel Spolsky (Joel on Software) post on leaky abstractions—in other words, an incomplete, simplified metaphor that sometimes breaks down. When you don’t understand both sides of the metaphor, you can’t figure out why everything’s busted.

In the same way, automated tools suck. They’re great once you understand the black box they hide from you, but ignoring that black box entirely is a route to disaster. That’s why you should try Gentoo, or LFS, or some similar DIY distro that gives you the opportunity to understand what all those fancy GUI tools really do. Someday, they’ll break. Will you survive, or will you take your toys and go home?