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Does Your Community Shine in Bad Times?

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I've built several communities and been a part of many others during the course of my career, including some that have nothing to do with software and technology.

Unfortunately, two communities I've been a part of have recently suffered devastating losses.  Not long ago, I wrote about my friend Greg Junell, and what he meant to a community of college kids who've now grown up and gone on to do many amazing things.  Just this past Saturday, my Cal Fire community lost an amazing member in the line of duty, Chief Rob Van Wormer.  He was the head of the fire prevention battalion at the Cal Fire Santa Clara Unit, which includes the group I volunteer with - the Volunteers in Prevention (VIPs).  The chief was a vocal and strong supporter of our volunteer team, and the many functions we perform for the department, including emergency radio communications, fire lookout staffing, public education programs, and media center operations (fielding calls during a major fire).


My Badge Shr…

In Memorium - Greg Junell

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"You never forget your first _____"

This phrase, with the blank filled in, is often used while looking back fondly at something you experienced that still touches your soul - and so, it's true of me today as I reflect on the loss of an amazing person - Greg Junell.  Who, you might be asking, is Greg Junell?


Greg Junell - 2011

Greg was and still is the heart and soul of my very first experience with community.  We didn't call it 'community' back then, but looking back on it now, the slo.punks was the first community I can remember being welcomed into with no reservations.  When you are a teenager away from home for the first time, experiencing college at a very competitive school like Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, life can be scary, awkward, and downright difficult.  Though 'The Punks' (think Cyberpunk, not punk rock) didn't have formal leadership per se, Greg was the closest thing they had to a community shepherd.

Even now, I think back to meeting hi…

Finding Your Community Magic

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'Festival Magic'

I've heard this phrase for the past 8 years while serving with an amazing group of 4000 volunteers who put on the Gilroy Garlic Festival - lauded by most as the premier food and entertainment festival on the West Coast.  While the saying started out as a bit of a joke to explain how things get done, the reality is those two words are the bedrock of an annual event that has been taking place for almost 35 years.



The history of the festival is long and storied - this video gives a great overview.  However, the elements behind the concept of 'Festival Magic' are applicable to communities of all types, whether it's open source software development, social media communities, or affinity groups.  This 'magic' isn't really all that magical - it breaks down to the following main ideas:
Empower Everyone to Lead Gilroy Garlic Festival volunteers are expected to lead (and follow) at all levels of the organization.  Even the most junior volunte…

Confessions of an Open Source Community Pragmatist

I just recently wrote a post talking about job titles, which got me thinking of how I would classify my current career role.  That, combined with other discussions which have been happening inside the walls of my employer, made me realize that the best way to describe myself would be as an Open Source Community Pragmatist.

I can see the heads shaking, the puzzled looks, and even the sighs from some of my colleagues who are a bit more on the idealistic side when it comes to these topics.  Let me assure you, I have total respect for those folks who make everything they do in life about the ideology - it's just not the path I've chosen for my career, and here's why:

The vast majority of the day-to-day work of society & business happens between the ideological extremes:
Conservatives vs. liberalsProprietary vs. open source softwareEmacs vs. vi (a little inside joke for my technology readers) Does this mean that we don't need the extremes?  No, I think they need to exis…

Community Manager or Community Sherpa?

What's in a title?While a lot of us community types don't get caught up in what you call us (we prefer to be catalysts in getting the job done), the fact remains that those outside of our sphere sometimes fixate a bit too much on the word 'manager' in our typical title.  In point of fact, some of the most successful community people I've run across are closer to a community 'sherpa' than they are to a community 'manager.'  What is the difference, you might ask, and does this mean that they don't perform typical 'management' tasks?The answer to the second part of that question is no - in fact, they can and do step in to get their hands dirty on tactical tasks (moderating forums, building content, refereeing competing interests) all the time.  However, building an effective community requires someone who is also fairly strategic (the 'sherpa').  This strategy comes to the forefront in areas such as charting the community direction,…