I frequently get asked what the difference is between communication and community, and this article sums it up nicely. Dennis Shiao describes how he used Twitter as a broadcasting channel when it first came out, even going so far as to intentionally DM someone when they asked him a question publicly because he wanted to make sure that his profile was full of valuable content. The biggest difference between communication and community? Broadcasting vs. engaging. In one, you're simply pushing out content... talking to your audience rather than with them. In the latter, you're actively interacting -- finding out what content is valuable to them and how you can better help them -- and growing a community organically as a result.
Bailey Richardson of People & Company made some interesting observations in this article. From the fact that we actually gain individuality by joining groups to how violence is the opposite of community, she weaves a fantastic story about who we are and how we discover our identities.
People feel they deepen their individuality through the groups they join instead of lose it. We choose to be around people that share our interests, values, and parts of our own identity in order to explore and underscore those things for ourselves.
Props to Ada Nduka Oyom for stepping up and providing a getting started resource for building developer communities! She is spot on with most of these suggestions and I particularly like the section on building up leaders within your community:
Getting specific members to play lead roles helps keep the community more focused and together... [It also] drives more confidence and creates more trust into the rest of the developers as these leaders tend to understand their needs more and can relate to their technical situations.
This WIRED article is a fascinating look at the narrative that Facebook has told (and continues to tell) anyone who will listen: "We are building communities." For some, that may be true -- Facebook is a way to keep in touch with far-flung friends and acquaintances. But how much of that is simply a story we tell ourselves as well -- a facade that makes social media an easier place to exist? What stories are we telling ourselves about our engagement on Facebook, with our friends or colleagues, in groups or on business pages?
I'm sure you've noticed over the last 12 months as the Microsofts, Googles, and Amazons of the world have picked off one developer advocate after another. It's no secret that, as Chris Aniszczyk points out, there's an "arms race" in Developer Relations. After all, there are only so many unicorns in the world! So what happens now?
Mikeal Rogers continues the conversation on Twitter, pointing out the problem that many companies are hiring junior developers who can handle the heavy travel schedule and don't mind the inconsistent career path.
But here's the main crux for me:
If DevRel isn't seen as a valuable business entity, it won't get a seat at the table. But if they don't have a seat at the table, they're rarely permitted to demonstrate their true value.
This is a problem that I'm incredibly passionate about and am actively working to remedy. Who's with me?
While asking for budget, crossing your fingers, and hoping for the best results is certainly the less time-consuming way to go about building a community, it's definitely not the most successful way. Carrie Melissa Jones explores this topic in a recent article on CMS Wire:
There are two ways to build a brand community: ask for budget, cross your fingers and hope you’re gathering the right people in the right way; or research potential and existing members and leaders in your organization to find out exactly how a community can best serve the needs of both groups. The latter sounds tedious and time-consuming and, as a result, many people opt for the former... Community programs are notoriously complex, but you can avoid many mistakes by doing just a bit of research before you go all-in.
Rather than cajoling your community to join you on one platform or another, why don't you join them wherever they already are, and foster a sense of community? By creating the community first, you have the opportunity to influence change along the way, rather than insisting on change from the start.
As Richard Millington of Feverbee says,
You can gain better results from building a strong sense of community among members regardless of which platform they use. Hosting and managing a community platform can help you achieve your goals, but nowhere near as much as fostering a powerful sense of community.