What’s best for the community? Isn’t that the other point?


One of the most important things I have been talking to people about over the last year is how organizations with similar values should support one another but don’t because of their egos or fear of losing mindshare or donor dollars. Instead of really working towards what is best for the community, they work on what is best for their own self-interest, in the name of the community. As I noted in my post on the Importance of Social Media, this is one of the key reasons many of us left the work world – to leave the political BS behind and do the right thing, that is in the best interest of the community.

That sort of political BS is in stark contrast to the wonderful relationships we are building with the Society for New Communications Research and the National Coalition for Deliberation and Dialogue. Where we are constantly looking for ways to expand the conversations, to include more people and to work together towards our common interests. This is one of the core premises of Social Media Club – to support other organizations that are doing good work – not excluding those organizations that are serving similar interests within the community out of fear.

This is why I am excited to see the Portland Social Media Association rise up from the Portland Podcasting Group. Social Media Club will support them, instead of worrying about them competing with us – we will both be the better for it. We need to find people who are doing the right things and support them so that more of that good work is put out into the world and that other people can connect with them. This is very much in line with the work of The Uplift Academy – another organization we want to support in every way possible and with which we share common values.

I guess I should explain where this is coming from – it is a bit about something I have been holding onto for a while and also about the fact that a few ‘community leaders’ have chosen not to support the Web 2point2 unconference we are organizing, and are, according to what some have told me, actively working against it. (This is not, BTW, something between the 2 conferences going on this week – we have nothing against Tim O’Reilly or the Web 2.0 Conference and as far as I know, they are probably just annoyed with us by the contrast and/or laughing about how hard we work for no money.)

The Web 2point2 Unconference is providing an alternative to the expensive Web 2.0 Conference.  Web 2point2 is more accessible and more about the people interested in the Web 2.0 era and working hard to make it real. Chris Pirillo really nailed the difference on the head – there most certainly is value in the networking, and the amenities offered at a big hotel are really very expensive, but a lot of that is superfluous to what really matters. We are doing this event because it is the right thing to do for the community and it is representative of our core values. We are doing this because it helps us build the community we want to belong to. We are investing our time and energy because we are passionate about doing so and hope to make a living doing what we love.

I’m not speaking against any individual, but I am calling for everyone in the community to be supportive of efforts like the Web 2point2 Unconference and/or to call out the effort’s shortcomings publicly and fairly – to participate in the community. It is FOR the people, FOR the community, and FOR improving the dialogue around social media and Web 2.0 for everyone’s benefit. Those who have said negative things about these efforts wihtout engaging us in conversation about how it could be improved are really doing a disservice to the community. But as all bloggers know, nothing stays secret forever. Those people who serve their own interests over that of the community will be found out. Those who support the community with their hearts, minds and deeds will be the ones who shape the dialogue of the future.

Don’t raise the torch for a participatory democracy when you’re only really marketing yourself as the one who should be put in charge of who gets to speak and who can belong. From my perspective, that looks a lot like a Stalinist view of the world dressed up in Kennedy rhetoric. That is beyond hypocritical – it is like the atheists battling each other in the most recent South Park episode. We don’t need to tear down the walls of a communtiy or organization only to erect new ones, we need to build better doors between communities and bridges across them.


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