A community is not built around content but rather around a concept or common goal. While this seems obvious in our day-to-day social activities as like gathers to like, I never entirely understood that a community is not primarily about content but about how that content is viewed, created, conceived, and received. Content does not bring the community together but is a dialogue engaged in or around by the community (p. 46).
Any content or data is now being remixed in novel ways for consumption (p. 58). This is the concept on which social media is founded. The new trend of this concept is crafting this content for different mobile platforms and devices. (This insight was obtained from a recent post on I'd Rather Be Writing called When Wikis Succeed and Fail about Tom Johnson's (the blog author's) insights at the STC Summit in Chicago.)
Two-Way Communication To Foment a Community
I particularly loved a paragraph on page 66 where Gentle paraphrases Alan Porter description of the interactive nature of Shakespeare's plays: "they were modified each night based on audience participation." Such is our current experience with social documentation and online communities. For each audience we modify our communication strategy and presentation in order to retain and interact with our audience. It is also this audience that we are seeking to fashion into a community around a concept or common goal inherent in our service or product.
Company Representation in the Community
The place of writer or strategist is not consistently placed across department lines nor is it consistently defined, especially as it differs from company to company and community to community. The policies summarized by Gentle for online representation are excellent: "be genuine, always identify yourself and the company you represent, be professional, talk about what you know, cite sources and acknowledge others' contributions, obey copyright laws, offer value, don't pick fights, and respect your audience (p. 85)."
What makes a community happy? Gentle quotes Tara Hunt's suggested four pillars of happiness:
Also, use these four items to test your social deliverables (109).
This term refers to the most popular or trending concepts and content in a particular community (transferred over of course as a reference to the most worn pages of a print book or other publication). I will add here that when it comes to assessing read-wear, I like news aggregates or communities that list trending articles or topics. SocialMediaToday.com does this really effectively.
It turns out that I had quite a bit to learn about content and community. While I have quite a bit of knowledge regarding the available online content platforms, I missed these excellent tidbits that define the core of community and the context in which content is placed. So here I write a belated thank you to my professor for selecting this particular text for our class. Glad I took the time to read it in total!
Define your expectations. Starting out, I had no idea what to expect of this program. I had the barest outline of an idea that it offered some form of networking or career counseling. While our seminar directors asked us to establish objectives for the time we spent in the seminar and recommended we prepare questions and goals in order to get the most out of our sessions, I sincerely did not know where exactly to start. I had no expectations, which was not a bad thing, but also not the best method for taking advantage of the resources available. So I set a few limited goals and learned so much more over the course of the seminar:
This practice, defining your expectations, is also something I learned a ways back when I was a wardrobe manager for Tuacahn Amphitheater. I thought the work that had to be done by my dressers should be obvious. Apparently, not all things that seem obvious to me are obvious to someone else (example: why can't you just make sure the actors assigned to you have their socks before go-time?); as I observed the peeps that worked for me, I discovered that some were better at seeing what needed to be done than others (in my opinion). However, not everything can be done in just one particular method or manner.
Conclusion: my team should not have had to read my mind. I needed to better set expectations of what work needed to be done and what I expected.
Conclusion 2: By better defining or examining my expectations of the world around me, I can learn a lot about communication and how I am communicating with others every day.
Conclusion 3: Making this effort puts you outside the box (or the war-room or the boy's club or the clique), and that ain't all bad.
Focus on the problem, not the person. Once I had gotten the hang of this Master Track thingey, I discovered the unmined elephant-in-the-room that everyone-is-affected-by-but-few-confront that I really wanted to know about: conflict. Why is confrontation such a bad word in our culture? In my cultural context I think confrontation sounds aggressive, controlling, and, quite frankly, intimidating. That said, I have had very few positive work experiences in an environment where an effort has not been made to deal with conflict and confronting problems, meaning, in the words of our seminar director, "things just get weird."
Since conflict is an everyday part of our working life, confrontation should be too, and we should not have to think about it in a negative way. Some of this negativity can be shifted by focusing on the problem, not the person.
Conclusion 4: Good confrontation and conflict management techniques focus on solving the problem, not the what, how, or why people did what they did.
I could be a doctor. Yah, I know. Sounds strange, but I never, ever, considered the possibility of being really successful or ambitious career-wise. Working with mentors who are 10 to 20 years down the line has opened up my eyes to the possibilities. I can be ambitious. I could work as a strategist, an administrator, a director (I really don't want to be president though <insert political joke here>).
Conclusion, Final: These few ideas don't remotely cover what our group (should I say team?) has gone through over the past few months. But it certainly presents some ideas, the kind I like to think of as the evergreen or always applicable ones, that we can constantly be thinking about in our professional, and personal, lives.