Friday, December 19, 2008

Leaving Microsoft

Today was my last day with Microsoft. It seems rather fitting that the snow and ice pretty much rendered everyone home bound. It is reminiscent of an earlier post when snow and ice also hit this region, except this time I was at home.

Being my last day and all, I can't help but be a bit reflective. Working with Microsoft as a vendor and then as an employee is an incredibly humbling experience. With so many smart, talented, and passionate folks how do you change the world? One step at a time. As with all community work, change does not come quickly. It's not uncommon that your first go around at something will be tweaked and baked a little longer. Sometimes the priorities may change all together to better do what you set out to accomplish in the first place.

I also learned that I need to take more risks to further my learning. While there was certainly more to be learned from others at Microsoft, having that access makes it a bit too easy. For me, much of the learning takes place during the process of wrestling with tough questions. It also takes place from being wrong, rather than learning and building from the experience of others.

Lastly, I learned that there is so much more I want to do than sit in traffic for at least an hour and a half each day. I shudder to think about all the time with family, friends, and the broader community that has been lost due to traffic. As I get older, the more I realize what is important for me.

There are so many things I love about Microsoft, but it is time for me to move on what's next. To all my friends, colleagues and everyone else I worked with at Microsoft -- thank you. It has been a privilege and honor working with you. I hope our paths will cross again.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Does X mark the spot for community?

Richard Millington has a nice overview of what it takes to build an online community. He concisely states what I've discussed in my presentations on blogging and social media. That being said, I now wonder if there's not a better question for all of us to be answering. Specifically, are destination communities relevant? Is there some magical place where we all need to find? Or rather, will a more distributed community model take root?

While I tend to agree with what is said in finding your first community members (or even how to build a user community), I look at this more from the perspective of tapping into the community that already exists. Do we need to bring them back to one central place? A few years ago, I would have said yes in a heartbeat but I am no longer sure that is the case today.

Thinking about my own communities, I engage with others through a variety of different experiences. Email, Twitter, and Facebook are just some online examples. Other examples include phone calls, drinks at a local bar, coffee at a local Starbucks, or purposeful gatherings (for work and/or fun). To build a destination site for one of my communities, well...I'm not sure that would be relevant. Sure, it can be valuable in things like asynchronous communication, outreach, education and the like. Archival, nostalgia and reconnecting are some other scenarios that could also work. But to have one place for the community seems rather limiting, and in my opinion, misses out on how communities work.

Related, I wonder if this is why we are seeing broader community initiatives such as what Nike does with their running clubs, Nike+ website, and Niketown?

Maybe that's really it then...destination communities unto themselves have their place, but really do not speak to the full complexity and needs of communities as a whole. Thoughts?

photo credit -- kierkier

Friday, December 12, 2008

Seattle Public School Closure Outreach?

A lot of is being written about the proposed closures, mergers, moves and the like for Seattle Public Schools. I won't bother trying to document all of the changes and intrigue, and instead I have a few questions:
  • Where are the voices of the students and youths impacted by the potential changes?
  • Where are the non-parents and other community members impacted by the proposed changes?
With regards to the current and future students potentially impacted, it would seem like that these voices would be important in consideration of changes. Not following it too closely other than through some blogs and mainstream news outlets, it's not evident that youth are organizing. I can't believe this is it? Has the school board or district been trying to actively involve this audience? What about other youth oriented organizations or programs?

Likewise with the non-parents and other community members what extent are they at the table? To what extent are these voices heard? To what extent is any outreach being done by the school board or school district? The same question applies to all of the neighborhood groups or home associations.

The thing I love about public school is well, that it's public. A few months ago through some volunteering with Seattle Works, my friends and I volunteered at an elementary school in my old neighborhood. Aside from the work and the weather, the other volunteers there made this one of my favorite volunteer events. Not only were parents and students helping out, but so too were people just from the neighborhood. So too were there people from other organizations throughout the city. Public schools are for everyone -- not just the parents, teachers and students. It's time we all started (myself included) to treat it as such.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A community building manifesto worth noting

For a few weeks now, I've been intrigued by Richard Millington's FeverBee. While he often has lots of great gems, today he posted a great Online Community Building Manifesto.

In a nutshell, he states:
1) We need to become experts on communities.
2) We need to change how we plan online communities.
3) We need to rethink the role of technology.
I couldn't agree more. Much like much touted POST methodology by Forrester Research, tech should be the last thing on the minds of anyone who works with communities. Focusing on the hows and whys of a community is much more important than the tools that are used. In many ways that is why I find a great deal of my inspiration for community work from nonprofits, community organizers, political campaigns, and games. All of these areas reach out to and mobilize a broad range of people. While I am not as familiar with Jeremy Dean, The Situationist and Of Two Minds, at first glance I see similarities with the wide range of folks I follow like Alinsky, Csikszentmihalyi, and McKnight.

Related, I am currently reading two books that seem to illustrate the points laid out in the manifesto. Community: The Structure of Belonging is one of the more comprehensive books on community I've seen in a long time. And strangely enough, the Counterinsurgency Field Manual also talks about how community building is an effective strategy in well, counterinsurgency.

Thanks, Richard. I look forward to changing this dynamic with you and others in this space.