Given that nothing does get done, the other aspect that is annoying is when I hear folks state that they have been “driving the community” for xy number of years. I get this urge to ask – “so you drive things ehh ? what have you been driving recently ?”
This entire exercise of slapping the label of ‘community’ to anything that has more than 3 people doing it was one of the aspects which prompted me to submit that “Community is an oft
misused word” talk at this year’s freed.in. On hindsight, I managed to make a hash of the talk, but off-the-talk discussions were a good jump off point to discuss the issue.
A community is a collective of people who work, learn and share together. And even though it is tempting to term a group of people doing something together to be a “community” it isn’t really judicious to do so. Of late, every project or company doing “open source” attempts to get in place something that can be pointed to as a community. However, what gets missed in the whole mess is the overuse of the word itself.
“Community” is a word that is pre-loaded with multiple meanings, morphs into various forms and has different types. And it is this variety or difference that provides unique perspectives to the group of people. This group think and learn together, share knowledge and believe in the power of consensus. They collaborate to make things happen because they believe that working together allows them to have more strength than the sum of individual efforts.Â A community is built up by those who are involved, those who are at the margins and those who are initially out of the periphery of this nascent group of like-thinkers. The growth of this group is however dependent on the level of participation from the (s)elected representatives. The inherent paradox here is that the formation of an organizational body does not necessarily guarantee participation. The inclusive nature of this group is thus based on the basic objective, the degree of involvement that it allows and the systemic changes associated with the evolution of the process.
The important aspect of all this is that the group builds up a collective intelligence. The means to generate such informal intelligence can be via various modes like use / consumption, contribution, attendance, consultation, delivery of service and participation in decision making. Such activities imply re-distribution of power and thus an opportunity for empowerment.
So, if the meme for a community is generated from within the community through collaborative processes, why do folks insist on being called “drivers” ? Is there some sort of unmet need to be recognized for far beyond their worth that leads them to this delusion ?
The moment I hear someone call [him | her] self a ‘driver of the community’, my perception generally changes to “uh oh !! there has to be a self serving clique working here somewhere” 🙂 There is a big difference between those who “get it” and ensure that they work in the community to build leadership and foster the collaboration and those who land up from someplace and just demand to get recognition and acceptance just because they are in positions of some authority or have “national” affiliation.Â It requires more than just writing about it when one sees folks from the latter group talking about being drivers, champions and patrons of Open Source. It requires reaching out and being the change one desires to see.