By Sonia Simone
Have the past couple of days been driving you nuts (here and on some other blogs you might be following)? All this inside baseball from SOBCon--lots of us Twittering like crazy, mostly for the benefit of the other 130-odd bloggers who were there.
The worst part is, most of us are so exhausted that our notes are terrible. "Brogan said we should care about people! OMG he is such a freaking genius. BRB, I have to go schmooze Brian Clark."
(Note: this is in no way to suggest that Brogan is not a genius.)
There were exceptions, but I'm afraid I wasn't one of them! I hope my fragments held some value for some of you, at least.
But I did pick up a lot of ideas to riff on, and the heart of SOBCon itself is one of them:
Community Is Fundamental
Community, along with ego and family and mortality, is one of those primal driving forces. If you want to tap into something deep and fundamental in order to deliver your message, community is one of the options.
When we were just starting out as upright monkeys, you kept your tribe solid or you all died. Finding stuff to eat was not so easy, and finding stuff that wanted to eat you was way too easy. We needed an intense bond that kept us connected, even when we wanted to kill each other. Connection was not optional. It's why we, as a species, are still here.
Creating a community around what you do is still a great way to survive in a hostile landscape. If your customers can form a tribe around your product or service (or church or nonprofit or whatever your particular gig might be), you win. Their loyalty to your tribe can become completely disproportional to the merits of what you have to offer. (cough Apple cough cough).
Tribes Aren't Indestructible
They can be wrecked by cluelessness, carelessness, shifting priorities. Back in the day, there was a rich collection of tribes on GE's online forum (GEnie). Gardeners, romance writers, gamers, Forth geeks--you name it, there was a GEnie RoundTable for it. Then one day, GE decided to sell its weirdo little project to a company that couldn't handle it. Chains were yanked, prices skyrocketed, and eventually GEnie was killed off by a failure to patch it up for Y2K. Bye-bye tribes.
Those of us who were there can tell you that the tribes didn't die because they weren't real. They died because tribes are fragile, and (assuming you're not an Inuit on an ice floe trying to survive the winter) we have other options.
As powerful as community can be, it hurts to be on the outside looking in. Inclusion feels safe and natural. We find our little monkey place in the community, and that feels right. Exclusion feels dangerous and wrong. There is no hatred like the hatred of the monkey who feels she's been shut out.
If you build a community for any reason, you owe it to them to figure out how you will keep the infrastucture going. And you owe it to yourself to figure out--early--who you'll bring in and who you will keep out. There are many excellent reasons to put up some boundaries (ever been in an AOL chat room?), but you also have to realize it's going to be acutely painful to someone.
While I've been monkeying around with my blogger pal tribe, I hope I haven't done so to the exclusion of the community that's grown up around this blog. I've just been on vacation one tribe over.
They're nice folks, thank you all for indulging my postcards. The weather was beautiful, wish you'd been there.