I’m attending the Online Community Business Forum this Thursday and Friday in Sonoma. Contact me if you will be there, as i always look forward to the opportunity to meet blog readers. Otherwise, stay tuned for nightly updates from the conference and my wine-tasting experiences (first time in Sonoma).
A Great Day of Soccer
My entire childhood was spent playing in the Mississippi Youth Soccer Organization. I started playing soccer in the second grade, and play for the next 14 years. I had this huge crush on this boy (Jerry) in my first grade class who played soccer, so I decided to learn how to play so I could impress him on the playground. But alas, Jerry moved away at the end of first grade. Fortunately, I fell just as hard in love with soccer, so my heartache was short lived. (yes, I started playing soccer to impress a boy – I bet those who know me didn’t see that one coming)
Each Spring, we had the classic soccer tournaments, playing for District and State championships. But something I will never forget is “The Great Day of Soccer”. It was this annual tournament where you participated in individual events, and not in any team events. The 5 events were
- how far you could do a throw-in
- how fast you could dribble through the cones
- what your accuracy was for shooting on goal (40 points if you could get it in the upper corner)
- how many times you could juggle the soccer ball
- how far you could kick the ball
My final year, I got up to 88 consecutive juggles before screwing up. The crowd that had gathered around me freaked me out and I lost my focus towards the end. But they still applauded, and I still kicked the ball straight up in the air as if I had reached the goal of 100 juggles. And yes, I still wear my “great day” t-shirt, after all these years. It was truly a great day of soccer, and truly a great t-shirt to still be alive after 15+ years.
Contests and Community Building
One of the things I learned from OSCON last year was that contests may actually drive the community apart because of the competition. Ever since, I’ve been scratching my head wondering how effective contests really are in building community. I just can’t shake the feeling that it feels risky.
Then I started thinking about the great day of soccer. There’s no way you can build a soccer league by hosting the great day of soccer. Where would you host the tournament, how you would get word out to come, what sort of events would you have? In order to build a local soccer community, you must first find the kids that are playing soccer in the playground and find the parents that used to play as a kid. Then you have to find a place to play. Only once you have the kids playing for fun can you tap into that energy and use it to attract others to play, others that might not have had an interest before, but do now. It’s one of those, “hey, what is going on over there?” Here I’m thinking about improved fields, jerseys, announcements in newspapers, and media interviews. Now, as you’re starting to gain more and more kids, you can work on improving the infrastructure and so forth. Finally, once a critical mass is hit of die-hard soccer fans and players, you can have a tournament to showcase individual skills. A contest at this point wouldn’t drive people away, because they are already here for their own reasons. A contest here would be competition at a different level, allowing those interested parties to compete over reputation, while the critical mass gets to watch and freak out people trying to reach those 100 juggles.
Tying this all back to community-building, the gist of this run-away random thought is contests do not build community; successfully-run contests promote the already-existing community.
Of course, the next time I’m home, I should actually call up one of the founding members of BAYS (bay area youth soccer – my local hometown organization) and find out just how far in left-field I am with how a soccer league gets started. =)
Last month during the MVP Summit, I was able to meet Todd Ogasawara during the Open Source Software Lab tour. He’s got a great blog entry about his visit to the lab, and a great shot of some happy penguins feeling loved.
But what I want to comment on is his statement
As with nearly everything else in the world, it really is all about people.
It took a few days for this comment to really sink in. At first, I said, “yep, you definitely get it.” But then I started thinking, “what is this *it* that some people get and others don’t.” I’ve been living in the community space for a while, from accessibility, Visual Studio 2005 tip of the week, and now open/shared source. Last year sometime, someone asked me why portals like C9 are successful and other portals don’t make it. At the time, I didn’t have a good answer. But with this comment “it really is all about people” running through my head, I had that lightbulb moment. Fortunately, I was jogging at the time and not sleeping. I hate it when I put 2+2 together and wake up in the middle of the night, like how I figured out how to jibe a shoot (a sailing thing), go figure.
The most important thing I’ve learned from the past year of learning how to go open source is that a project must have a benevolent dictator, or to put it more mildly, you must have someone driving the project. You can’t just toss code over the wall and hope for the best. Same applies for almost any type of community project. You have to have a central leader or a central driver. There has to be someone, a human face on a project (if you will), that others can connect to and interact with, because at the end of the day, it’s all about people. It’s all about those individual interactions and connections, because the final results of any community project is really just the sum of those connections. And to me, it’s these individual connections that make projects worth doing, because at the end of the day, it’s all about people.
Going back and reading this sounds more like just common sense, but it was a cool revelation to me nonetheless. Now if I can just capitalize on this revelation somehow… <grins>