Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Community Fatigue

No, not this community.
Seems like #community is all we talk / tweet / blog / podcast about these days. And for a good reason: establishing and maintaining a presence in the technical community of your choice is a great way to develop your personal brand, build relationships, and promote your skills a bit. Software and hardware companies figured this out a while ago, which is why the number of communities has grown so rapidly over the last year or two (or in cases where the community has been established, you'll notice a recent marketing push to attract new members).

Many communities have adopted gamification as a means to attract new eyeballs and keep them on the site longer. I know that lately, I'm addicted to thwack. I'm chasing those points like I use to chase 'chieves in WoW. I scored a coffee cup (almost as nice as my old NPR mug) and a t-shirt in the process. I watched my rank in the community climb, and my level climb, too. I've had a few great discussions along the way, so it's not entirely artificial. But it does make me wonder if I'd participate as frequently without the incentive.

After a few weeks of thwack, I realized I hadn't paid attention to the VMware and Cisco communities as much as I'd like. And then I thought about Spiceworks. And then NetApp and EMC's communities. And then I realized that there truly are too many technical communities for a single person to participate in and actually share & learn, as opposed to just rack up points. At least, you can't participate in them all if you're employed and like your family. Which I am, and I do.

We've hit community fatigue, people.

You should quit worrying, too. See how happy he is?
My advice is to pick one or two communities that you like and stick with them. I do like thwack; it's fun and goofy, kind of like SolarWinds in general. But don't let the laid back atmosphere fool you: you'll find plenty of battle-tested IT pros there who are happy to share what they've learned. And since I'm still in love with vSphere, I browse the threads at VMTN daily. But I've learned to quit worrying about my points with Cisco and others. I'd rather build a strong reputation with a few communities, than weak reputations with many communities.