I have been driving (and been driven by) a number of communities over the past decade.

And one thing that continues to amaze me is the effort it takes to get people to participate in any meaningful fashion.

When I ran my BBS, I was constantly trying to make people stop downloading files, and getting them to start messaging in the forums.

Today, with the Internet becoming the world’s biggest BBS, and with countless mailing lists, web forums and other modes of amss communication, I find that just about everyone likes to stay in “lurk” mode – i.e. read-only.

Then, when a community dies for lack of participation, they look for all sorts of reasons.

Excuses there can be plenty, but there can be only one truth:

If you don’t participate, the community dies.

The thing that applies to mailing lists also applies to things like User Group meetings and other community related activities. Most people are just happy to take what is offered, but if you ask them to give (in the form of participation), you are met with stone-walled silence.

These days, it is even becoming increasingly difficult to make people attend community meetings! Those ever-enthu students “grow up” to become “busy adults” and just don’t find it important enough to be part of the community.

I call such people hypocrites, because they will be there to partake in the action, but they won’t make the action happen.

The worst kind is the leech. Such people proclaim themselves part of a community, but won’t even read/attend, forget about post/present! For example, someone will call himself part of the Linux community, but will neither use nor recommend the use of Linux, knows basically nothing about it, and only shows up at big events, when he wants to be treated as a “senior member”.

Another kind is the “pseudo gurus” – these are guys who say “but I know all this stuff, it is so boring to participate”. If these guys are so good, why aren’t they on the other side of the microphone, teaching others?

Simple – because they just don’t care. As long as they can take, they are there. If they are asked to give (even in terms of their presence,), they are history.


Let me tell you guys (yes, usually guys, rarely girls) something – you are pathetic, and the less we see/hear of you guys, the better.

What we need in any community is people who actively participate, who make the time to help out in the growth of the community, and who care.

What we do not need is people who turn the whole community concept into a joke.

For me, it is a major rush to attend a community meeting or participate in a mailing list, and seeing faces (or reading poster’s names) that I *know* are genuinely busy people, but who care enough to pitch in with their presence and participation, encouraging others to do the same. Seeing them encourages *me* to do more, because for me, there is no bigger joy than working as part of a team that works well together.

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