What is a community

My last post, “How to Create a Developer Community”, received very positive feedback from many people in the industry. And after analyzing the job listings that I’ve come across, and recalling job interviews that I’ve had, it seems that few people know what a community is, nor do they know how to go about creating one.

I don’t want to come across as an ass who thinks he knows everything. I just analyze every situation I’m confronted with and try to figure out its essence. I’m really lazy, and I don’t want to do unnecessary work, or work that goes in vain.

The biggest misunderstanding that I see is created by forums — yes, nineties-style forums. A company puts up a forum, and they think that the job is done…It’s magic — you have an instant community. Yes, in the nineties that actually was a community, and people did develop very strong, deep relationships with others in specific forums. Why? Because a community does not result from a forum; a community grows from your relationship with that particular group of people.

Now that we are in the social media age, we can’t limit people and relationships to one location. The Developer Relations or Community Manager has to go to various places on the Internet where people like to hang out and socialize.

If you consider developers, the majority won’t go and write on your company forum, they will go to Stack Overflow. Why? Because they want to build their social status, earn points for helping others, and share their knowledge with fellow developers. Stack Overflow has a community of its own, where people want to help each other. And in return, they can build status, and become leaders in their community.

You, as a Developer Relations person, should be on Stack Overflow. You can see what people write about your product, and even if other developers are unable to help each other, then you can step in and help someone yourself. Show that you are there to help them out when they need you.

Of course, you need to find the right place, where your target group hangs out, to discuss your particular interest. Stack Overflow, for example, is the place for geeks.

Pro Tip: You should hang out in their communities and show that you are a part of it.

A community is not a forum or a place, it is your relationship with people. This is the essence of a community. You are the leader of the pack, and you need to show that you will be there for them and help them out when needed.

And as a good leader, you should find other leaders in the group, help them stand out, and empower them so they can help others.

You need to infuse safety, recognition, and trust into your community.

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