Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Community day: October 1 - What and why?

This post should have been written a few days ago, but as usual, time is precious and never enough...

As the title says, October 1 was defined as the "community day!"... but what Community you may wonder...? Well, it all started at Adam Gartenberg's Blog. Adam is involved in the IBM Information Management division and suggested we could do some coordinated actions to strength the various communities related to IBM Information Management products. So, the basic idea is that we all participate in any community we're involved on October 1.
This of course can lead to various questions... I've been thinking about this and the biggest question in my mind is this: "What is a community, and why do I care? Do I belong to any community?"

The answers to this would be big, probably boring and subjective, but I can't resist putting here some of my thoughts. In these (let me use a buzzword) Web 2.0 times, a community can be anything. A site, a forum, a newsgroup, a blog, a wiki, a group of people with whom I exchange emails etc. In fact, all Informix users worldwide can consider themselves as part of a community. We may never meet each other, but we probably read the same news, the same blog articles, the same forums, and most important, we share a common interest. We probably share some of our doubts, we eventually find similar solutions etc. There is a vast amount of information lying around in the Internet, our email systems, our corporate intranets etc. And then we have search engines, knowledge base systems etc. All this didn't materialize from nothing. It's the direct result of our participation in the community. And when I say "our" I don't mean just the people who write boring articles like this :) I'm also thinking about all the people that simply ask some questions or make some comments.
And now what about the "should I care" part? Well, to put it simply, yes, we should care, simply because it makes our job easier. I can never forget my first steps as an Internet user. I was doing some system/network administration and I had a problem with what we called ATS (Asynchronous Terminal Servers), which were simply network connected equipments with several RS232 ports that connected dumb VT100 terminals to the central system (running Informix Turbo v4 ;) ). My local supplier couldn't find an answer, and using Usenet news I got some help from some friendly guy from the USA. Was this a community? Yes. We both used the same kind of equipment, we had the same problem, and the guy from across the Atlantic had a solution!
Currently, besides my work with Informix, I try to help a customer with other IBM products (namely WebSphere Application Server and IBM Information Server ). As you can imagine I am not a specialist on this products. But I've been able to help this customer in issues and doubts. How, you may ask? Obviously taking advantage of the "community". This include the fine technical support staff, the contents (presentations and other documents) produced by product specialists, the internal and external forums etc. What does it translate into? Productivity. Without these communities I wouldn't have been able to help my customer.

These were just two examples of the importance of community. In 1994, the communities were smaller, there was less content and the search facilities were much less efficient. But the principles were the same as today.

So, hopefully i've showed why the community is so important today. Assuming you agree, I urge you to follow up on Adam's suggestion, and participate more in your community. You can do this by:

  • Answer some comp.databases.informix question(s)
  • Subscribe the IIUG mailing lists or answer some questions there
  • Leave some comment on one of your favorite blogs (if you don't have one, try checking the list on this page's right side) - for example suggesting topics for articles
  • Ask some question to the community or suggest and idea
  • Spread some links of community sites you visit to your co-workers, colleagues and friends
  • Start your own blog?
  • Do some work on a community wiki
The idea of doing it on October 1, is just to create a wave... Did you ever heard about the butterfly effect and the domino effect? ;)

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