Communities and Networks: What are you building?

Standard business advice is “network, network, network”. I disagree, and in this article I’ll tell you why you should concentrate on building communities instead. Let’s begin with the definitions (both from Webster’s). 

network (n) as, “a usually informally interconnected group or association of persons (as friends or professional colleagues).”

community (n) as “a unified body of individuals as: a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society.”

Community is stronger. Networks are informally interconnected. Communities are unified, of common and especially professional interests. Communities take longer to build, but are much more valuable. There are three communities that I’m especially proud to be a part of.

The Heartland Developer Community

Yes, our regional community of software developers has a name. We are the heartland. This is an amazing group of people that builds the software that builds new companies in our region. We create CodeMash, we run GiveCamps, we host, run, speak at, and attendmanyoftheusergroupsinourarea. We spend time together learning more about software development, and teaching others what we have learned. I’ve spoken everywhere in our region from Traverse City to Dayton, OH. I also have asked for topics and received offers from speakers to come to Ann Arbor and help our developers learn new topics. The answers come from all over the region.

Many of the developers in our region are self-employed or independent consultants. Being a member of this community means I’m never more than a couple emails away from the right person to help us on a project, or help our local developers learn something new.

Passion for software development, and our region are the bonds that hold this community together.

The C# MVP Community

I’m also a C# MVP. The C# MVPs are a community within the larger MVP community. The MVP community is a world-wide group of people with very deep knowledge of the C# programming language. These are other authors, speakers, and developers that help others learn more about the C# language. As a community, we help each other by reviewing book manuscripts, draft talks, articles, and new product ideas. As a world wide community, we grow friendships around the globe. The team Canada hockey jersey I sometimes wear is a gift from a C# MVP from Ottawa. Some days in Ottawa, he’s wearing a Michigan football jersey I gave him in return. The technicalreviewers for my books, members of the C# MVP community, span three continents. All had comments and feedback that made the books better. I’ve made similar comments on friends manuscripts from around the globe.

We meet together in person at conferences, like the recent MVP Summit. Between these major events, we chat through social networks or email.

A common desire to create great software using C#, combined with the knowledge to do so bonds this community together.

The Microsoft Regional Director Community

The Regional Directors are a smaller, and more close knit community. They are a group of 115 of the most influential software developers in and around the Microsoft Developer Community. These are business owners, C – Levelexecutives, investors, entrepreneurs, and softwarearchitects that span 6 continents. We regularly communicate via an email list that generates between 20 and 50 emails per day. We get together regularly at conferences around the globe. The wealth of knowledge, insight, and friendship among us is truly amazing. I’ve asked questions about topics ranging from finance, to angel investing, to business plans to software market trends. I’ve answered my share about growing a business, being an author, what the business climate is really like in our region, and some of the markets we’ve been involved with.

A common desire to make our individual regions better places to live, work, and succeed binds this community. It’s the most energetic, successful, and fun group of people I have ever associated with. It’s got world-wide reach, and an incredible wealth of knowledge.

What makes a community?

I discuss those three communities above with some pride. That’s not to brag, but to point out how much stronger a community is than a network. If you’re involved in strong communities, you surely have similar experiences in your own community. If you don’t feel these strong bonds, you haven’t formed a strong community.

A community is bound together by a common purpose or mission. The best communities will outlive any or all of its members. It grows into something that can sustain itself beyond its original charter. I know that if I ask anyone in my communities a question, I’ll get help, knowledge, and guidance. I also know it’s my responsibility to do the same for others in those communities.  That’s much more powerful than any network.

Other area business people have questioned SRT Solutions put so much emphasis on community. The communities we belong to help us make positive contributions to our region. There’s no better way to find the people that will help us succeed in our mission to build great software for our growing companies. People that network are very common. People that can build great communities are incredibly valuable. That’s who we want on our team.

Created: 3/30/2011 12:18:49 PM

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