Where everybody knows your name…

When I was working as a youth director in Cameron House, a non-profit, faith-based organization, I had gone through a lot of books on leadership and community building activities – which were simply games – one book focused specifically for building community and was written by Wayne Rice, a popular author on youth ministry activities. Rice discussed about community building and referenced the theme song to Cheers.
Cheers was a very popular sitcom that ran for 11 seasons and was set in a bar in Boston. The lyrics “you want to be where everybody knows your name” rang a bell with being in a community.

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name,
and they’re always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

Rice, being a Christian educator, made the obvious reference on how the lyrics reflected how people should feel in the church community. But the lyrics were about the local bar!

I think the lyrics still apply to a lot of the tech conferences and gatherings in San Francisco, and also apply to communities online. What’s also funny is that the characters in the TV show have quite the similarities with some of the people that I see in the various gatherings:

  • A cute but klutzy, pretentious snobby scholar (Diane Chambers)
  • A doofus, but likable lothario with the responsibility of leading the community (Sam Malone)
  • A boyish country homeboy with the childlike IQ equivalent (Woody)
  • A socially awkward self-claimed know-it-all (Cliff Claven)
  • and an everyone’s-favorite only-good-for-laughs funny man (Norm)

I think you’ll find the same type of people in your various communities that you’re involved with and that could go the same for your online communities. The synergy of those different types of personalities make for a pretty vibrant environment, as long as there’s a common interest. And if that interest creates a feeling of belonging, where everyone knows your name – that’s one of the core components of creating community.

What is Community?

I recently had a chance to attend Gnomedex as a sponsored guest as Seesmic. Seeing this group of eclectic geeks laughing, sharing, debating, learning and building relationships – and for me personally -getting to know many of the people at the conference hit a personal chord. One of the things that I’ve been toying around with was the idea of what community is to many of the social media or community managers in the industry.

One of the things that I’ve done is conduct some flip cam interviews. This is not so much a large-scale project as the 100 Interview project by Derek Overbey and Morgan Brown – but I simply wanted to ask what community is to each of them.

I had a previous post of quoting Chris Hughes of not knowing what community is. Sometimes, I find myself feeling the same way. I thought it would be a good opportunity to spend this next month toying, contemplating, joking, struggling on what community is.

I’ll most likely take advantage of the following resources for helping define community:

  • Interviews with those involved in the social media / community building industry
  • Resources and other links/reports/interviews from industry leaders, peers, friends and probably some rivals or enemie
  • I’ll most likely profile many people in my circle of influence, as well as role models, teachers in the industry.
  • My experiences in managing communities at Seesmic, along with Loic Le Meur’s experience and guidance
  • My previous job experiences in managing communities before my position in community involvement (product manager, project manager, support, client services, developer)
  • My past experiences in managing communities in technology, social media, and in non-profit and ecclesiastic (yes, church…) settings

As I try to sort this out, I would like to start of with Shashi Bellamkonda, the “Social Media Swami” from Network Solutions. First of all, Social Media Swami is a title that I would die for. Second, this man is the real deal when it comes to creating a community in the tech industry, and I found myself very lucky to have met him.

Looking forward to seeing what I come up with in the next several days…


I recently read a FastCompany article on Chris Hughes, who coordinated Barack Obama’s online campaign – making a huge impact on both marketing and politics. The author deftly placed a quote from Hughes that stood out for attention:

“I don’t really know what ‘community’ means. And I never use that word.”



I’ve spent several years working in various groups and teams of smart, energetic and wonderful people – in business, technology, education, non-profit and faith-based. The fact of the matter is, that I also don’t know what community means.

However, I’ve seen some people draw strength from working in groups, others find their identities through their teams. And there there are others, in order to avoid their own insecurities, just don’t want to feel… alone, but be able to eventually stand in confidence.

I’ve been privileged to witness extraordinary things accomplished through teams and groups – emphasizing the proverb “None of us are as smart as all of us.” 

I’m currently in the process of working, talking, interviewing with some of these extraordinary people, and will be talking more about community in various settings. The best thing about it is that I won’t be doing it alone. I’ll be looking for my community to help me.