The evolution of the community “industry”

BrickWorld 2008This past week was pretty amazing, starting by heading to San Francisco for the Online Community Unconference. Last year, I probably knew or knew of 50-75% of the crowd. This year, the crowd was substantially bigger, but I only knew or knew of maybe 40 people of 250. Not only that, the crowd was an amazing mix of people who you may never have heard from in the blogosphere but who are doing some fantastic community work.

It’s clear that times are changing. For nearly 10 years I’ve been doing community work and it was only in this last week that I felt like our “industry” (for lack of a better term) is maturing.

From San Francisco, I hopped a plane to Chicago to attend BrickWorld, a LEGO fan event. My friend, and fellow LEGO enthusiast Greg and I are working together on a project for one of my clients and we thought it would be more fun to meet up at a LEGO event than somewhere without one.

It’s been a while since I’ve spent any time at fan events, so it was incredible to see a whole new batch of LEGO enthusiasts. They’re doing some incredible work designing some amazing creations. The techniques, use of LEGO parts, and even the acceptance of fan-made custom parts has really changed the size, scope, and details many of their creations. (I posted a ton of photos if you’re like to see more)

In several sessions at the Online Community Unconference, Randy Farmer talked about his time at Yahoo! doing community work. One thing that really stuck out to me is that he mentioned that Yahoo! regularly pushes out half of their 1-percenters in order to create a vacuum that the 9-percenters rush to fill. When this happens, new ideas and new enthusiasm drives the community even further. When a vocal, active, sometimes domineering community leadership is removed (either through attrition or some other means), those who’ve been sitting in the wings waiting patiently for an opportunity to lead are given that chance.

It was clear that attrition within the LEGO fan community has had a pretty fantastic result. The level of amazing creations and events that even those new to the community are able to pull off was only possible because of the efforts of the initial fans but also because of they have, in some part, moved on.

Makes you wonder: If Robert Scoble and Michael Arrington, et. al. decided to change careers, what new levels of amazing would fall out of that?

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