Content Ninja's Weblog

An exploratory journey on the edge of newspaper evolution

Time is (not) on my side July 22, 2008

Filed under: community — contentninja @ 6:05 pm
Robitussin cold medici...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Time is fleeting. Time is relative. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

Nearly five months. That’s how long I’ve been doing this ninja gig, and I’ve come so far. Mountains of work, research and insights. Four focus groups, one concept paper, a handful of books and endless feeds later, I have a vision for online communities. Enough learning, time to DO, but the pace is slowed by forces I cannot control.

Lest you think this is some sappy swan song, no, my work is not done here. God help me, but the hard part is only starting. I must help people to understand what I’m trying to do and what I mean by online community. That mission is complicated by the misconceptions of those who think they get it and the personal agendas of others. Throw in some office politics, and it’s about as palatable as cherry cough syrup. (Anyone who ever gagged on Robitussin as a kid knows exactly what I mean.)

Lord, I sound petulant, don’t I? There are bright spots, you know.

Today I met with Mike Richards, a local Czech Village activist for post-flood neighborhood preservation. He is an interesting man who’s passionate about grass-roots networking, open-source social tools and the power of people to effect change.

He and his wife, Lynette, are heading to New Orleans in early August to spend some time with Beacon of Hope, a grass-roots organization that helped ravaged neighborhoods there coalesce online and advocate for themselves. Mike is excited to be a catalyst for us and to help nurture an online community for his neighborhood if we can provide the platform.

The timing is so right, and time is of the essence. Truth is, he planned to do this before I asked for a meeting, and he’ll find a way to do it without us if he has to. Digital tools make it easy. He’s heard of Drupal, and he has his own tech-savvy resources, people he found through the networks he already has.

See? It’s time to go.

It has been suggested that I stop waiting on other people and cobble together a temporary platform of my own on some system with a low learning curve (meaning even I could figure it out). That may well be what happens, but it’s not my first choice because it comes with risk — that it’ll feed the inertia.

If the stop-gap site undercuts a sense of urgency and we don’t deliver on assurances that we’ll have something better “soon,” we can kiss our credibility, and the community, goodbye.

Perhaps a better option is to take the ride with Mike. A partnership in which we build it together might bear tastier fruit and faster. Hhm, now that gives one pause.

John Lennon supposedly said that life is what happens while you’re making other plans. Time marches on, and so do I.

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9 Responses to “Time is (not) on my side”

  1. tomaltman Says:

    rock on

  2. David Says:

    Completely confused. Not quite sure what it is that you are saying with this post.

    Quitting your job? Quitting this site? Quitting developing an online community for The Gazette?

  3. Dale Says:

    If this is part of our vision, resources need to be found so we can forge ahead. We’re not finding new readers for print, that’s for sure, and Web users are developing haunts and habits.

    I’m told Web development is a time-consuming process. Let’s get more minds and bodies on task.

  4. contentninja Says:

    @tomaltman Oh, no, not the rocks-n-pebbles speech again. :)

    @davidhowell No, no and no.

    @dale Company does recognize need to get more hands with requisite tech skills on the case. It’s taking time, though, and what I’m really doing in this post is lamenting how much faster the rest of the world can move.

    I had some, er, timely advice today from @jayrosen_nyu and @jonl, gently chiding me to get over my impatience and move on from community concepts to studying/being communities of practice.

    The great thing about living in this space is all the smart and generous people willing to share their expertise.

  5. David Says:

    Ok…well then this post boggles my mind and I can only assume it’s an inner sanctum communication.

  6. marcmwm Says:

    Reading your blog, Annette, brings back the feelings I had when I dropped out of grad school.

    It stimulated me and I was totally into it, but I had to figure out how to get paid.

    Please don’t take that as a dig. I see where you’re going and, I think, I get it. The org. is a monolith and it’s going to take a car battery hooked up to the nostrils to flip the switch. It might take a test pilot or three, but I believe this is not only worth exploring, it’s worth investing time and billable hours.

    This is the most stimulating conversation on our website. I find myself drawn to this, even though I’m squinting to understand.

  7. iowakitkat Says:

    Netty —

    How can I help? I might be able to do something even from my recuperation recliner. I think I do get community as you’re talking about and I’m a quick learner.

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