It’s been an intense couple of days, meeting with those who run online communities in business environments (read: for-profits, not non-profits).  In other words, people there either ran an online community, like a support forum (Apple’s support forums, Dell’s online communities) or discussion board (AOL, etc.), or sold tools and applications to host such online communities.

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And some pictures of Sonoma (and for those in Seattle – pictures of the sun).  Sadly, i was more in awe of the sun and weather, than i was of the vineyards.

Top Takeaways

  • Currently, there is no global definition for community.  It’s one of those, "you know it when you see it" (thanks to Sean McDonald from Dell for the quote.)  Maybe in time we’ll have a clear definition, like we do today for blogging.
  • The majority agreed that a crisis is needed to build a community.  I’ll go a step further and say that there needs to be a mutual call-to-action for the community to 1. find one another and 2. do something.  Crisis is a great call-to-action.
  • A lot of the online community research mapped very closely to the OSS community research I’ve seen.  This is very interesting from a social engineering (if that’s the right term) perspective.  How we interact online may be constant across any community.  Now if only we can define what an online community is and isn’t…
  • Mike McCamon from had the quote of the conference.  I’m horribly paraphrasing, but it was along the lines of "Selling Online Communities to executives today is like trying to sell telephones to executives when they were first invented, when the reaction back in the day was, ‘who would use a phone?’"  That’s so true.

Conference Highlights

  • I unintentionally started the "Women’s Bathroom Community."  – I just started talking to one woman in the bathroom, which caused another 3 to join the conversation, thus spending 20 minutes in the bathroom talking about online communities.  We all went to dinner later.  Oh, I’m bracing myself for the comments to this one.
  • Mac vs PC:  Mark Williams (Apple) and Sean O’Driscoll (MSFT) did a joint session on engaging in your community.  And of course, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do a little commercial spoof.  it was an excellent discussion.
  • I really liked the 5 minute open microphone on whatever topic you want. Of course, I got up there and did my 5 minute OSS sales pitch. Never a dull moment.
  • Every conference needs a “wine-tasting break” prior to the “wine-tasting event” prior to the “dinner at the winery.”


  • Having my leg x-rayed the night before flying out.  Nothing broken, but hurts nonetheless.  ouch.  shin splints.  I blame my personal trainer for not listening to my "no lower body workout today, because i did something crazy over the weekend."  And, he blames me for climbing Mt. Si. twice over the weekend.  But he’s still fired.  =)
  • Being too far away to hit josh over the head for being hit by a car and not going straight to the ER.
  • What does "riff" mean?  Does it mean to add to the conversation?  Or to go off on a tangent?  I couldn’t quite pick up on the full context…  For example, "Let me riff on what you are saying…" No one seemed to take offense, so i gathered it didn’t mean "let me rip it apart."

Adventures in Sonoma

I called Gretchen while i was down there with a desperate plea for help ordering wine.  I audited (yes, audited) wine appreciation in college, and i lived with a French family in their vineyard for a little while one summer back in high school, but that’s the extent of my wine knowledge, except for the fact that i can’t distinguish between wines.  They all taste great to me.

Sarah Onat from (she and i co-founded the bathroom community) and I did dinner both nights, and Friday night we did some sight-seeing and ate dessert at a local cafe on Hwy 12 (?).  Thanks Sarah with the ‘h’ for driving!!

Zoe Hollister from (our tireless event coordinator for the conference) and I spent Saturday as tourists.  When we hit 3 vineyards before noon sampling wine, we realized we had to slow down!  We drove around and to our (happy) surprise, discovered the Napa Premium Outlets and ended up doing some shopping.  =)  Thanks Zoe for driving!!  Hope work on Monday morning isn’t too rough (she took a red-eye back).

And lastly, i’ll sign off by telling my first adventure story of the trip.  It’s about 1-1.5 hours from SFO to Sonoma via car.  Since i was the only passenger, the shuttle driver and i started talking the usual age, rank, and serial number.  When he said he knew what Visual Studio was, i was immediately shocked, then i realized, "oh wait, I’m in the Bay Area" (SFO is the bay area, right?).  Apparently it was his last day on the job, moving full-time to his start-up 30proof.  They are speaking at O’Reilly Where 2.0 conference, so best of luck to them during their demo.

And now i’m going to get some sleep…  very long day getting home from sonoma and writing trip reports…