My closing conference remarks…

This is my attempt to attach some closing remarks now that the Community 2.0 conference has adjourned. I really hope that over the next few days I can begin drawing cohesive relationships between my thoughts, because at the moment I am drowning in a pool of information. On that note, I related to what Richard McDermott eluded to earlier – we as people engage with more and more connections and share information, but in some ways, our emotional connection to others has weakened. In a new globalised society of information sharing, it is easy to drown in a pool of excess, and one must be careful not to become overwhelmed and bogged down by such. It was a real treat to get to interface with people within the conference community, and to get to know what makes them tick. We’re all in this together, and when you recognize the emotional bond, it makes facing the challenges seem a little less frightening.

I learned something big: communities don’t “grow on trees.” A community without purpose is like a meeting without an agenda. Meetings without an agenda can be wonderful if you want to kill time, get to know one another, and explore the fascinating dynamics of ‘group think’. In a meeting without an agenda, you will walk away with the ideas of a few – especially from those who like to express themselves verbally. Communities require an agenda, they need focus, and this is especially true if you wish to see results. If you work in a corporation, then your number one goal is to seek results, and measure the capacity by which that result feeds into your bottom line. A community with an agenda can do this, because one can measure the result of the outcome. John Hagel, the opening speaker at the Community 2.0 conference, opened up a new world for corporations to measure this type of return by introducing community ROI, ROA and ROS — return in information, return on audience, and return on skill.

I am the community developer for a gaming company based out of Seattle. Technology is my passion, and if I had my way prior to this conference, I’d have introduced blogs, wikis, social networks, and video chat a long time ago. The message from this conference rings clear, community is not about the tools. It takes much more to create a vibrant community that thrives and supports the organization. It takes goals, it takes passion and it takes time. To some degree, you *can* have a community without these components, but that community doesn’t necessarily benefit the organization, because the organization will have no idea how to reap the benefits from its contributors.

I walk away with a real respect for the organizers that make communities work. Without strong community managers, moderators and facilitators, a community is rarely productive. Think of it this way … what if you attended a conference that had a title, but no agenda. What do you think the outcome would be? Sure, it would be a wonderful test, and perhaps it would become the subject of an academic study somewhere. The fact is, companies need to see results, and they need to feel comfortable knowing that there will be a return on their investment. In the end, return on skill should translate into return on sales.

There were representatives here from companies all over the globe. A few that come to mind are, Expedia, Microsoft, PC Magazine, Hewlett Packard, and the Screen Actors Guild. We are now all tasked with taking this information back home (to work), and selling it to our marketing department, comforting our legal representatives, and empowering our communications officers. As always, the IT department will fight over whether Python or dotNet is better (and we all know the answer is Python), and CEOs will wonder how the hell this thing is going to increase revenue, and strengthen stock prices. I would encourage everyone in one of these large organizations to look at how Web 2.0 and Community 2.0 is really forcing the need for an Enterprise 2.0 organizational shift. I hate to use the phrase ‘paradigm shift’, because this is really more than a shift — this is a life or death situation.

The organization of the future will hunker down and involve itself with its admirers and its haters. It is this collective audience that drives – and in Enterprise 2.0, it is these individuals that will make or break your brands. Today we call it ‘viral marketing’, but tomorrow it will just be ‘marketing’. In enterprise 2.0 the company will set the tone by defining an agenda for the organization, but it will be the community that carries the message that needs to be heard.

I’m not a marketer, and I’m certainly not an authoritative voice in this area. However, I know what I am seeing, and I’ve seen the future of technology. The tools are coming, and guess what — the tools empower *people*. As a technologist, I am excited to work on these tools, and I am even excited to see the democratization of information.

Enjoy ~

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