The risks of outspoken contrarianism and problems with hype.
Authors note: I was previously employed by Orbit, have spoken at events sponsored by CommonRoom, and have been paid for content by Commsor. As with all the posts on this site, this blog post is my opinion.
I've been sitting on these posts for a while. I wanted to ensure it came from a place of empathy and understanding. I want this to serve as a commentary on the state of the community industry, not a critique of anyone or any specific organization. After some thought, conversation, and the spirit of candor, I feel it is essential to publicly express my expertise and opinion on this topic.
As I started writing, I realized there’s enough for a multi-part series. And it’s not all “bad things,” either. As someone shared with me this week — it’s time for the community industry’s reckoning.
This is part four of a four-part series.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three
I’m not new to an economic downturn, nor is this the first time I’ve been caught up in a headspin of a buzzy industry.
I am of the millennial generation, where economic travesties are more of a rite of passage than a life-altering incident. This past year I didn’t experience my first tech layoff or career shift, nor do I think I’m immune to this ever happening again. These mass layoffs in the tech and community world are a byproduct of the board of hyper-inflated valuations in tech.
I’m asking that we be a little more down to earth discussing a tool's role in the larger ecosystem.
Layoffs are realistic, economic climates change, product roadmaps shift, and projects are wound down; but don’t pretend that it hasn’t impacted how you or your users do things. Be transparent about shutting down projects, abandoning efforts, or redirecting your positioning, and understand your users are doing so.
I dawdled on the publication of this piece, sharing it with friends, former colleagues, mentors, and industry peers — primarily because of my insecurities around stability and being perceived as one who stirs the pot. In an economic downturn, being an outspoken contrarian can be a risky position to hold.
I’m not too altruistic to believe I can write off entire tools or industries.
I use and pay for tools for measuring community connection, automation, events, and conferencing. I’ll attend conferences and evaluate conferencing solutions and town hall initiatives. Many of these tools and processes make my job easier, save time, and enhance my efforts as a community builder.
I’ll continue to navigate working in a community role in a capitalist society to bring value to the company's users. At the end of the day, I know that my role is to increase product adoption through efforts that empower community members, creators, and contributors.
However, don’t count on me bending over backward or burning myself out to vouch for a company that only claims to practice what they preach.
It is imperative for the tools that I use to maximize the impact I make at an organization and maximize efficiency and clarity in how I tell that story.
It’s the best bang for your buck kind of scenario. How can I maximize the money I’m spending, the talents I bring, the time I have in the day, and demonstrate the bottom-line value I bring to an organization?
The best tool for the job is the one that maximizes the impact of the job that I am doing.
Now that’s not to say I won’t be using community tools. I do, and I will. I even pay for many of them for work and play. I will no longer be looking at them with rose-colored glasses on anymore. I’ll be approaching all of these with a heavy dose of reality, and dammit, I hope these companies can do the same.
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