It all started when the SBS folks posted up their community survey...
and it got me thinking about "What is Community anyway?"
(and if you haven't filled it out .. please do)
<update - Vlad's point/counterpoint is here>
Is it full of nothing but SBS vars and vaps? Is it partially filled with
onsite sysadmins that should be hiring a consultant? It's it nothing
but DIYers installing it at home? And should there be barriers and fences
between each group?
Or maybe it's a place.. a watering hole where maybe..just maybe...every
now and then each part of a community needs to turn around and look
to see who is standing next to them. The SBS community these
days that I'm seeing isn't just from America, isn't just from North America
even. It isn't just vars and vaps and partners. It isn't
just DIYers and admins. It isn't just Enterprise folks coming down
from big server land or folks entering in the Technology marketplace.
But sometimes, all of these community members need to understand that
at the end of the day all of us have the same goal in mind. To make
technology affordable and easier for the small business person.
There's been a couple of times in the last month I've been pinged via
the blog by an admin who is looking for a smidge more hand holding.
They are the onsite IT pro for the office. But they couldn’t find a
SBSer. So they are coming out into a community to find someone to
But this reminds me of a continuing thread I have with someone...do we
need barriers in community? Do fences make good neighbors? Should
community embrace everyone that comes in the door? Or should there be
better fences between the types of community members we have out here?
There are a lot of sociologists out there that write books and stuff on
online communities.. and while they don't specifically look at the SBS
community there's some interesting stuff to think about when it comes to the
1. Lack of barriers
For one, all you have to do to 'join' the SBS community is have an
email address. So that welcome wagon approach means that partners
mingle with newbies... and newbies mingle with DIYers...and those who
have been around the SBS groups a long time have to answer many of the
2. Should we embrace all?
The other day someone was joking with me that I wanted to "save" or
"convert everyone to the religion of SBS" and I'll admit it I'm
practically an Aimee Semple McPherson wanting to bring all into the
SBS fold. Why? Because I don't want to see the 'real customer' of
SBS be hurt by a bad install. So I'll want to embrace folks that are
newbies.. or embrace folks that are DIYers ... or embrace folks who
think they can do it ...and if need be guide them into books and help
and support and even consultants when they are over their heads. But
I'd rather not turn anyone away. Some folks have said to me that if
you haven't read a single SBS book or deployed a single SBS server you
don't deserve help. And the one side of me agrees with that. There
are honestly times that folks come into the newsgroup that are
obviously partners and var/vaps and say "so some patch installed on my
clients boxes yesterday" and it makes by blood boil. First off if a
patch came down "yesterday" that's not a patch Tuesday event.. as this
isn't Patch Tuesday week.. and secondly ..someone is counting on you
to know what you can about that SBS box and I don't think that
customer deserves anything less than a person who at least can google,
or at least can look up something at www.eventid.net. If you hold
yourself out as a SBS consultant... don't you have the responsibility
to that customer to at least try?
3. Should community be considered better training and education than
a certification? Steve Riley has a credential. NFC. "No fine
certifications" is what it is.. of course I have a feeling that "fine"
may be a little stronger than that... but it points out the "BTDT"
credential of the community. "Been there, Done that" is the best
teacher. Yeah you get beat up a bit with it... but it sure is the
best teacher of all. Trying something, doing something, you learn
TONS more than a book, hands down. Books give you a foundation, but I
would argue that books and training are just that. A foundation.
Nothing beats real world experience in my opinion.
4. Should community be so patient and understanding that the
community member can't even take the first step?
Obviously you can see where I'm going with this one before I even
flesh it out. Hands down if you want the best community help you have
to at least play along. You have to google search (okay for the benefit
of the MSers reading this.. how about Windows Live search?). You have to try
to post a good question and showcase that you are willing to try. If
you can't even google...then maybe you should step back and hire
someone to do the job for you. And pay this person, because otherwise
you are asking a volunteer to help you and you probably won't 'pay it
back'. And that's truly what the SBS community is all about.
There's an expectation to 'pay it forward/pay it back'. Just on today's
webcast, an innocent question sort of struck me funny... the poster asked
if Tim Barrett could post his exact instructions on how to set up
MOM monitoring and reporting of SBS servers. I mean like Tim is
generous of his time and energy..but that took him time... and sometimes
maybe we go too far around here and don't value our own time because
we give it away so freely? But conversely I know that when I teach
I learn tons more in the process.
5. Should we be aware that Community isn't just yahoogroups, it isn't
just newsgroups, it isn't just partners, and it's a lot more cosmic
than we think. There's not the hard and fast boundaries anymore in
this 24/7 Internet connected world. It's everywhere. And I may be
the "SBS Diva" over on this plot of the information superhighway..but
on the freeway just a few miles over...there's quite possibly another
vibrant community that has these circles of communication surrounding it.
I was reminded of this today by a blog post
about a SBS web site... yes the domain name is very much like
www.smallbizserver.net but it's a new community that I don't know, I
don't speak the language, but that doesn't mean that they aren't a SBS
community just as important and just as needing of attention.
I'm certainly not the only SBS customer, and each member of the SBS
community in their own way serves a vibrant and vital role to
play...but each of us are not the 'only voice' of the SBS community.
We're like one large community chorus...or a quilt made up of many
So what happens in the SBS community? You have this cocktail party
that the mingling guests are a mixture of oldbies and newbies. Is
that the best thing to do for a good community? Will oldbies tune out
dealing with the issues of the newbies? Should those that are uber
SBSers (aka Partners) carve out a bit of community to themselves and
not interact with other members of community?
It's hard isn't it?
SBS has always had this weird multi headed beast of a thing called
"Community". To this day .. even though as JeffM would say.. "I'm not
your normal DIYer" ...sort of like Dana is not your "normal SBSer", I
still feel that I represent that role. Why? Because I still see
those folks coming into community representing themselves as "uber"
SBSers from the MS Partner ranks and sometimes they are not. And boy
can they learn some things from the not so 'uber' SBSers.
Does each 'type of community member' need to understand that community
is just where a bunch of people who like to talk about SBS get
together. Should better fences be built?
I don't know. But to me community can't just be a single type. Look
at our cities and towns and countries. Diversity is a good thing. It
brings differing viewpoints to the table. It lets you see different
perspectives and not a tunnel view of things.
One of my sayings in Technology is that you have to do a "To kill a
Mockingbird" view. You know... you have to walk in the shoes of the
other person.. stand on his porch, turn around and look at his view of
It's funny isn't it? We don't want Microsoft to silo. But should the
community? We're all fabric on the same community quilt, right?
Aren't we? Can't we learn from one another? And don't I always say
that when I teach I learn more in the process?
But maybe the real test of a good community member is a happy SBS
box.. or a happy SBS customer. Maybe that's the criteria we should
use in our 'benchmark'. Remember we always do say to ensure when
finding an "SBSer" you ask him or her how many SBS boxes they've
installed.....'cause at the end of the day.. isn't that everyone's goal?