Being a cool contributor in an online community

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I am a strong believer in the power of communities or groups. I’ve seen many times what great things can happen when people get together. Nowadays we don’t even need to meet, or know each other. As a member in a lot of online communities I saw beautiful collaborations almost as if those people where bonded by old friendships. 

I saw amazing support and encouragement in a group created so that ladies can sell already worn clothes or accessories. In an international group of professionals using applied improvisation or in one for graphic facilitators people ask and abundantly share about activities, techniques or tools. I’m part of various HR groups, some of them very active and very helpful, people getting recommendations for requests ranging from vendors for different services to legal advice.

I spent some time reflecting on how I can become a better contributor (under the “2020 resolutions umbrella”, if you may) and in the same spirit of sharing, here are my objectives/recommendations:

Be active.

The power of these communities comes from people’s willingness to help others and to share from their experience. So be one of them, don’t just take, but give as often as you can. I set myself a clear objective to contribute at least once per week, either responding to something or initiating a new conversation.

Be helpful, not a smartass.

If someone asks for a specific suggestion, let’s say “examples of activities for 100 people,” don’t start explaining the importance of understanding needs and the context and everything the textbook says. Instead, just give your best example in the context you used it. Trust that the person looking for inspiration knows the theory and is just stuck or curious in one stage and can browse through and adapt the solutions provided. This is a trap I’ve seen a lot of consultants fall into, trying to explain the importance of customization (undeniable, of course) and offering their services. Guys, just share about a case study you are proud of and make yourself available for more custom recommendations for later.

Respect everyone’s input and know when to stop a debate.

I guess this is mostly common sense. You might consider some input is not useful or valuable for you (either if you initiated the conversation or not), but there is a fine line between having a constructive debate and just being dismissive. If you are just reformulating the same arguments, if you feel frustrated instead of intrigued, if you start thinking bad things about the other person then it might be time to take a deep breath and step back as you might not be in a constructive piece of mind anymore.

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And of course, be authentic and mind your writing – a clear and correct articulated message always makes the conversation easier! 

So, help a girl out – what would you add to the list?

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