Staying on Message: It’s all about Community

Staying on Message
Staying on Message via Wordle.net

There’s a hand-painted sign that hangs over my desk at work, that my wife picked out years ago at a crafts fair in Virginia, that says:

“I’m not bossy, I just have better ideas.”

Anyone that’s worked with me, reads this blog, or follows me on Twitter, probably isn’t the least bit surprised by that. Publishing and marketing have been twin passions of mine forever — in high school, I published a newsletter for my fantasy football league, using my Commodore 64 and The Newsroom software — and I’ve been fortunate to have a day job related to them, in one form or another, for over 15 years now. I’m generally a laid-back guy, but when it comes to certain topics, I can be quite outspoken; that’s partly where the  “loudpoet” moniker came from, a riff on the influential Aloud: Voices From the Nuyorican Poets Café.

At the beginning of this year, I shifted the focus of this blog firmly in the direction of those particular passions, with the goal of establishing loudpoet.com as an outlet to voice my opinions on things in the industry that had previously been limited to backchannel emails and happy hour debates with friends and colleagues. Poking back through the archives, the combination of Twitter and the Tools of Change Conference really got me going, with the discussion on the former about the latter’s “Building Communities Around Content” session leading to the first notable wave of connections being made there and traffic being driven here.

Since then, I’ve written several posts that I consider to be must-reads, including the four noted as “Features” over in the right-hand column, but the word cloud above, generated via the blog’s RSS feed at Wordle.net, highlights two prominent words that best represent what this blog is really all about: community and people.

The tag for “community” pulls together what I think are some of the best posts I’ve ever written in the seven years I’ve been blogging, and if you go back far enough, you’ll actually discover that the roots run deep, all the way back to my years in the poetry slam scene. My Nouns of Note page is tagged for community, too, for obvious reasons.

Reading through some of those posts, it’s clear how much being a part of the poetry slam scene shaped my understanding of, and opinions on, community building  and organizing. It also sharpened my spider sense for bullshit and opportunism, two things that have plagued the publishing community forever, and that I have a particularly low tolerance for. I was also excited by the fact that I’ve remained relatively consistent in my approach to the concept of community, to its fundamental importance as a foundational concept for any endeavor, and that some of the projects I’m lining up for the near-future will be strengthened by that philosophical consistency. The things I’ve learned since then, especially over the past couple of years since I decided to literally put my money where my mouth was and move from marketing to sales, will be invaluable moving forward.

Part of that value definitelycomes from documenting my thoughts and opinions here, and from the feedback I receive from others, whether via comments and emails, or the personal connections I’ve made and strengthened as a result.

Thanks for reading along, for being a part of my community, and for welcoming me into yours.

Stay tuned!

10 thoughts on “Staying on Message: It’s all about Community

  1. Guy – Like you, I find it essential to consider lesson's learned in OTHER communities to help shape what we are trying to build on the web. Please don't consider this opportunism, but I shared some thoughts about this in a recent blog post, as I tried to find inspiration during my vacation:

    http://danblank.com/blog/2009/07/27/looking-to-

    And thank you for building a community that we can be a part of.
    Have a great day.
    -Dan

  2. Guy, I just spent a week with teenage creative-writing students at a camp on collaborate world-building and individual writing (Shared Worlds: http://sharedworlds.wofford.edu ), and picked up a lot of inspiration on how communities build and guide themselves, at least around short-term goals and projects.

    You can bet I'll be pairing that inspiration with the lessons I'm picking up here, in the hopes of forming actual ideas out of it all. So keep the posts coming.

  3. I never see relevant links as opportunism — not in a negative context, at least — and that was a great one. Thanks for pointing it out. I had a similar experience a couple of weekends back when we took a family trip out to Lancaster, PA. No matter what business you're in, it's ultimately all about people, and there are valuable, applicable lessons to be learned in almost every situation; in publishing, exponentially so.

  4. Shared Worlds is intriguing; thanks for pointing it out. Working with teens in the poetry scene was always a highlight for me, because there were rarely any pretensions, and they tended to be a lot more honest in their own writing and their reactions to the work of others.

    Have you read Seth Godin's Tribes? I highly recommend it; it's a quick read, and he really gets to the heart of how communities are built and develop over time, and what it takes to “lead” one.

  5. People brought up Godin's Tribes all throughout the camp, and I still haven't read it. For sure, I will do so now.

    You're absolutely right about the lack of pretense with the age group. It came up a few times how much more focused they were on the work, rather than defining or enforcing individual identities. I have some half-formed notion, now, of how work is valued more when one's career is not at stake — but I'm sure this idea is full of loaded specifics that may not actually support the general conclusion. I need to back away and look again. For sure, though, it reminded me that undermining communities is a learned behavior, as I saw plenty of kids who didn't yet have the instinct to step on the community for their individual benefit.

  6. Hey Guy,
    I've really been enjoying your renewed focus on your blog. I know I can count on you to read between the lines of what's really going on in the volatile publishing world. Keep the posts coming.

  7. Guy, I'm going to go back and have a really thorough read. I just wanted to say how cool to see where you got the blog name, and I hope you'll be following the National Poetry Slam this week (http://www.nps2009.com/). I owe a big debt to the slam poetry community. Just when I was beginning to wonder how long it would be before the numbers joining up for Free-e-day (http://www.facebook.com/edittopic.php?uid=13711…) started to swell at more than a trickle, along came a whole host of slam poets from all across the States, and the whole event started to come to life. So I have a huge affection – and gratitude – to that community. That, and they are, of course, the most obvious example of literature as performance, another cause close to my heart.

  8. I'll keep an eye on NPS, though this is the first year my old series (http://louderarts.com) isn't sending a team, so I won't be nearly as engaged. If you're not there in person, it's mainly about the competition, with is the least interesting part of the week.

    I'm not surprised that slam poets have embraced Free-E-Day; they're typically early adopters of cultural movements, for better or worse! Happily, your initiative is the former.

  9. Yeah, the competition is always secondary in these things. And yet, like you say, from the outside taht's what it appears to be about. For the second time reading this post, I'm left thinking of Wittgenstein. It really IS all about community – and that's exactly why some people just don't get “it”, whatever “it” is. If you don't hold your breath, close your eyes, and dive into the conversation, it will always appear to be something very strange. Take that step and you might just find a whole world opens up. I've only just come to this blog, but it's great to hear you've been going seven years, and I hope you're going at least seven more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.