DIY COMMUNITY

IS THE TECHNICAL WRITING COMMUNITY REALLY A COMMUNITY?

What is a community anyway? Is it enough to just declare “we are a community”? Facebook chose the word “friend” to describe your connections, while Google chose the lesser emotional word “Circles”. But when it comes to people sharing interests, Google chose “Community”, while Facebook and LinkedIn went with “Groups.”As most people know, I run the largest LinkedIn Group in the world for documentation management professionals, with close to 10,000 members from 75 diverse countries round the world. Our tech-tav community is able to reach out and expand as we reach My FB “friends”, my twitter followers, my LinkedIn connections – overwhelming.

WHO BELONGS IN A COMMUNITY?

Like any community, we have our outliers. Recently I had to ban someone from the LinkedIn
group for flaming. Obviously, he sent me a “thank you” letter, angrily declaring that I am a
dictator limiting people’s freedom of speech. True, that I limit what people can say on the
group – no flaming, no spamming, no personal attacks. It’s a lot of work to have a good quality
list.You might argue that rules and norms are what makes a community. A community of gladiators would probably allow flaming and personal attacks.So this flamer might be a technical writer, but he isn’t accepted into the community in a way that he can reap the benefits of the community, because he insists on breaking the norms and rules.As the moderator of this group I have to make sure it reflects the mission of our community.

WHO NEEDS COMMUNITY?

Community is designed for mutual support and help. There isn’t much you can accomplish alone. You always need to learn more. You always need someone to perform tasks you haven’t yet learned, or maybe have no intention of learning – like making those clothes you are wearing.As human beings, our basic instinct, actually, is to give. To help others is a fundamental human need. Communities make it easier for us to help one another.If I know a lot about technical writing, well, I can help others in that area.

IT SPILLS OVER

Once you’ve helped someone or someone has helped you in one area, it creates a bond between you. It creates a bond to the community – you see the community as a source of something positive. Anyone who has been following me will notice that my posts are about a member of our community, Anna Shoshan, a single mother who is going through a medical emergency. I don’t know her well; she’s done a bit of work for Tech-Tav on a freelance basis in the past. But when I found out she was going through this problem, it seemed natural to help her. The Technical Writing community is a source of support and friendship for me, not just a source of income, so I started a campaign to help her.She was released from her job several months ago because she could no longer work,so she has no disability insurance, and because of her illness she was behind on her rent payments and various other basic needs. She can’t care for her two 9-year-old sons either physically or financially.

Unfortunately, last week, she was sent home from the hospital. There is nothing they can do for her. It’s not clear how much longer she has. I won’t go into the whole sappy ‘makes you appreciate what you have’ spiel, because you can’t read about this without getting that. I’m speaking about community. Throughout this ordeal, I’ve been touched and moved by the outreach from the technical writing community. People have contributed generously of their time and money. Someone visited her regularly at the hospital, while others are helping her at home. Someone is working with the social workers to help her boys within the Technical Writing community – a family who simply volunteered to help because they can.

I want to thank each and every person in the community, whether you reached out with a contribution, your time, or a kind word. Every contribution is meaningful and has helped get through this difficult time. We even have one person who said they would match whatever we raised on our donations page, to help her live comfortably for however long she has left, so if you’d like to give, you should know your contribution will be matched and truly appreciated. 

A FRIEND IN NEED
Not everyone has the right friend with the right help at the right time. A community is a place where we can feel that we will find the resources we need at the time we need them.
It’s times like these when being part of this community lets me feel safe –no matter what we are facing, we are facing it together.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

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