So 2007 is shaping up to be the year of Online Community Conference revivals. I managed to sneak in to Community Next in February, thanks to a friend who was unable to go. Coming up in a few weeks is the Community 2.0 Conference, then there is Virtual Worlds 2007 at the end of March (it's community related and I have a past history of working in a virtual world). June Brings us the Online Community Camp and October will see the return of the Online Community Summit.
I will be bailing on the first two since I am using up a week's vacation once again to volunteer to work at the Game Developers Conference. Since 1999, I spend one week a year in a fast, intense customer service job that pays no money. Why would I do such a thing when I am not in the game industry and I'm not bucking for a job in the game industry?
I started because I was tangentially in the game industry when I was working on virtual worlds. In fact, by volunteering my first year, I got in to their job fair for free and scored a contract working with There.com before they lifted the veil to the public. I return every year because the program is a fantastic example of a service-oriented structure that really lives up to all the old theories about inverted pyramids. Add to the fact that this organization functions with 250-300 stranger (about 30% are veterans of previous years) suddenly coming together and working like a dream for a week and it's worth being in the mix and learning how it all comes together. And then there is the chance to spend a week seriously getting my geek on with several hundred folks.
And then like many group gatherings such as sports leagues, Renaissance Faire/Burning Man, message boards or multiplayer games, relationships form and people return because they know friends will be there. And if there are ways to keep the connections going outside the event through newsletters, mailing lists, gatherings or converging on social networking sites then communities form. If course I have to bring it back to communities.
This week, Erin Hoffman wrote a piece describing the GDC volunteer program. It does a much better job of describing the program and reasons why it's valuable to the game industry and to the people who attend.