Investing in Community
I recently received a support ticket, not so much asking for support, but rather wondering about the status of https://community.reclaimhosting.com/ and why it wasn't promoted more. The person pointed out that it wasn't really linked anywhere or mentioned as far as they could tell, which was absolutely true. When Jim and I first started Reclaim Hosting the idea of building community was very much at the forefront of our minds. I fired up an instance of Vanilla Forums at the time probably only a month after Reclaim Hosting got off the ground. But I never visited there myself. I let it stagnate almost from day one. When Howard Rheingold started experimenting with Discourse I thought "now here's an interesting piece of software for conversing on the web!" and switched up the community site to run on that. I even used a WordPress plugin to make all comments from our blog get driven there as larger discussions. The result: well....nothing. As it not so surprisingly turns out, people don't just flock to new spaces because you hope they will.
The community site has been dormant for a long time now and often I've wondered if it was better to just nuke it into orbit. I had high dreams of folks sharing with each other there, asking questions about how they might approach a given topic, or even user-driven documentation on how to do a particular task on Reclaim. But building community takes so much more than just sitting back and hoping for something to develop. It takes real effort to draw people in, stoke conversations, and it takes a huge amount of good will in the early days. We've had no shortage of good will in building Reclaim Hosting from the community that has embraced us, and if a space to cultivate that is something that I want, something we want, then it's going to take work.
And so last week I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. There were some boring technical details I wanted to accomplish like getting the site to run on SSL thanks to Let's Encrypt support. For the first time I added a link within our client area. I grabbed the RSS feed and started showing the latest posts on our documentation site. And most importantly, I started seeding conversation and inviting folks to the party. You see, Discourse has this great feature that allows you to invite someone to a thread and when they click that link they can immediately start responding without having to go through the process of creating an account. It's a very powerful feature that I have been using a lot this past week to bring folks into the fold and cultivate....well...discourse. Discussions, ideas, tutorials, announcements.
We have a long way to go and it will often require me to get outside of my comfort zone and ask people to participate, be intentional in my actions to seed the space with new ideas and conversation. It's not something I'm used to doing, but it's incredibly important. There is no shortage of amazing people doing incredible work on Reclaim Hosting. And if our support system is any indicator then there are plenty of folks who could use a helping hand as well. We're always there for them, but I would love for that same generosity to extend to the broader circle of people who have trusted us to assist in helping them build their digital identity on the web.
Consider this post me breaking the ice and welcoming you in. I would love for you to come over and chat with us there. As time goes on we'll continue to figure out ways to generate new topics there but I ask that you not be shy and participate in what's happening there. After just one week of investing the time to cultivate the space I've already seen the rewards and it has renewed my efforts to see that space grow. And I now realize this is the investment that we (Reclaim) needs to make in each and every one of you to foster a sense of communal support, the idea that you don't rely on me, or Jim, or anyone else, but that we all can call on each other and have a space to openly share our thoughts. It's more important than ever to me now and I would love for you to join us in that effort!