The Community is YOU, Not Any Organization

As I type this, we’re leaving behind spring, and all the amazing events that take place then, and entering the quiet time of summer. After that, we’ll go into the fall and hundreds of community events (feels like hundreds) will kick off again. Before all that, I wanted to share what I think is an important message: The community is you.

Let’s talk about it.

What Really Defines Community

First up, community is not an organization. Sure, organizations can and do support and define communities, but they themselves are not the community. The community is, at the core, down to the people that make it up. The social norms we build around our communication with one another, interests, methods, values, these are what define a community.

And yes, a good organization can be the linchpin that holds a community together. A good organization can provide a framework on which the community can build, grow and share. But no matter what, it’s back to the people. Organizations don’t run themselves. People are involved. Paid? Maybe. Volunteer? Sure, lots of that. But still people.

As such, instead of looking to the organization, whatever organization we’re talking about, I do NOT have any particular one in mind as I type this, to do things for you, do them yourself. The community is you.

Some Favorite Community Stories

I want to share a couple of stories to illustrate what I mean by the statement “the community is you”.

One very common event within the SQL Server community is karaoke. I wasn’t there the day it was born, but I was there the next day. See, we had one person, Kathi Kellenburger, who was a huge fan of karaoke. Helps that unlike many of us, she could actually sing. She tracked down a karaoke bar in Seattle during the PASS Summit in (I think) 2006. She invited a couple of friends who invited a couple of others. Something like 6 or 7 people went out, had fun. Next day, they were talking about it and I overheard. A person I knew, but not well at the time, Allen Kinsel invited me to come along. Karaoke isn’t my thing, but I joined them on the trek down to the International District in Seattle. I had a blast. We made it a regular thing. And then it grew. And grew. Until, some weeks at the PASS Data Community Summit had karaoke every single night. Some hosted (Denny’s events were epic), some organized on the fly. So this big, community event, all came from one person organizing it.

Another one I was near when it was born was the buddy program at PASS Summit (yeah, I have a lot more SQL Server stories than PostgreSQL stories because I’ve been in that community a LOT longer, the ideas are still applicable). I wasn’t involved with leadership of the organization at all. I was reached out to, by someone, honestly can’t remember, who said “Hey, you know how hard it was at your first Summit as an introverted DBA? What if we offered buddy services to get people some early introductions & guidance?” Heck yeah. I’m in. Now what? Said person, wish I could remember this one, reached out to the PASS organization and used their comms to put out the call, but most of it came out through social media. We had a few people, myself included, volunteer to be buddies. We each got a few people randomly assigned. And we helped introduce them to the event, so that it wasn’t so overwhelming. It was a huge hit. It grew into organized networking events and other stuff. Again, it all started with one person.

I’ve got more, but I’ll leave it there. I will add one note, please see, I didn’t do these things. Others did. I came toddling along behind better people and helped where I could. I want to emphasize, these stories are not about me, just that I was around when they kicked off.

The Community Is You

Why am I emphasizing this now?

As we ramp up to the fall event season, I’ve been seeing messages flying around sometimes on social media that can be summed up as “When will [insert organization here] publish info about [insert your personal favorite community event]?” and are shocked when they hear that the organization isn’t running whatever event it is. What we’re seeing is normal. The people who drove a particular community thing have changed roles, retired, moved to another community, changed jobs and can’t make the event, who knows. But what’s not happening is someone else stepping in and taking on the role of leader.

Here’s one I did. SQL Kilt Day. The very first one, was a joke on X (Twitter at the time). I announced Kilt Day. Was that in my official capacity of organizer of the kilts for an organization? Nope. I just did it ’cause I wanted to. And it grew.

I’m saying to you, the community is you. If you want to see something community oriented at any event you’re attending, make it. Build it. To coin a phrase: just do it. Most event organizers I know will support you and amplify your message if you talk with them (just don’t schedule your thing on top of theirs). They want to see engagement. They want to see excitement. They want lots of options for people attending the event because that will help drive attendance. Heck, it’s purely selfish on the part of the organizers, but they’ll still help out.

So, the community is you. Take that. Run with it. Have fun. And don’t forget to send me an invite, please.

5 thoughts on “The Community is YOU, Not Any Organization

  • luther atkinson

    I wish I’d known about the Buddy system the first time I went to PASS Summit In fact, I wish the next time I go in person, I can find out who’s participating. I’m still introverted, but I know a couple of people now, that I’d be more than willing to introduce to newbies and wouldn’t mind being introduced or re-introduced to some of the seasoned veterans like yourself, or Steve Jones, or half a dozen others whose blogs I’ve read from time to time.


  • I appreciated when someone organized a board game night as an alternative to the other activities. There are a lot of people in the community who appreciate a quieter atmosphere to unwind a bit and play some non-video games. Definitely community-organized, but still a helpful option.

    Thanks for the reminder that the people make up the community and drive the events, not just some central planning group somewhere far away. I appreciate those people for putting the conferences together, but it’s also great that the normal people can come together to create some gatherings around the main conference.

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