Communities Exchange Recap

The Communities Exchange conference wraps up today. I spoke yesterday and then bailed to meet a previous commitment today.

This was an interesting conference, unlike any I’ve attended. For starters, there were only 45 attendees, small by design. Also a surprise to me, most of the 45 attending were from out-of-state, including several from overseas, e.g. two people came from Germany and not from the same company.

This apparently is the MO that Bill Lee, the organizer, likes to follow with his conferences, i.e. small and cozy so you actually get to meet everyone attending and speaking. Bill also combines traditional sessions with group activities to break up the days nicely.

I enjoyed the format, especially the smallness of it. Usually at a conference, if you want to chat up a speaker, you have to stand in line after the session or catch her/him in the hall, but the smaller format allowed people to chat with each other at ease.

Anyway, I don’t know why, but Monday, I was all out of sorts. After a meeting in Pleasanton, I drove all the way to San Jose before realizing I had forgotten my sunglasses. It was dark, in case you’re wondering how that happened.

Then I managed to empty my suitcase onto the asphalt in the hotel parking lot. This wardrobe failure sent me off to the nearest mall to buy more big boy clothes, since the dry cleaning service wouldn’t be able to clean my stuff in time. Score.

Somehow I managed to recover a bit by the time the conference began. My session covered most of our new slidedeck on lessons learned, so I prepped for that initially. As I sat in the morning sessions, I realized that Intel and Intuit had a lot of overlapping lessons with ours.

This was good because it meant we’re doing it right, but from a useful session standpoint, it meant I had to tapdance around recycling wisdom, which I did by referencing the 90/9/1 rule for my presentation. 90% recycled, 9% useful, 1% memorable.

Not surprisingly, the last minute tweaks really just threw me off the content a bit, and I forgot much of the additional wisdom I had hoped to provide. Luckily, the open sessions allowed me to add some content to the overall discussion.

Oh right, so the 90/9/1 rule applies to the membership of an average community, i.e. 90% lurk and don’t participate, 9% contribute occasionally and 1% are heavily engaged. Bill Johnston of ForumOne Networks provided this and several other interesting metrics around communities in the first session of the conference.

I thought Bill’s content looked very familiar; actually, I’d read it on Dawn Foster’s blog previously. Bill called out Dawn as an expert on communities at the end of his presentation. I’ve mentioned Dawn’s community manager knowledge in the past, and she and Bill are definitely great sources for information if you want to know how to start and grow a community.

So, the conference was a nice mix of people who wanted information about communities and people with experience, making it a snappy dialog. I had several interesting discussions, including one with a guy from Qlickview about what’s comes next after 2.0. More on that to come.

Jason (warning, I’m terrible with names) was outed early on as the lone member of Gen Y in the room, meaning he got to field all the questions about his generation and their behavior. It’s not every day you get to speak for millions of people.

I’m bummed I missed today, since at the very least, it would have allowed me to meet a Twitter friend of mine, Kingsley Joseph of sfdc, IRL. I’m hoping to pick his brains about how to manage ideas at some point.

Thanks to Bill Lee and Cindy Parsons for putting on an interesting and unique conference.

Any related or random thoughts welcome in comments.




  1. Thanks for the nice comments. It sounded like a great event. I'm bummed that I missed it, but I was presenting at the Love@First Website conference here in Portland. Hopefully, I'll be able to make it to the next communities exchange conference!

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