I can has internet community?
Flashback to 1995. I was in college but I was terrified of starting conversations with strangers, so it was hard to meet people.
When the internet started going mainstream. I was like "Cool! the Internet! I can use this to bypass my social phobias and make friends with people who share my interests!"
In the 17 years since, I've done that... maybe once or twice. That's all.
I always hear about how people have found great communities on the internet, and I am envious, because it sounds cool and I've never been able to do that.
I basically don't socialize with strangers on the internet. I talk to people I already know, or I send some terse emails to set up a face-to-face meeting.
I never decided not to socialize -- I just never figured out how you're supposed to do it.
I've tried many times to join gaming, programming, and comic forums -- Storygames, RPG.net, the Warmachine forums, the MSPaintAdventure forums, the Ubuntu user forum etc. Here's how that always goes:
1. I lurk for a long time deciding if the forum is interesting and trying to get the vibe and learn the lingo.
2. I finally work up the courage to post, agonize over my username, and spend hours carefully crafting my first post.
3. Zero replies. Nobody cares.
4. I try posting replies in some active threads. They are ignored.
5. I make a post that accidentally touches on some controversial subject in the forum. It gets fifty replies, but none of them are engaging with what I said, or with each other -- everybody just showed up with an axe to grind and used the thread as an excuse to re-post their favorite rant.
6. I read some other threads more carefully and discover that almost nobody in the forum is responding to anybody else in a constructive way -- it's not a conversation, just a series of people who come in, state their opinion on (or off) the topic, and leave.
7. I give up and go back to lurking.
Not sure what it was that I expected to get out of posting to forums, but I never found it. The internet is littered with abandoned Jono forum accounts with like six posts each.
Even at its best, text-based communication on the internet lacks body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice, so it's a very poor aproximation of actual human contact. With forums, it's even worse, because you don't even know who (if anyone) you're talking to. It's like standing in a pitch-black, crowded tunnel and trying to introduce yourself to a bunch of invisible people who may or may not be listening.
I recently tried to engage with Hacker News after they linked to one of my posts. I thought I could contribute something to the thread since they were talking about my article, but... no. It was the exact same thing as every other forum.
I never figured out how to use "social media", either. I tried Twitter a few times but I wasn't getting anything out of it. Maybe I just don't know how to engage with Twitter, but to me it feels like a crowd of people all shouting for attention, none of them listening to each other. It's worthless for having a conversation or making any kind of meaningful connection. These days I only use my twitter account as a mirror of my RSS feed, to push out links to these blog posts.
I've been working full time on my own solo projects since leaving Mozilla. It's lonely! I wish I had some kind of professional community to be part of. I had a great one at Mozilla and I'm feeling the lack.
I know the "Mozilla community" is something that exists outside the company... but I don't know where to find them. I mean, I would know what IRC channel to go to for any technical question I want to ask, but I have no idea how to find Mozilla community members just to hang out, talk, build relationships, ask for general advice, etc.
I'm really curious to hear from anybody who has successfully found (or built) a functional online community. How did you find this community? How do people interact with each other there? What do you talk about? Do you meet up in real life or is it online only?