While there’s a lot to be said about online community and how much value it creates in the web industry, I’d like to focus on offline community for a second.
A great deal of time and money has been spent on building online communities and connecting people from one nation to another, but lately the web as a whole is becoming more ‘local’. People want to know who’s been where we are, what our real friends think, and connect on a daily basis and are using the internet to do this. Then once they’ve checked in on their mobile phone, sent out a twit about tonight’s BBQ, or uploaded the photos from last night’s drunken bash, they go back offline to continue those interactions. The internet is now bringing people together locally quicker than any networking event could have. It’s creating a depth to our online interactions that was previously overlooked, and it’s powerful.
Offline community is often overlooked as just “friends hanging out”, but honestly it’s more than that. Through offline interactions you can build respect, work together quickly, share great ideas on a whiteboard, and also enjoy a good laugh or two. Over the past few months I’ve seen a few new offline communities spring up due to online interactions and I’m loveing what they’re bringing together. I’ve been able to learn more, do more, help others find more business, and make great friends with people I really enjoy.
A few years ago I was at the first meeting of Refresh Phoenix, a local group that wanted to bring the web community together to start working together and make a name for Phoenix as a technology center in the United States. From Refresh Phoenix sprung some offshoot commuities such as Refocus Phoenix (a local photographic community), Refactor Phoenix (local software developers), and Tiny Army (local illustrators).
Earlier this year I started using Twitter, but really didn’t get addicted to it until SXSW, when several Refresh Phoenix community members started using it as our primary device to stay connected during the conference. Once we got back, I started attending local TweetUps, meet ups of twitter users in Phoenix. Many of us were into social media, but just didn’t know of eachother because we were just different *enough* not to meet up through other means. Once I tapped into the social media crowd I found out about Social Media Club in Phoenix, which is a meetup of people who enjoy discussing social media, how it effects our lives, and how technology is becoming more ingrained in regular social activities.
Over the last year I’ve become part of Drawbackwards, which is one of the companies that Integrum Technologies shares it’s offices with, that includes the likes of Forty Agency and obuweb. Intergrum has since opened up the offices as a co-working space called GangPlank, where anyone can come and work. GangPlank has open house events as well, one of them being Hackmania every Wednesday night where you can come and connect with other webbies to create great applications and work on other side work that you may not have a chance to focus on normally during the week. This time has allowed new ideas to spring up all over the Phoenix valley, and I’ll be sure to show case some of them here in the future.
I’m really enjoying all the friends and real connections I’ve made through the past few years, and it’s always getting better. I really hope that you can connect with you own local community and build a niche for you to grow in within your own backyard. Bringing people together can help the comunity as a whole and really bring strength to your ideas and interests. Good luck!