Community: What makes a good one?

Community. It's a marketing buzzword, a television show, and even appears on the résumé of the commander in chief (a former community organizer himself).

Buzzword status aside, communities matter. They're the places and groups with which we identify on- and off-line. Climber, hiker, skier. Mainer, Canadian, Southerner. Boy Scout, ultralighter, thru-hiker. Trailspace community member.

I've been reflecting on what I think makes for a great online community — qualities like positive people, inclusiveness, passion, recognition, respect, investment — since I've been asked to speak on the topic at a media panel next week at Outdoor Retailer.

Then I remembered a basic community truth: Collectively, the community knows more than you do on any subject. This is closely linked to the "everyone knows something you don't" rule (and you'll likely hear from them about it sooner or later).

So, naturally, I turn to you, our esteemed and valued Trailspace community members, to help me draft my talking points. (I swear I'm not trying to get out of my homework here.)

Whether you're a forum regular, occasional gear reviewer, or new blog reader, please share your opinions, observations, and thoughts on community below. For example:

  • What do you think makes a good community? And why be part of one?
  • How did you discover Trailspace? And what made you stick around?
  • What turns you on to some communities and off of others?
  • What make a community authentic or not?
  • What does an online community like Trailspace give you?
  • What do you hope to give back to the community?
  • Why write a review, instruct a newbie, share gear info?
  • What does community, and the Trailspace community, mean to you?

Despite the homework mention above, this is not a test, but a chance to share your observations and experiences, good and bad, just like you do on gear every day in our community forums and gear reviews.

Because I can't talk about community, without including you.


Filed under: Trailspace News

Comments

denis daly
87 reviewer rep
1,057 forum posts
July 27, 2011 at 12:39 a.m. (EDT)

A community to Me has a common intent and a identifying belief thats common with all it's members.They come from Diverse backgrounds,Education levels, different Financial status's and skill sets. They have a mutual understanding of Accpetance of another person's opinion and views. Their Encourageing and open to learning new things.  Why be part of One? To better myself and my skill set and meet new challege's and share my experiance for the next person.

I discovered Trailspace trying to get some training aids on Orienteering for my Nephews scout troop. I stayed because I found the Members knowledgible and generous with their opinions and objectivity. I wanted to Learn More because of them.The articles were well writen and challeged you and your thought's. I felt like I was back in school and being challeged.

What I like about communities:The support and Encouragement to learn more at your own pace.Add (ED"s) hawian shirts and wittyness. Also willing to compromise and hear the other persons opinion.

What I dislike is disrespect to a individual based on Sex, Race, Age and Ability.I believe with time any individual calearn and people learn in different ways and speeds.Just give them some time.

What makes trailspace Authentic is the enviorment we play  in changes daily. So our technique's as well as our gear has to be ever evolving.We have to find new ways to aproach situations and enviorments. Non are alike like people. We have to be diverse. Thats what makes it Authentic because we the members make it Authentic.

What do I hope to give the Community? A sense of worth that their opinions ment something and I listened and learned. I also want to Encourage the community. Were only good if we share our exsperiance and opinions. Share what skills I have to someone who may want to learn also.

I dont believe in a classification of one's skills. I believe that limits people.I believe that Reviews as well as shareing Gear Info puts everyone on the same playing field.That puts all of us on the same footing as a student again regardless of your experiance.We all have Mentors some where. From the New person to the oldest member on the Forum. They are all my Mentors. There is no one person who knows it all. Ever Person has something to offer for us to learn from. When we share we learn what we didn't know and were that much safer and well informed.

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
July 27, 2011 at 1:14 a.m. (EDT)

I was looking for some information ... possibly a review ... on some gear.

I have been supremely disappointed with the popular trade / outdoor enthusiasts magazines, such as "Backpacker".    Not many "out there", really.

The online gear reviews I noticed on Trailspace seemed transparent and unbiased.   Not all the testers were highly-experienced, but seemed to be trying to convey honest results.   Not "sucking-up" to the manufacturers ... a dreadful enterprise.

I realize there is no "Consumer's Report" for outdoor gear (yet) ... where products are actually examined and tested in a laboratory facility, and compared in "blind testing" by a panel of testers.

I also know there are many of us seasoned (pun?) veterans of hiking and backpacking, that are highly disgusted with products made in China and other off-shore locales.   "Quality" is abysmal ... an almost forgotten word.   Also, choices are getting limited.   Try finding Full Grain Leather boots without Gore-Tex.   Who decided EVERYTHING has to be lined with Gore-Tex ?   It's like the "Big Brother"of outdoor gear manufacturers has decided "what is GOOD for us".   Taking US out of the decision-making process.   Limiting our choices.

How about if we DO NOT buy their pap, and stick to our older, vintage gear?   It has held-up pretty well ... because we have taken care of it.   No "planned obsolescence".

We have come to view the outdoor gear manufacturers as operating like a CABAL  ( look it up, if not familiar ... and you will understand my point ).

We look suspiciously at younger outdoor enthusiasts ("newbies"), with their ill-advised purchases of  the "latest / greatest" hi-tech gear.   It is like their very own "peer pressure" to conform what everyone else that sits in a "Starbucks" is wearing while they surf the internet.   Probably why "The North Face" does a bang-up job selling clothing.

What do I want to do to serve the "community" or "give back to the community" ??

Inform the "community" that there must be a demand for quality goods,  made here in the U.S.A.  (and Canada).   For them (the "community") to NOT accept the junk foisted upon us from China.   I would wish I could organize a boycott of this junk, made in China.  

It may come to that.   " I'm not a-feared " ....

                                                    ~r2~

Cleric
73 reviewer rep
301 forum posts
July 27, 2011 at 9:21 a.m. (EDT)

Community guidelines that I aspire for in my context:

Transparent and engaged leadership.
Clear definition of purpose.
Encouragement of community in activities

Trailspace handily accomplishes these, IMHO.

Dave MacLeay (Dave)
TRAILSPACE STAFF
234 reviewer rep
938 forum posts
July 27, 2011 at 9:32 a.m. (EDT)

Climber, hiker, skier. Mainer, Canadian, Southerner. Boy Scout, ultralighter, thru-hiker. Trailspace community member.

"Trailspace community member?" Maybe we need a more compact way of identifying ourselves. Trailspacer? Trailspacian? Trailsperson? Trailspaciac? Trailspacee?

.ghost.
120 reviewer rep
137 forum posts
July 27, 2011 at 2:29 p.m. (EDT)

"Knights of the Order callis spatium."

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
July 27, 2011 at 6:03 p.m. (EDT)

Dave said:

Climber, hiker, skier. Mainer, Canadian, Southerner. Boy Scout, ultralighter, thru-hiker. Trailspace community member.

"Trailspace community member?" Maybe we need a more compact way of identifying ourselves. Trailspacer? Trailspacian? Trailsperson? Trailspaciac? Trailspacee?

 "Lost in Trailspace"

"TrailSpace-Cadet"

                                                   ~r2~

Sirpatrick
24 reviewer rep
18 forum posts
July 28, 2011 at 12:38 a.m. (EDT)

Climber, hiker, skier. Mainer, Canadian, Southerner. Boy Scout, ultralighter, thru-hiker. Trailspace community member.

"Trailspace community member?" Maybe we need a more compact way of identifying ourselves. Trailspacer? Trailspacian? Trailsperson? Trailspaciac? Trailspacee?

 

Trail Heads

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
July 28, 2011 at 12:52 a.m. (EDT)

Sirpatrick said:

Dave said:

Climber, hiker, skier. Mainer, Canadian, Southerner. Boy Scout, ultralighter, thru-hiker. Trailspace community member.

"Trailspace community member?" Maybe we need a more compact way of identifying ourselves. Trailspacer? Trailspacian? Trailsperson? Trailspaciac? Trailspacee?

 

Trail Heads

 Lol.

gonzan
MODERATOR REVIEW CORPS
658 reviewer rep
2,148 forum posts
July 28, 2011 at 8:59 a.m. (EDT)

.ghost. said:

"Knights of the Order callis spatium."

 Love this one! 

Also really like  "Trailspacian" :)

 

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
July 28, 2011 at 9:19 a.m. (EDT)

I think what makes a good online community is easy... Its when everyone in said community works together towards one common goal. Helping each other out. Its alot more effective to work as a team than an individual. :)

Bill S
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,251 forum posts
July 28, 2011 at 10:11 p.m. (EDT)

As probably the longest-term continuous member of the Trailspace and pre-Trailspace member, here is a bit of history that will provide some insight into the formation and evolution of a particular community.

Long before there was a Trailspace, or even rec.backcountry.useful and rec.climbing.useful, there was a family of forums ("newsfeeds", to be more accurate) called UseNet. This was a rather anarchic set of discussion forums which featured hundreds of different topics, a lot of "flame wars", and a lot of foul language and other "family unfriendly" content. Despite the unsavory side, UseNet provided a location where one could find a lot of information and discussion on almost any topic of interest. Two of the UseNet groups were named rec.backcountry and rec.climbing ("rec" denoting "recreational" - there were groups under the "sci" rubric for science-related, such as discussions of the Global Positioning System).

A couple of college students in the Northeast decided to start a family of moderated forums to discuss outdoor topics, with two of those forums being called rec.climbing.useful and rec.backcountry.useful (as opposed to UseNet, which was coming to be referred to by many as UselessNet). These forums were part of Views From The Top (VFTT, which still continues). 

Soon RCU and RBU were gathering participants worldwide, and those of us who traveled, often in connection with our careers, began arranging to climb, ski, and just socialize together as we traveled about the world. Thus it was that I climbed with Brian in SLC, was on Denali at the same time as Damo and Macca, climbed in Tuolumne with Brutus and Em, skied the backcountry with Jeff, and did Solstice Couloir with Zippo (John Miksits from Sacramento). Many of us became close friends, though not necessarily having met in person.

Then came the big tragedy. There had been a smaller tragedy involving Scott and Zippo, when Scott took a serious fall in the Palisades while climbing with Zippo, with a heroic rescue arranged by Zippo. The big event took place in early April 2000, when Scott spread the word via RCU and direct emails that Zippo and his climbing partner Craig had disappeared on Shasta. People from literally all over the world, members of the RCU and RBU community became involved in the search, in many cases by actually traveling to Shasta to join the search. One of the search helicopters crashed on the mountain. Craig's body was recovered, but not John's. Eventually the search was called off due to avalanche danger (6 feet of snow dropped during the storm, and the Native American tribe for whom Shasta is sacred would not permit the explosives needed for avalanche control). Many weeks later, Memorial Weekend, a group of RCU and RBU members returned to Shasta to continue the search, now that the snow was melting. Standing at the Shasta-Shastina col, Brutus, Em, and the others spotted John's blue jacket a short distance away on the Whitney glacier.

The memorial service a few days later in Sacramento was attended by several hundred people, many of Zippo's business associates, the Scouting community, and dozens of RCU and RBU members who had flown in. Not long after, the owners of VFTT decided that they could not handle a world-wide set of forums, preferring to concentrate on the Northeastern US. In part this was because they were graduating and had a different idea of the direction they wanted VFTT to go. Their first inclination was to simply shut down RBU and RCU. But the MacLeays stepped up and offered to buy the site names and archives. Many of the RCU and RBU members migrated to the new Trailspace, which has since expanded its functions, while preserving the array of experienced and expert outdoors folks who willingly continue to offer helpful advice to both the raw newbie and to the people trying new aspects of the outdoors.

The foundation was laid mostly spontaneously as RBU and RCU grew. The MacLeays have nurtured the further growth of the community by providing the framework and means of expansion of more detailed interest areas. The spirit, however, is one that is widespread through the already-existing community of "woodsy" folks and "dirt-bag" climbers. Yes, there are the occasional trouble-makers. But the tradition of welcoming and introducing people who are willing to learn the outdoors ethic underlies it all. This is a community that cares for each other and about each other, one in which the members help one another become better stewards of the outdoor world in which we prefer to live.

That is one aspect of "community", a very positive one. There is another, in my opinion unfortunate, aspect of the use of the word "community" in play at this time. I saw the notice for the round table discussion that Alicia has been invited to participate in. I hope that she will put in a strong word supporting the type of "community" that is Trailspace's heritage and strength, the sharing of knowledge, support for members of the community, and support for our planet's fragile environment.

The term "community" is being used in the context of the round table discussion as a marketing tool - how to sell more goods. To lift a couple quotes out of context -

"...print editors, web editors and other content providers come together to discuss collaboration through and best practices for social media, bookmark, and internet tools."

"...the seminar will also include a short workshop demonstrating how social media can send a story "viral" across the Internet (laptops for execution encouraged)."

I won't be there to support the positive side of community (it is for "media" only, and I do not have "media" credentials)

Jake W
REVIEW CORPS
973 reviewer rep
598 forum posts
July 28, 2011 at 10:27 p.m. (EDT)

I stumbled upon Trailspace the same way as many have, looking for unbiased reviews on gear. Having the ability to compare products against it's direct competion in the market in invaluable. Having such a broad testing group really allows the products, and companies that care about their products, to shine through. Being such a diverse group geographically you really get to see what a products strength and limitations are. I think thats what most consumers want and deserve, the ability to be able to make an informed purchase.

What keeps you coming back is the inviting nature and willingness to share ideas of its members. Let's face it, I don't constantly need new gear (although I wish I had the money to!), so something has to keep your intrest. Thats where the group of intelligent, open and sometimes  funny members come in (j/k)! I'm relatively new here and have learned a lot in a short perios of time. I enjoy having the option to talk about tents, etc.. with likeminded people so my girlfriend doesn't permanently relagate me to mine after listening to me talk about fabrics, again. A community provides members with new opportunities. I've always hiked with my dad and he's at an age now where he can't do it as often so I'm excited about the prospect of meeting up with some members next winter. A good community also needs constructive disagreements. What fun would it be to all have the same outfit, nothing to discuss or debate over. That said its members (the community) need to be open enough to listen, not neccisarily agree, but listen.

Lastly, if you want to grow or take action towards a greater goal, you need a leader. A leader can recruit other leaders, help group members assume responsibilities, and so on – but someone has to be that person. So congradulations Alicia on assembling, and continued building, of a community it is fun to be a part of!

Guyz
153 reviewer rep
235 forum posts
July 29, 2011 at 8:36 a.m. (EDT)

Community has to have a heart to hold it together.  I too started with TS for gear reviews, but enjoyed reading the different experiences of people who enjoyed doing the same things outside that I did.  I may not participate directly in the conversation, but I really enjoy the different views and experiences of each of the different members. (I read more than I write)

TS is a really good thing.  Well moderated, yet we can still express our differences.  (we all have our soap box) However, I think it is because we are passionate about what we love, we can express our differences and learn from each other at the same time.  I enjoy the different personalities & perspectives, the great tips someone just picked up, & the insights someone else just learned and shared.

Keep it up!

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
July 29, 2011 at 11:01 a.m. (EDT)

Jake W said:

 ... if you want to grow or take action towards a greater goal, you need a leader. A leader can recruit other leaders, help group members assume responsibilities, and so on – but someone has to be that person.

 I would LOVE to see someone organize a BOYCOTT of gear made-in-China. 

  Or, if that is not feasible; at least, alerting manufacturers here in U.S.A., that we are not pleased ... and, prefer to continue using our older / vintage gear that still has "life" left in it.

Sadly, I do not have the resources, nor, the time (sometimes, it varies, though).

This "Made-in-China" JUNK should be recognized for what it is: JUNK.

                                                          ~r2~

Guyz
153 reviewer rep
235 forum posts
July 29, 2011 at 1:48 p.m. (EDT)

As long as people purchase by price and not by quality, poorer equipment will be produced to meet the demand.  The people have the power to make changes.  Suppliers will stock only what folks will buy. They need to check out TS before they pull out their wallet:)

mikemorrow
314 reviewer rep
1,124 forum posts
July 29, 2011 at 4:28 p.m. (EDT)

Ok we are off subject again.....But here I go.

#1 not everything made in China is junk

#2 not everything made in North America is great.

#3 Not everyone has $1000 for a tent they use 5 times a year car camping.

There are differant needs for differant people. What one person thinks is junk might be perfect for someone else. I just got back from camping on the beach with Brian. He put up his MH, 15# tent. This tent is near bomb proof. Cost new was around $1,300. Mind you it is a very impresive tent, wonderfully made, and probably made in China. Rita and I were camping in our $50 Halford's tent. It was probably made in China too. Both of us are very happy with the tents that we had. I had no tent envy, an I dont think that Apeman did eather. LOL The point being we both had our reasons for our choise of gear. I think his was overkill, he thought mine a little flimsy. We are both right.

Guyz
153 reviewer rep
235 forum posts
July 30, 2011 at 8:24 a.m. (EDT)

Sometimes its not the destination, its the Journey:)

mikemorrow
314 reviewer rep
1,124 forum posts
July 30, 2011 at 5:29 p.m. (EDT)

And that my friends, is what makes a great community.

pillowthread
REVIEW CORPS
1,195 reviewer rep
1,063 forum posts
July 30, 2011 at 9:33 p.m. (EDT)

I don't profess to know much about community, but I tell you, Trailspace is streets ahead...

Rick-Pittsburgh
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
July 31, 2011 at 4:18 a.m. (EDT)

Climber, hiker, skier. Mainer, Canadian, Southerner. Boy Scout, ultralighter, thru-hiker. Trailspace community member.

"Trailspace community member?" Maybe we need a more compact way of identifying ourselves. Trailspacer? Trailspacian? Trailsperson? Trailspaciac? Trailspacee?

 

Trailernuts :)

whomeworry
102 reviewer rep
2,276 forum posts
July 31, 2011 at 7:16 a.m. (EDT)

Dave said:

.."Trailspace community member?" Maybe we need a more compact way of identifying ourselves...

 Trail heads...

------------------

Some communities are related to business.  As such they tend to have a more earnest focus on sharing information, than developing social connections.  There are the meet-me sites where people go to make social connections.  Then there are the connection communities like Linkedin, that are all about making connections, ostensibly for professional reasons.  Of course there are those that are hobby related, or address other lifestyle topics such as Salon (politics), and sites somewhat related to TS (Summitpost).

Some sites are able to cultivate a high degree of decorum, while other are rather snarky or outright free-for-all verbal brawls.  Some sites have an easy to spot core of very active members, such as TS, while other sites appears to have so many participants it is difficult to determine who, if any, are the core participants. 

A good site is one that has continuity.  For example I would not expect to find topics on power boating on TS.  A good site is one that has fresh content to compel repeat visits.  A good site keeps up with the evolving world within the context of that site’s niche.  A good site is well organized.  A good site has a useful, searchable, archive

Deserving its own paragraph, a good site is ethical.  By this I mean its agenda and the backers thereof are transparent.  There are many “community” web sites pushing an agenda, intentionally misleading the public, spinning objective facts, often funded by nebulous PACs or other lobbying groups who wish to remain unknown.  While the First Amendment protects people’s right to behave thusly, they nevertheless often harm the greater public, distorting reality, and causing them to agree to action or policies without their knowing consent.  While the internet has the potential to enhance civilization, the lack of transparency threatens to make pawns of those who lack the time to diligently determine the pedigree of the information bombarding their minds.  It remains to be seen if the internet will be the salvation or bane to civilization.

Ed

Robert Rowe
0 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
July 31, 2011 at 7:56 a.m. (EDT)

whomeworry said:

  It remains to be seen if the internet will be the salvation or bane to civilization.

Ed

 

Probably neither.

Useful for information?   Yes.   But, so is the library.

Entertaining?  Yes.   But, so are "dog-and-pony shows".

Social connections?   Yes.   But, so are coffee-houses and bars.

Harmful?   Yes.   But,  psychopaths lurk everywhere.

Communication?   Yes.   But, so is the telephone and mail.

True -- we all existed reasonably well before the internet.   Easy to go without it, in my experience.

To me, the internet is like an appliance.

                                                  ~r2~

Alicia
TRAILSPACE STAFF
501 reviewer rep
2,993 forum posts
July 31, 2011 at 11:02 p.m. (EDT)

Thanks for all of the very thoughtful replies. I've read them all thoroughly and enjoyed hearing everyone's thoughts and experiences.

It's heartening to hear when people appreciate what you're trying to do, building and supporting an engaged outdoor community that's inclusive, constructive, and positive.

Of course, most of the credit for that goes right back to the community. Thank you!

While it's been helpful to hear your thoughts before I talk about the importance of supporting an authentic, honest, open community to other media types. It's even more valuable to hear you share those same values for the site as I do.

Thanks very much, everyone.

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