This post is cross-posted at the new SQLPeople Wordpress blog (in beta as I type this).
I debated including this post on elegant events in my series about managing technical teams and the software business. I find a lot of what I've learned in the community maps into both that series and good management practices (the opposite of Expensive Management Practices [EMPs]). Ultimately I decided to let it stand on its own.
Ahead of the Curve
I started my post entitled SQLUniversity Professional Development Week: Learning To Fly with a joke:
Clem and Jim Bob were out hunting the other day in the woods south of Farmville. As they crossed a ridge, they came upon a big ol' Momma Bear and her cub. The larger bear immediately started towards them. Jim Bob took off running as fast as he could. He stopped when he realized Clem wasn't with him. And when he saw Clem reaching into his pack, Jim Bob was incredulous: "Hurry Clem! That bar's comin' fast! You need to out run 'er!" Clem kicked off his boots and pulled running shoes out of his pack. "No Jim Bob, I just have to outrun you!"
In Timing is Everything I wrote:
See those folks ahead of you on the path? They're no different than you. You're no different from them. They started on the path earlier - that's all.
These describe where all of us are, compared to all the rest of us. Are any of us better? I don't think so. We all have gifts. We all started at some point. Everyone knows something most others don't know. Everyone needs to learn something. No one knows it all. That's the main reason we're...
When we work together as a community, we're stronger than the sum of our parts. We're able to accomplish more as a community than we'd ever be able to accomplish as disconnected individuals. Community does more than merely connect us:
Community makes us stronger.
One of the coolest parts of the SQL Server Community are the events. Most SQL Server Community events are...
Elegant events share some characteristics. They are democratic, cyclical, and responsive.
Democracy implies voting, but I humbly submit to you that this need not be the case. Voting is a great way to employ democracy, but democracy has as much to do with flatness and input to leadership. I'm going to throw out a pretty radical idea here: I don't think you can do community without democracy, and I don't think you can do democracy without community. Democracy without community is disjointed and extremely messy; it's chaotic; it's mob rule. Left to its own devices, community-free democracy evolves (or devolves, depending on your perspective and goals) into either anarchy or community. When people are involved, there are no other options. Community without democracy is a hierarchy. Hierarchies are fine structures... for data, not for people. It follows the Nascar model (I enjoy Nascar... well, most of it. There's no place for race tracks with right turns in my opinion, but we'll save that discussion for later...). The Nascar race model is: 43 cars start a race and 1 car wins.
That's awesome - for the winner. But let's do the math: 43 entrants - 1 winner == 42 losers. Simply put: Communities without democracy don't scale. How do you know if you're a community missing democracy (or enough democracy)? It's easy - you too can do the math. Ask yourself this simple question:
Are you producing more losers than winners?
If the answer is "Yes," I'll give you one guesses about the direction and future of your community. Your community is scaling all right, but in the wrong direction. You're growing dissatisfaction. You're increasing angst. You're inspiring your members to seek out and support other communities. And let's face it: If your community doesn't have people, what does it have?
Elegant events engage positive spirals. Good begets good, trust begets trust, respect begets respect. Get all three working in tandem and you have a great positive cycle going. Here's a little secret about a great positive cycle: People are the engine.
If you're attempting a non-democratic community, you're fueling a negative cycle. If the Theory of Constraints taught us anything, it taught us the universe is biased: Losses accumulate, gains don't. Physics teaches us this too. It's called entropy. If your non-democratic community is producing 42 losers for each winner, you're stacking up losses at a decent clip. Since they accumulate, the negative spiral operates on a different dynamic than positive spirals. Negative spirals are... sedentary and sticky. They require very little to remain - they're anti-momentum for a community.
All communities interact with cycles. The question is: Are your cycles positive or negative? One way to achieve more positive cycles is to be more...
Responsive communities not only hear their members, they act on what they hear. Vibrant communities act this way by default. In other words, they don't occasionally do something responsive - one thing for every forty-two times they aren't responsive - and then point to that forty-two times and say "See? We care!"
It's really all about which way the knee jerks.
Elegant Events are the heartbeats of vibrant communities.