Building in community

Building in community

Many of us know about building in public, but what about building in community?

The lines between them are blurry, but I believe there is enough distinction worthy of exploration.

A look at Building in Public...

Building in public, to me, is about being as open as you feel comfortable about your journey. It's about sharing your experiences and insights. Everyone builds in public differently, and that's ok.

Some choose to share revenue, others do not. Some choose to do long reflective posts, others tweet all the little details as they go. The most valuable part, I think, is that it really is a positive move towards honesty and transparency rather than a fake hustle culture that has long loomed in our capitalistic society.

(This doesn't mean there is no hustle culture, there still is, it just shows up a bit differently.)

Typically, in the creator and founder space, people share learnings and outcomes via Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, blog posts or in specific places like Indie Hackers, Product Hunt, Hackernews or Reddit.

Whilst some of these spaces mentioned are technically communities, they are completely open communities and participating in them often feel more like an audience building exercise rather than building in community. This is perhaps why it is called Building in Public, the focus is mostly on putting information out there and embracing what comes next.

It doesn't mean you can't build authentic relationships through building in public, you can. When communities are built for scale and larger audiences the ability to connect at a deeper level is so much harder. And it is the depth where things can get really special.

I love building in public

I build in public too. I share as much as I can publicly in my own kind of rosie way. 🌈

More recently I've been focusing on building ideas around community building in public, rather than the growth progress of my projects.

My goal is not to convert to customers, but more to convert people's ways of thinking about community building. This in turn helps me think through community building in a new way and feeds into my work. I appreciate everyone who responds to my posts and tweets even when I don't have time to respond.

The best builders in public, imhro, are those that are authentic, transparent and educational. It does take practice and support to get there though. It's a scary thing to do. More people would get to that point with a better support system.

I’ve learned and continue to learn a lot from those that build in public. The sense of comradery can be amazing. The lack of it can also be depressing and discouraging.

Getting the attention and the following is also wonderful, but all too often it changes the vibe. The more you grow, the less depth you can have with people. It becomes something that needs to be managed.

It also becomes a bit more performative. Which again is fine. Nothing wrong with that. But we shouldn't hide away from this fact.

Whether you are starting out or have been building in public for a long time, building in community can always create a valuable layer of depth and support that you can't get 'in public'.

Building in community has depth

Despite my relative success of being open in public, I've still felt a void that I could not shift. A sense of emptiness. I am myself in public. But I am my deeper and complete self when I build in community.

Building in community is different, the focus is on gradually building deeper relationships and understanding of each other. We do this whilst also sometimes talking about the things we're working on. The depth allows us to support each other better.

I don't care what anyone says, but there are just some things you can't share in a public situation. Perhaps experiences are too raw. Maybe you need to talk them through with someone to make sense of it. Or maybe there are some things best not said to the open market.

When I built in public I rarely found a deep connection with people. Whereas when I build in community I can open up more and say what is really on my mind and get more relatable support and advice.

Building in community is better than building in public due to the additional context of mutual trust that it involves. It's easier to believe people come from a place of wanting to help and not having to imagine possible misinterpretations of what u share is huge.

At the end of the day the psychological safety is what allows more vulnerable conversations to happen which in turn makes genuine connections much more likelier.

β€” Sam Kaizen

When I build in public people don't notice when I'm gone. That often hurts. When I build in community people check in on me. And that's the bestest feeling ever. ❀️

When I ask for support or feedback in public I would get it to a certain extent, but often the advice or help wasn’t actually helpful or relevant. This wasn’t because there wasn’t good intention behind the help, there very much was. It was more because people didn’t have a real understanding of all the connected pieces of information that mattered in my life. To try to explain would take too much effort, so any support I did get always felt superficial.

The feedback I'd get from the community can be likened to the trust and comfort of asking friends for feedback. But then friends who know what it takes to build something from scratch, and would give a professional, honest and constructive response.

β€” Bart Verkoeijen

Crucially, building in community has meant me sharing things in much more depth than I would elsewhere. It has meant me opening up and being more vulnerable in ways that I'll just never do in public.

It means me practising, building confidence and getting relevant advice on how to build in public better. It means when I say something brave in public, the community will ping me with love and recognition that I did something hard. ❀️

So how can we build in community?

The goal for building in community, for me, is to open up to be my complete self and also enable the building of relationships for everyone. Often with the stretch goals to possibly meet these people IRL, one day.

The simplest way is to form a small group of no more than five people. This can also just start with two people. The goal is to start building trust and a relationship slowly with people at a similar level to you.

My go-to tool for this is Signal or Slack. You could use email and then a virtual event tool for chatting face to face. The tool doesn't matter, what matters is that people use it and show up. The goal here is to check in regularly. Share stuff that is interesting. Ask for help. Share your wins. Your struggles.

Many of these come to a natural end or never really gain consistency. Don't let this put you off trying to create new ones.

The next option is to find a paid or private community that is already set up. There are lots of small communities out there led by passionate individuals. Find one that aligns with who you are. These are usually small and the vibe is very dependent on the founder. Make sure you feel good about who they are and what activities happen within it.

Some communities are async and purely text chat based. Other ones have meetups or are more like Masterminds that require participation.

If you are expected to show up to events, but you don't have the capacity to do so, then you may want to have a rethink. Really what this boils down to, is that any community you join should be given your time and attention. You're doing everyone a disservice if you join and don't show up.

My biggest annoyance with private communities is the lack of diversity, especially in the tech and indie world. This is why I started my ownβ€”I don't want to be surrounded by all men.

For the more ambitious I'd recommend setting up your own private community. I've experimented over the years, and right now I'm most excited by the Indiependent community I started. It has the combination of a small ($99) one-off fee and the requirement to participate at least once a month (or people get kicked).

These rules create an interesting vibe, it's the first community where people are just showing up and talking. People understand why they are there. The rules keep them accountable. I feel like I'm making friends. I have people to confide in and build confidence in myself to take brave steps.

This community now has just over 30 people in it. However, it worked well enough with 10 people. When you want to build in community, honestly, you just don't want too many people. It quickly becomes overwhelming and people switch off.

Already have a big community? No problem. There is no reason why you can't create smaller private spaces within. There are so many ways and potential reasons to do this. It's still not an easy thing to pull off. The biggest challenge these days is to get real commitment from people.

People always have good intentions of showing up, but in practice it is much harder to make happen. The best advice I can give is to look for where the energy is and create a small group from that.

There are no real rules to building in community

There is no one way to build in community. Infact, I hope and expect to see huge experimentation on this front. The reality is that the combination of building in public and in community is potentially magical.

What I do know is that there's been a lot of pressure to be public and to go after more. I want people to see that there are other ways. That doing things in small scale is incredibly rewarding and beneficial and it might be just what most of us need to help us get to the next stage.

Whilst this has been written from the perspective of Building in Public which is very much a creator and founder thing. We need to understand that the Building in Public movement is really just a 'grow in public' movement.

Anyone, with any goals or aspirations, can just grow and do things openly in public. Or in community, of course. 😊

How can we build better communities?

We are on a quest to learn and explore what makes great communities.


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