Why I contribute to user communities

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I’m one of the memebers of the Italian VMUG steering committee, and our VMUGIT User Conference took place only few days ago.

It’s was a complete success, in a sense also unhoped (but wished), and as always the main contribution to its success came from users. Nothing to say about our sponsors, they were great and they supported us to make this event possible, but the real added value to this kind of events are users: we had the opportunity to meet in person guys we usually read only on through their blogs or thanks to the job they do, we interacted, we talked to other IT users running the same technologies we use and so we compared our ideas, doubts. This is priceless.

During the afternoon, two simple questions made me think so much about the idea ” I ” have about the User Community:

– first Mike Laverick, during his presentation, asked to the attendees “why do you have a home lab?”

– after an hour, while filming me for an interview about the Veeam Forums, Hans DeLeenheer asked me “Why do you contribute so much to the forums?”

In their simplicity, those two questions (and the answer I gave to Hans) hold the sense of my commitment to the community.

So, why I run a virtualized lab that needs maintenance and constant updates? Why do I “waste” many hours to write articles and posts on several forums= Why do I donate part of my free time to the User Conference organization and I also designed from scratch and I launched a new format like the Hands-On Days?

It’s not for the vExpert award (but I’m really proud of it), are not the banners I promote on my blog (they are so few I cannot even start thinking about making a living out of them even if beeing a professional blogger is my dream-work), it’s not the popularity I gain (this is an award, not a goal).

So what is it?

I have never thought about it seriously, but while answering to Hans it came out crystal clear.

I do it first of all for myself.

I know it sounds strange, but I can explain it to you quickly. I’m basically an inquiring guy, and just like anyone like me I get bored really easily if I’m forced to do the same activities every day. I’ve been really lucky to find a job where I can test new technologies, talk with many vendors and design several environments for many customers; each of these activites gives me the opportunity to learn something new. Forums activities and even this blog follow the same idea: each discussion with other users is the source for new ideas, to rethink about old ideas, to design every time a new infrastructure that (since it has its own parameters and requirements) is basically unique.

To write on the forums to help the others at the end it also helps me: each reply I gave enhances my design skills, and even if replies are not comparable for sure to proper projects, they make me play everytime the “system architect” role while quickly designing the best solution for that user. Many of the ideas I got from those threads then became new blog articles, and to write those articles helps me organize my idea in a logical stream rather than keeping them in my mind in a confused state. Not to say the blog has become a “note book” to check in the future when needed.

One of the most sad objection some people told me is this: you work as a consultant, so you should keep your know-how by yourself because they are an advantage over other people doing my same job. I can understand the reasons behind this objections, but I strongly disagree: it exactly this divulgation I do that empowers my competitiveness, and offers to my customers a clear and unbias way to evaluate my skills. I do not need a customers portfolio, right because many of the projects I do are described anonymouly in this blog. It happens more and more often to meet new customers telling me they read my blog, they saw my webinars, so they already know I’m the guy they need. So, even if I do not run this blog for this purpose, it is nonetheless a powerful self-promotional tool, much more than business cards or company flyers.

So, if you think you know something to share, don’t be afraid to share it: what comes back is way more than what you donate. Even if it’s only a comment on someone else’s blog post, write it. The vast majority of bloggers (sadly there are some pathetic ones around…) are moved first of all by passion, and comments are the equivalent of a pat on the back or the shake of the hand in the real life.

About me, I will go on giving away for free my know-how to my readers.

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