Topic: Building internal communities within companies and sharing that internal expertise with usergroups


  • Evan Hamilton
  • Serena Fox
  • Will Sharick
  • Mark Nickerson
  • Rachel
  • Grace Chang
  • Gwen
  • Eric H 13
  • Christina Kelly
  • Rich Reader
  • Viji Doraiswamy
  • Bing
  • Ryan
  • Whitney McFadden
  • Alison
  • Tom Wilson @twilson650
  • Todd
  • Giles
  • Chris
  • Lawrence Wong
  • Carl Jones
  • AZ

“Tags” for the session:

corporate, usergroups, knowledge sharing, company culture, bureaucracy, sustaining community, community ecosystem

Discussion notes, key understandings, outstanding questions, observations:  

  • Internal culture vs internal community - are they different?
  • Very different in a large company - large company culture can support many smaller communities; much more overlap in a small company
  • Acquisition problem - small startup with hackerish culture gets absorbed by very large company, culture becomes diluted.
  • Community vs. collaboration - size of company vs. size of work teams
  • Permission and ownership - before Macromedia joined Adobe, Macromedia had much more internal community and everyone had a blog, but then Adobe PR people brought the hammer down on them.  It's not everyone's job to do everything anymore, which might affect culture.
  • How can you account for culture differences in M&A if cultural considerations get left behind in favor of technical and financial details?
  • Zappos was acquired by Amazon but remained its own entity because Zappos' CEO really pushed for that
  • You can tell a lot with a "gut check" about internal startups - at Sun, internal startups were highly prized and bureaucracy would support you.  Is your corporate culture repressive or supportive of innovation?
  • Corporate executives (esp CEOs) are models of behavior and influence the corporate culture and community.  If there's inconsistency between leaders' values and company values, employees will feel that and become cynical.
  • Why should developers become interested in company-external communities (like usergroups, etc.)?  There's a personal benefit of learning, and also the more people engage, then the more people around them will engage, and this can have an effect on the internal community as well.
  • There might be one or just a few people who are really interested in this idea - focus on those and they can become your community leaders
  • Community can't be artificial - you can't just start a community internally without having something authentic that people are doing (hence something like biking or non-revenue generating projects being good seeds for internal communities).
  • You need a cause to start a community that people will believe in - then people will follow you and virality develops.
  • People also have to feel like they're in the loop and that their opinions actually matter and are taken seriously (and have an effect on company policy, product, etc.)
  • Lack of transparency from higher ups can lead to low morale and community/culture erosion
  • Value of internal sub-communities - builds cohesion across normal work boundaries, cultural reinforcement opportunities
  • Resistance to internal community-building - ex: engineers don't want to work with customer support people because "then they'll know me and talk to me."  How do we deal with situations like that?
  • Executive buy-in is very important - see TGIF company-sponsored all hands meetings and social time at Google
  • Whole-day offsites can be a little stressful, so be sensitive about taking up work time.
  • Company mandated time to participate in the greater community and demonstrate individual knowledge?

Action Items: (optional)

  • Grab the bull by the horns and champion community within the company!  If you meet with resistance from bureaucracy, maybe this is not the best culture for you.
  • Find a passion/vision to build a community around and find the right people to seed your communities (to kickstart them or grow them)