Craig Box's journeys, stories and notes...

Community building

Hello, Planet NZTech!

First, a bit about myself; I currently work as a systems analyst/engineer/architect for a Hamilton company, mostly doing Windows and Linux consulting work; I'm equally conversant in both, which might make for some varied opinions! I'm the secretary and general go-to-guy for the Waikato Linux Users Group, and I've just joined the New Zealand Open Source Society (see below).

I'd thought about keeping a log of the interesting things I find on the 'net for a while, mostly because I often expand on stuff that you can't find much information on and end up writing full guides, but there are a lot of little things that I'd like the web to know (and possibly comment on), but can't really find which wiki page to write about them on. The thing that actually convinced me was the idea that people wouldn't read my post on my own personal page, but as part of a community aggregator, in this case Planet WLUG or Planet NZTech.

I run a BitTorrent tracker. It tracks music bootlegs, mostly concert recordings and TV appearances (of an artist that has expressed that he is happy with non-commercial distribution of his gigs).

A number of people with an interest in the artist have found the site, and bought their collections to it, which is great. Why should you have to burn discs and post them around the world, with a recipient possibly waiting weeks for them to arrive? However, there are a couple of groups of people who use the site First, there are the small number of people who have used other trackers before, know how it all works, and have a passing interest in joining up and secondly, there are the neophyte but more hardcore fans who, when you offer a copy of a show on a mailing list, all ask how much they can PayPal you, and how many blank discs you want.

I've worked on the second set of people for a long time - I started an FTP site before P2P really existed, and some of them haven't even grasped the concept of that (no, you don't have your own username, you share the same one as everyone else...) Unfortunately, just as they started getting it all worked out, technology moved on, and now I'm having to teach people a whole new set of tricks.

These are all good people, very eager, but who just can't understand NAT and ports and speed limits staying-on-to-seed. The trick is building a community around them and having them help each other, and convincing the somewhat-incorrectly-named "old guard", who are only used to dealing with other people who understand the technology, to help and nurture the new people. It is somewhat easier with BitTorrent, where the more people you have the better your connections can be, and where all you have to do is to leave your window open. It takes time, but if you can encourage everyone to help everyone else, then there far less burden on any one person.

I mentioned above about the New Zealand Open Source Society. The society has been active in challenging patents and advising Government departments. I hope to be able to assist the society in building a community between the Linux and BSD user groups, programming language groups, and anyone else with a shared interest. Sometimes it's hard to sell the concepts of open source to people who don't really even know what software is, but each step is a step forward, and the more you can empower other groups to spread the word for you, the better.

In other news, I'm currently downloading Windows Vista beta 2 for a play, but check out these Vista keynote videos!

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply