If it’s about the community, it’s about you

I feel like I might be setting myself up for a bit of a controversy here, but I’ve just been chewing on this concept for a while now, and Stephane’s great post about the accomplishments he is (and should be) proud of finally pushed this idea to the forefront of my tiny, little mind.

“It’s not about you, it’s about the community.”

This phrase never really sat well with me. Not because I don’t believe in the spirit of the statement (I agree: don’t chase fame or personal return; help others), but really just because the more I thought about it, the more I felt like it discouraged sheep from straying from the flock, in some way. Of course, this wasn’t ever the intent, but I know in my own experience, I’ve often felt like this phrase has been used as a weapon against my own (and others’) different thinking or challenging the status quo.

I believe, in no uncertain terms, that our status quo is crap. We are in an incredible position to interact with businesses at the highest, most sophisticated level, but we don’t. We label ourselves improperly. Our elevator speech is a joke to any CEO. But if that CEO knew what we could do for them, they would kiss us on the mouth, and pay us a hell of a lot more.

So, while I really do like the spirit of the point, I think we need to feel a swelling of our own egos and pride and use our unique talents to “leave our dent” in the world, as Jason Fried says. Whether you want to call it a calling, a gift, a talent, or an obsession, we all have something that makes us special, and when we apply that, we find we are able to move mountains.

Who is it about?

It is about Eric. Eric took it upon himself to do amazing things in our industry, and really was the first one who found and lit a candle in the dark cave of web analytics. We owe him a tremendous thank you. But Eric had to put his own oxygen mask on before helping others. It turned out to be a great service to our industry, and a legacy he can be proud of. And he continues to build on that legacy.

It is about Avinash. Avinash didn’t want to be a web analytics dummy. He learned everything he could. Then he realized that he wanted to share it. The rest is history. A lot of us owe our ability to do what we do to Avinash.

These two guys are who inspire a lot of people to take themselves seriously. Personally, I think it’s all about them. They have made a huge contribution to the community, and that contribution matters because they inspire us.

It is about Rudi. This guy is inspired, and competent beyond belief. And he’s going to inspire a lot of people. He has a gift and has put a lot of hard work in. And that will all serve the community.

It is about Jason. Jason made like a billion dollars appear out of nowhere for a charity that makes unclean drinking water, one of the biggest problems in the world, a lot less of a problem. But this guy also doesn’t take any shit, and when he puts his foot down, it leaves a footprint. If you stick up for what you believe in, it’s about you. And the impact on the community is huge.

It is about me. I started my career in finance, where I learned what makes value happen in companies. And I see us working our asses off every day in this industry trying to make value. But what I also see is that we don’t fully appreciate the value we create, or how simply taking our analysis one step further — looking at business process, in addition to web site data — will transform our lives in such a quantum way, our toes might fall off.

Whether you want to call it a life purpose, a calling, a gift, or whatever, we all have our contribution. In the spirit of Eric’s message, “it’s about the community,” I think it’s best to frame what we do in terms of how it benefits not just us, but our tightly-knit group. But make it about you, because if you’re doing great things, we need to hear about it, read about it, learn from it, get inspired by it, and integrate it into the community. I’m asking you: make it about you. Feel free. Because we’re still looking for leaders and greatness in this industry, and we know it’s out there.

Very few great changes in human history were driven by a large group working together. Almost all radical changes in direction were a result of some individual standing up, saying they weren’t going to take it any more, and rallying the troops. Then some of those troops stage their own revolution. Let’s keep the revolution rolling.

1 Trackbacks

  1. […] that I thought was very interesting. The post was written by Evan LaPointe and it was titled “If it’s about the community, it’s about you“. After reading it and its subsequent comments, I felt the need to comment myself; however, […]


  1. Great post Evan. I first started using the phase “it’s not about you, it’s about that community” to reinforce my own personal belief that no single person is greater than the community. It was never meant to mean we should all be sheep, far from it.

    But that isn’t to say we shouldn’t be proud of our own individual accomplishments, that we shouldn’t strive for personal greatness, or that we shouldn’t challenge the status quo when the status quo needs someone to get up it’s grill and give it a good ass kicking.

    To draw an analogy, I’ll use a huge pet peeve I have with the NFL. If you want me to clinch up and shiver like someone is running their 6″ nails down a dusty chalk board, then sit me in front of a HD TV so I can watch a 300 pound lineman jump up, sprint 30 yards down the field, away from his teammates, and do a victory dance for stopping a guy, after gaining 3 yards, on a 1st and 10. How is that behavior benefiting the team? There is a time and place for being proud of your accomplishments and there is a time and place to “act like ya be there before.”

    I was seeing too many instances of people trying to separate themselves from the community and shine their own light and in doing so drive a wedge between themselves and the community. Is this behavior benefiting the community? I would say, No. Is is benefiting the person looking for individual glory? Again, I would say, No!

    Be proud. Be passionate. Think for yourself. Question Authority. Just don’t be a douchebag when you do it.

    Posted January 26, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Permalink
  2. Thanks for the mention Evan,
    I guess most people will agree with the positive spirit of a mentra such as “it’s not about you, it’s about the community”. However, when repeated again and again, especially when used as an attempt to send subtle (or not so subtle) messages to specific people, the positiviness fades away. What would be a perfectly valid statement becomes intimidating, people becomes afraid of sharing their thoughts – after all, who would take the risk to be outcast just because they might express an opinion not well received or understood by some influencal people in the community? So people shut up… and the expected positive impact becomes exactly the opposite.

    When Jason says “I was seeing too many instances of people trying to separate themselves from the community and shine their own light and in doing so drive a wedge between themselves and the community.” Instead of trying to repeatedly send subtle messages, a more appropriate approach could have been to contact the interested person(s) and share, respectfully and honestly, what he tought was detrimental to the community. Being respectful of the community also implies being respectful of individual community members.

    I’m still puzzled by what Jason, Eric (and others) didn’t like. Was it people advertising their service or product? What is acceptable, what’s not? Announcing a product release? An event? A blog post? Being proud of a personal accomplishment and wanting to share it with the community? What if a community leader ask people to use the #measure channel during a webcast to boast its marketing impact – is it acceptable or not?

    Do Jason and others think “top blogs” or #measure rankings are popularity contests without any value or credibility? I, for one, think those are useful for people entering our community – not the individual rankings, but at least the overall picture of who are the most active people.

    Communities develop implicit (or sometimes explicit) rules & guidelines – but those needs to be communicated and understood if we want to avoid creating clans and be detrimental to the whole community.

    Personally, I feel I was the target of those sarcasm (but nobody ever confirmed me that!) and I’m willing to accept some blame for the role I played in creating this sad situation. I reached out to Eric to try to resolve this subject matter once and for all – it took a while, it’s going to be a long recovery, but were making progress. So please, everyone, when there’s something you don’t like about someone or something they do, could you please just contact them and talk!


    Posted January 26, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Permalink
  3. I love this post.

    I have a feeling that for every person that is an active participant in the “community”, be it on twitter, through the Yahoo! group, or offline within the WAA or through WAW, there are probably a hundred people lurking on the sidelines that are using the information provided by these thought leaders. For each of those lurkers, there are probably another hundred people that are nose-to-the-grindstone practitioners that may not have the awareness, time, or resources to consume information produced by the community.

    Your phrase “we all have our contribution” is particularly prescient because, although the community is anchored by a core of vendors, consultants, and industry analysts, the core of the community is going to be those people that are squeezing effectiveness from their sites’ audiences on a day-to-day basis. Without them, there is no community.

    Posted January 27, 2011 at 11:09 am | Permalink
  4. Great post. One of the main tenants of innovation is questioning the status quo. Those who do question the status quo are often perceived as a “pain in the ass”. The community should look at anyone who questions the status quo as being a “pain in the asset”. Good managers who understand the value of innovation already do this, we can we do the same.

    Posted January 27, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink