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The Art of Community, Second Edition by Jono Bacon

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Chapter 8. Measuring Community

“Learning without thought is labor lost.”

Confucius

Great community leadership requires accepting the volatility of community. Volunteer communities are a bubbling pot of varying personalities, commitments, skills, and experiences. This is why I often refer to the work of community leaders as “herding cats.” But as leaders we are here not only to lead and inspire our cats, but also to learn to see the patterns in the chaos that is community.

There are many patterns out there: common personality traits, techniques for getting people excited about something, methods of handling conflict, common opinions, and more. It is these patterns, correlations, and structures that help us to better manage our own communities, as well as share our experiences with others. When I see a pattern, I want to share it so that you can use it in your communities. Unfortunately, the randomness of the chaos can sometimes hide these patterns from common view, and many perceive “community measurement” as something of an oxymoron.

Earlier in this book we contrasted logical vessels such as programming languages with more randomized entities such as community:

[Programming languages] live and breathe in a world where the answer to a question is yes or no; there is no maybe. In a world where maybe does not exist, you can plan ahead for an answer. With community, the importance and diversity of the question is equally essential.

You could be forgiven for thinking that community is unpredictable ...

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