Building an online community

 

King Stone, Rollright Stones, Oxfordsire, England.

Image via Wikipedia

English: The north section of the Rollright Stones

The Kings Men

I am sitting on a misty Cotswold hill in utter tranquility. Only the pad of the keys breaks the silence. The morning is still and there is a prospect of a beautiful day. I am alone.

Around me are the Rollright Stones, a neolithic stone circle reckoned to be older than Stonehenge. It is said that they are what’s left of an army, petrified because of the ambition of its leader who wanted to be king. They stand a monument both as and  to a mysterious community who’s secret has long been forgotten. Their fixity and longevity inspire awe and admiration – and reflection.

Such moments of tranquility  stand out by contrast and I know that by the end of the day , this house below me will be filling with revellers preparing to spend four days at the Cheltenham Festival.

They are memorable, “they flash upon the inward eye that is the bliss of solitude” (Wordsworth’s phrase) , memorable both for their brevity and intensity.

The Rollright Stones, the King and his men, put me in mind of the congregations I am in and have been in.

The Pension Play Pen , an online community I started 26 months ago, is full of people going about their lives this morning – nearly 2000 people! It is because of the Play Pen, that I am at Little Rollright near Chipping Norton in the mist on the side of the hill.

For any community to exist, there must be a reason. On-line communities do not grow like Cotswold villages or neolithic stone circles – they are not a place to live or a lasting memorial to those who have. They exist as a means to enhance one’s everyday living by getting insight into other’s thoughstyle’s and lifestyle’s.

Although nearly 2000 people have chosen to join the Pension Play Pen- a small town or a large village, there are over 1200 pending invitations our there to people who have either chosen not to join or simply got confused about what an online group called the Pension Play Pen might do for them.

It amuses me when people claim that social media is a waste of time. The 1200 invitations were went out by phone or lap-top at times when I had nothing else to do. When on trains or buses or like now, early in the morning when my mind is in the tranquil state and simply wants to reach out and find more in others.

To me, social media is a place I turn to when I want to maximise the use of what would otherwise be fallow time.

Surely this is the meaning of a community, it is a place where you can chose to go to share of yourself , enjoy the company of others or simply observe others going about their business.

Teh 14th century poet William Langland in his epic poem Piers Plowman, sat on the side of a hill on the other side of the Vale of Evesham from here and described the scene in front of him as a “field of folk”. His vision was of the community of medieval labourers, tradesmen and the odd noble family and priest, working together to a common aim.

Langland’s reverie is a frequent inspiration to me and gives me happiness when I compare my own modest pleasure in seeing an online community whether a Facebook Group, or Mallowstreet or the Play Pen, existing autonomously or around me (depending on my involvement).

I sometimes look at the growing number of people who I’ve invited to my groups who haven’t accepted and get depressed thinking this is some kind of personal snub. I snap out of this when I remember how my early sales mentor – John Ottensooser – would remind me it was not the one person who said yes but the nine people who said no who made you successful.

In order for good things to happen in this world, we need communities. Virtual or real, it is the joint enterprise rather than the efforts of individuals that ultimately succeeds.

I’d like to think, in this moment of deep peace (before four days of racing madness) that the Pension Play Pen will do good things, help bring about positive change in pensions and help enrich the lives of its participants. Cheltenham, Pension Rocks, monthly lunches and the brilliant discussions we enjoy online are all signs that the community is vibrant and healthy. It may last another year or three or five. It may turn into something much bigger or become an irrelevance, shrivel and die.

I know that for the moment it is one of the more vital places I know and I hope that those in it will continue to enjoy it and contribute to it while others (maybe you!) will look it up on linkedin and try it!

But for this moment, as I contemplate the mist as it rolls up the fields below me, I have that deep contentment I imagine Langland had , Wordsworth had and I imagine others like Dawid and Robert (of mallowsteet) have. A feeling of understanding the power of crowds by both being of them and apart.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen, Director of First Actuarial, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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2 Responses to Building an online community

  1. Pingback: Cheltenham 2012 – Hope For The Future | Henrytapper's Blog

  2. Pingback: If you build it, they will come… « Ageing Issues

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