The only community that needs to matter

I just read Mike Walsh’s post Community through the eyes of a 2nd grader. I really like his musings about the community at his boy’s school:

They create mini-communities or groups which they call a Grove. A Grove consists on 9 kids, 1 kid from each grade, k through 8. These Groves meet every couple of weeks to mentor, share, help, learn and develop friendships across grades. What a fabulous idea – gathering all stakeholders and discussing how they can create a stronger and more valuable community – I love it!

This interests me for many reasons. Not the least of which, life has made sense to me diffently — or only — now that I have my girl, but I’m also fascinated in general about the nexus between on- and off-line communities.

'Rock climbing' at Crissy FieldI’m passionate about “my” San Francisco community, even though it often feels just as intangible as bits on the Internet, but I’m especially curious about where on- and off-line communities “meet.” Arguably, you could say we have Monica Lewinsky to thank for the powerful growth of online communities in the “offline” world of politics (think Move On). Lately, some clever innovators are monetizing through their online stores but delivering just down the street (Kodak and its picture books). And I’m fascinated about the physical books we still buy, print, read, and most importantly, share — as well as new online gems like the promising Red Room that are also bridging that gap between physical and ethereal communities.

So are physical and online communities really so different?

Some day soon I’ll re-post my blog/rant on “Web 2.0 and my community” – which I wrote internally at my company after walking down Golden Gate Avenue to the Expo last year (and the ensuing Spock Debacle), but for now, I’m happy to just to be reminded of what matters. As Mike says

I learned quite a bit during the 60 minutes that I spent with a bunch of little kids – and enjoyed every minute of it. This is a great reminder of keeping eyes wide open. Turn off the Blackberry and listen to your little kids. It turns out that they’re pretty smart.

Likewise, like Therese Stewart saying “It’s not same-sex marriage: it’s marriage” — it’s not on- or off-line community, it’s just community. I’m thrilled every day in which I get to perceive it through new eyes.

Lit Crawl and the Resurgence of the Mission

I was trying to figure out what about last Saturday’s Lit Crawl particularly warmed my heart, and it hit me this morning like a stream of light through the sun down 280 (which if you think about it, makes it clear I wasn’t actually reading at the Lit Crawl).

As I look forward to attending the Web 2.0 Summit tomorrow through Friday in San Francisco, my community, work, and the different roads and travails in between are again on my mind (not like they’re never not on my mind). Those of us who already lived here in the mid-to-late ’90s of the last millenium remember names like Kozmo, Webvan, Bigstep, and slogans like “because pets can’t drive.” Those of us who lived in the Mission district in San Francisco remember the schizophrenia of the times and the huge influx of people striking for a new gold rush. These people could bring excitement and ideas, but they often left frighteningly quickly and with waste in their wake.

In just one of many similar scenarios, Bigstep took over a huge building down at 22nd and Mission. Artists and teachers were evicted, presumably to the outskirts of civilization, because artists and teachers didn’t earn the mint for living there now. Till recently this exodus hasn’t been a memory, but rather a reality.

I don’t know when or if it started to feel like a memory for most, but on Saturday night, the “death of the Mission” was far from my mind. Oceans of people washed down Valencia, Mission, and Guerrero from one pub (or laundromat) to the next and crammed in and on top of every nook and cranny (or agitator) to hear people reading. Reading! Literature, poetry, fiction, travel writing, rock writing were all alive and well and thriving with absolutely masses of people. Only this morning, looking back, did it make me feel like we’ve finally come out, and back into some kind of goodness again.