“The Guy” and community

After pondering “The Guy” theory for a few more days, I think it’s inextricably tied into the formation of community. Every example of “The Guy” that I came up with involved the creation of a new community.

This made sense when I thought about it. If a community exists, it’s much harder to become “The Guy” because the community already has the leaders to whom it looks when it has questions. Such leaders don’t necessarily have to be the founders of the community, but it’s the most common case. The easiest way to be “The Guy” is to create a community where none existed.

This ties into some of the Latour stuff from last year. I discussed how management requires people to reify the org chart and marketing requires people to create the market. In both cases, communities are being created. The people that are providing the social glue to make those communities happen are “The Guy”s for those communities.

In a similar vein, my thoughts on creating community make a similar point – “There needs to be a person who keeps on pushing and making things happen.” As I also mention in that post, it requires somebody with passion to make the community happen, because creating a community requires too much effort and time to be done by somebody who is not committed to it.

So what does that imply about becoming “The Guy”? Not only do you have to pick something for which you have a passion, you have to pick a topic where communities are still nascent. To put it in emerging technology terms, you have to catch stuff in the flat part of the S-curve before widespread adoption. Just like technology, if you catch it too early, there won’t be enough other people interested to form a community, but if you catch it too late, it’s mainstream, it’s already happened. It requires a special judgment to catch things at the inflection point.

That’s the thought of the week. I’m always fascinated by community (and even added a new category for it just now), so I’m psyched that I found a way to tie “The Guy” theory into it.

P.S. The end of the term is almost here! The oral defense of my first term’s work on my master’s project is this Saturday. If you’re interested in listening to me practice my ten minute spiel this week, let me know. Then my final group presentation for “Technology and the Law” on May 1st, and I’ll be done done done.

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