This website covers knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Changes in a community create friction

I'm not so interested in the specifics of Freecycle as in the familiar sound of their growing pains, as reported on the front page of the Chicago Tribune, Trash-talking infects Web recycling group:

Pending changes in fast-growing network pit founder vs. locals

The article caught my eye for two reasons: one, that it described something we discussed at BlogHer two weeks ago, and two, that it was on the front page (below the fold).

As reported, this sounds like a classic conflict between the owner of the community and some of the active community members (local volunteer coordinators).  These active members have invested their own energies into the care and maintenance of the local networks, and they naturally feel a strong connection to their network.  When changes happen, for any reason, there is a strong chance that there will be push-back. 

The story sounds like a reenactment of a split I observed between an international networking organization.  The leadership had a split and the local chapters had to decipher competing messages about what was going on.  The community still exists, though it appears diminished after the split.

In this case, the local volunteers have a lot of power, as granted by the loose organizational structure.  As a result, if they become disenchanted, it is easy for them to change the local organization or even pull away from the central authority.  This is not a new story (right, Aliza?), and I suspect it will not be the last time this happens either.

[As it turns out, there have been issues at this particular community for some time.  Check out this The Tech Beat / Business Week article by Rob Hof from August 2005, What's Up (or Down) at Freecycle?  The comments have come in on both sides of the discussion as recently as last month.]

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