Communities of Practice

I have been hungry for something for a while now, and a recent conversation with my mother gave it a name – a community of practice.

Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. – Ettienne Wenger

I belong to a few communities of practice, yet not enough. I also find that, often, our social media behaviour are artificial extentions of more organing offline participations in communities of practice.

I draft patterns and sew my own clothes. Though I do not know any other people personally who do so, I am an active, learning, sharing participant in a vibrant online community of people that do so. A great community of practice I follow and participate in is Colette Patterns, a small indie pattern design company based in Portland. Sarai Mitnick has somehow managed to do what many attempt and so few succeed at – using various online social tools to create a loyal, constructive community of practice around home sewing, pattern drafting and general girl-awesome. The Colette Patterns blog can be found here.

I also run, roughly two thirds trail running and one third road running, and, living in Cape Town, have been aggregated into a larger running community who all know each other and follow each other. I was a luddite when it came to running until very recently, in fact. I love missioning around on mountains but rarely concerned myself with pace, distance or speed work. It was only when Ryan Sandes set the FKT route over Table Mountain that my competitive side was engaged and I got myself a GPS watch and a Strava account because I knew I could beat the standing ladies record of 3h17. I haven’t attempted the FKT yet, but I have joined my friends on the Strava community. I find that our activity on Strava is secondary to a larger offline community of practice of runners primarily engaging at races and on social runs. There is a lot of tacit learning that takes place over a post race lie down or meal regarding training, running psychology, race experience and nutrition that I have found invaluable in improving as a runner.

I miss the sense of community I get from these groups in my career as a software developer. I think I have hit a lull, and need to find a community to engage with to provide me with the same stimulation and opportunity for learning and growth that I get from these other groups.

I want to:

1. be excited enough about my participation in the community that I WANT to engage and participate frequently

2. trust the knowledge and the enthusiasm of other members of the community

3. gain a sense of belonging and respect from my co-community members

4. be challenged and develop my personal skills as a developer through my community participation

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