They grow up so fast...When social creations take flight

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Five years ago this summer, in a boardroom at Vancity, William Azaroff was unveiling a new online community to an audience of Vancouver-area bloggers — a community we had worked with Vancity to conceive, build and launch. Also in attendance (maybe explaining his later affection for computers and gadgets): our one-week-old second child. (No, not the little one there on the left; that's a stock photo. Ours is cuter... no offence, ©

Today, that child is his own amazing human being, and if you get me started on just how wonderful he is, I won't shut up — which is parental pride at work.

And I feel a shadow of that parental pride toward that online community we were launching half a decade ago this month, called

When you create an online social project, and then step back and let your client run with it, it's not that different from watching a beloved child leave home as a young adult. You fret, you worry, you check in... but most of all, you can't wait to see who (or, in the case of our online communities, what) they become.

Three of the online projects we've helped to build over the past few years passed some pretty important milestones recently — kind of the equivalent of hearing that a grandchild is on the way.

With one project, it's a profound transformation; with another, a rebirth; and with a third, a huge step forward to a whole new level of impact.

We'll be blogging about each one over the next few days. But for now, I'm struck by how apt the comparison is between building a community and raising a child.

You can provide infrastructure (whether it's a server or a house). You can manage content (blog posts or books, videos or video games). You can monitor metrics (analytics or report cards) and respond accordingly. You can offer guidance, set and enforce rules, and give them all the love in the world.

But in the end, you can neither determine nor predict where they'll go. It may be that they veer off in a much different direction than you'd planned, or surprise you with some completely unexpected ability. They will become their own amazing, astonishing, wonderful organism.

And you won't be able to shut up about them.


Anonymous says

August 29, 2011 - 2:23pm

I like how your analogy really paints a picture and brings life to how social projects online can take off.

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Rob Cottingham says

August 29, 2011 - 8:55pm


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