West Coast Community Leadership Summit (AKA CLS West)

The fourth annual West Coast Community Leadership Summit will be on February 2nd, 2013, at the eBay Town Hall Conference Center in San Jose. Join experienced community leaders and organizers to discuss, debate and explore the many avenues of building strong community in an open unconference setting.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We are NOT Family

The theme for our first CLS West event was "We Are Family." During the event proper, there were no complaints registered about this theme by anyone in attendance. However, I have since learned that several local community managers chose not to attend primarily because of this theme and in particular the use of the word "Family." If I had known that earlier, I would have never chosen this as our theme for the event. It is ironic that my intent in choosing that theme was to communicate that this event was open to all and it actually communicated the exact opposite to some people.

I still personally have no problem with the theme as I expressed it, but, I can not control how others choose to interpret it. I subscribe to the hippocratic oath principle of "do no harm." Although I meant no harm, it would be harmful to the CLS West Community to continue to use messaging that refers to "Family." Per my original intent of communicating that CLS West is open to all, the right thing to do is to refrain from that kind of messaging around CLS West activities going forward.

To that end, I have deleted the @CLSWest/family twitter list after first migrating everyone on that list to a new @CLSWest/community twitter list. If you use twitter and you would like to be on our community list, simply retweet this @CLSWest tweet and you will get automatically added to the list within 24 hours.

Also, I had discussed earlier on the CLS West Google Group the idea of having some informal Friday evening gatherings about once a month going forward and referred to them as CLS West Family Fridays. We will be moving forward with these informal monthly gatherings, but, the name has been changed to CLS West First Fridays and they will be scheduled on the first Friday of each month. The first one will be on Friday, February 5th. I've already setup a CLS West Meetup Group you can join to hear about CLS West First Fridays. Once you have joined the meetup group, you can suggest First Friday venues here. You can vote for suggested venues there too.

I already suggested a first gathering in downtown Mountain View for February 5th. The intent is to rotate these gatherings to locations in the East Bay, San Francisco and elsewhere based on your input. I hope to see you all at some future CLS West First Friday.

That's All Folks!


  1. Wow, not sure why "family" is offensive. Maybe they just hate disco music.

    Theme suggestion for next year.

    We all "Smell like teen spirit".

    Thanks for a great event! Enjoyed meeting my new family.

  2. I would also like to know what about the concept of "family" actually kept people from participating. Did the nay-sayers give specific reasons? Knowing would help us avoid such things in the future.

    Even so, am I wrong in my estimation that we got nearly half as many people at this regional event as there were at the overall event at OSCON? (there were 240 attendees there.) I roughly counted about 100 people.

    Love the suggestion! I was going to offer "Bat Out of Hell", or possibly "I Wanna Be Sedated".

  3. Why don't people speak up rather than boycott? I also don't understand how "family" as a concept of unity and having common interests could be offensive. Would like to know more.

  4. +1. Can you share more about what makes "family" offensive or not inclusive? Perhaps urge the objecting party/ies to come public.

  5. I'll confess to finding the family concept uncomfortable - not enough to not participate in the event or even criticize it - but I didn't love it and I'm not sorry to see it go.

    For me it's because my job as community manager is just that - my job. As a professional in this space I'm committed to working with people and looking for new ways to do my job and to establish best practices as we as a group try to figure out what community means in a corporate sense.

    "Family" feels more loosey-goosey and non-professional to me. But I understand how it can be very appealing to others - especially those who do this voluntarily.

    I also recognize that I might be a rarity - I do tend to draw strong boundaries between my personal and professional life and associations.

  6. Anonymous: The feedback was not so much that it was offensive, but, rather that it made them uncomfortable.

    Jefro: I did receive some very specific feedback privately. I am not at liberty to share that feedback publicly. That would be for the person that provided the feedback to share publicly or not as they so choose.

    Janice: See my responses to Anonymous and Jefro. =)

    NancyF: I did let them know about this public blog post. It is up to them whether they want to discuss their issues with the "Family" theme publicly or not.

    Sonya: Your comments capture the essence of more than one of the private responses I received. You are not alone in feeling that way. Although you were not one of the people that I had heard from before, I appreciate your public explanation of your discomfort with the theme. I think because I do this as a personal passion (at least for now) rather than as my day job, I did not see it from that perspective at all until it was pointed out to me.

    -Van Riper