Too Many Communities

I have come to realise that I’ve tried to take part in too many communities, and it’s getting me down. Too many forums filled with too much noise, too many people not doing basic research. Too much time on my part to scroll through various RSS feeds & email lists. Time to re-evaluate what I’m doing, and why.

A couple of weeks ago I read this post on theeagerzero about community fatigue. This quote stood out:

We’ve hit community fatigue, people.

Indeed. Then this week I saw a post on a CCIE study forum from someone trying to configure a Linksys switch, who knew nothing about console cables, and may have tried to plug a serial cable into an Ethernet port. Time to reconsider what I’m doing.

Why Participate in the First Place?

There’s a few reasons why I’ve been a long-time contributor to many forums:

  1. Keep abreast of real-world product issues - forums show the problems people are coming across in real deployments, not just in PowerPoint. By following the forums, I’ve got a reasonable handle on issues that people are striking, and maybe I get early warning before I install that upgrade that breaks that key feature.
  2. Pay it back - people have helped me over the years, and I like to try to give back, where I can. Maybe it will help someone else. Doesn’t hurt my professional reputation either.
  3. Product updates - I find out about interesting new releases, CCIE blueprint updates, etc.

I’ve tended to have a product or certification focus with the forums I’ve followed - they’ve either been for specific product sets I’m working with, or focused on certifications I’m chasing. I have not spent so much time on “general” forums - e.g. those covering networking as a whole.

So why stop now?

Why do I now feel I’ve had enough?

  1. People ‘gaming’ forums - many forums have ‘points’ and ‘status levels’, and have now started giving away prizes for top contributors. This has led to many low-quality responses from people apparently desperate to respond to every post, even if they aren’t adding any value. IEOC is particularly bad for this right now.
  2. Low SNR - Too many people posting CCNA-level questions in CCIE forums, or doing zero research, not even the most basic web search.
  3. Return on investment - My time is limited, and I need to consider where I should best focus my efforts. I’ve concluded that researching topics, and writing about them for my blog is better for my learning, and forms a better consolidated set of notes. Plus I’m more in control of my content. Twitter helps me keep up with issues & new releases, provided I carefully manage the list of people I follow. I’ve also been following forums that are no longer relevant to me, as I don’t work in that field any more, and don’t see myself returning to it in the short-medium term.

The result is that I’m starting to feel burnt out.

Still keeping my hand in

I’m not completely stopping all my forum participation, but I’m now going to limit it to:

  1. NetOps - a low-noise forum that focuses on IMC. IMC still has a low number of experienced practitioners, and I like to help where I can.
  2. ScienceLogic Answers - ScienceLogic community. Again, low-noise, top-quality answers.
  3. IEOC - just the CCIE R&S General forum, to be aware of developments. Won’t be participating much.
  4. Thorn Tree ‘On Your Bike’ - because tech/work isn’t everything, and I’ve always got an eye on the next trip.

I also subscribe to the Australian and New Zealand Network Operators lists, so I’m aware of any region-specific issues around ISP networks.

Anyone else have comments on forums I should follow that keep me up to date with networking-related topics I’m interested, but keep up a high SNR? The only other forum I’m contemplating now is Thwack, for the general network management talk. Any others?