Do you remember the times before messaging was everywhere? Before it was normal to see grandparents in group chats? Before Slack or Microsoft Teams were the primary source of communication for many companies?
I remember it vividly because back then my friends and family complained about how text messages are so much less personal than phone calls.
They were right. But they also missed an important point: in many, many cases text is good enough.
Messaging as a technology was already around for decades. Nerds, like me, knew that it worked well for communication over distance. We called it to chat and I did my first chats via mailboxes in the early 90s. It was exciting.
I even once fell in love with a girl via chat. I was maybe twelve years old and had exciting conversations with a user called Orchid. One day I finally met her in person at what you would now call a meet-up. I discovered that she was 18 years old and let's say, not enthusiastic about my pre-teen self. You see a downside of text right there 😉
But how come chat was around for so long but only conquered the general public a couple of years ago? Among many other things that came into place, I'd argue it was Slack and WhatsApp that gave it the right interface at the right time. It just exploded from there!
Now compare the number of text interactions you have on any given day with family, friends, and colleagues to phone calls or in-person meetings. I love this Seinfeld standup about the topic. "They gave you the option: you could talk, you could type...that took half a second, talking lost!". It is funny because it is true 😆
Now, I am giving you a heads up that communities are next.
We used to call them forums or even bulletin boards back then. Gosh, I feel so old right now! The technology is simple and just works. You post messages in topical groups public for the community. People can reply with messages in threads and you get notified. Conversations happen.
Ask anyone in open source projects and they will confirm how communities thrive to connect people digitally all around the world. They enable the amazing work of remote teams.
They will also say, how important it is to come together from time to time in person. But we recently learned that Zoom meetings can also build strong connections even without meeting IRL (in real life).
Last year a company called Circle saw an opportunity. Facebook groups were thriving communities where people communicated over various topics. But these groups were kept very constrained by Facebook. Every community owner knew that Facebook was ultimately in charge.
So Circle built a service that allows everyone to host their communities outside of the control of a social media platform. You sign up for it like for a Gmail account and there you go, invite your members and start conversations.
It's possible that Circle becomes to some extent the next Slack. An enabler for old yet proven technology in a user-friendly package, showing up at just the right time. Aren't we all at home in front of the computer looking for community?
Keep an eye on your environment, your friends, and family, and you'll see how more and more of them will join digital communities; for their hobbies, for their jobs, for the expertise, they currently seek in their life. They'll connect with new people, form connections, and even friendships.
My personal favorite community at moment is Ness Labs, run by the French neuroscience student and blogger Anne-Laure Le Cunff. She started her community a year ago, asking for a 5 EUR monthly fee. By now there are around 2000 paying members. Ness Labs runs on Circle.
This is a huge opportunity for you. Being an expert, you should consider starting a community around your expertise.
This article from Andreessen Horowitz describes how communities can be valuable even in small sizes, especially when they are focused on expertise.
I'll be sharing more about the value of communities for knowledge entrepreneurs going forward.
Stack :: Collecting payments for digital products (Gumroad)
In each newsletter, I describe a tool of the Knowledge Entrepreneur Stack. Keep an eye on these tools and use them for leverage.
Gumroad was one of the earlier platforms that allowed creatives to collect payments for their digital products. I purchased a remote strength training workshop from James Clear in 2014 via Gumroad—yes, the James Clear and yes, about strength training and not habits. Then the company got sidetrack but bounced back with a great article from the founder Sahil that went viral: Reflecting on My Failure to Build a Billion-Dollar Company. Currently, Gumroad is on a winning streak becoming a great alternative for creators to behemoths like Stripe or PayPal. The company is interesting because it has no full-time employees. I recently earned my first money on Gumroad via the Braintrust workshop.
Profile :: Community Builder and Mother to 5 Unschooling Dragons (Rosie Sherry)
In each newsletter, I put a spotlight on a knowledge entrepreneur, so that you can use their journeys as inspiration.
I met Rosie in a Clubhouse room I was moderating. Her calm and kind voice and thoughtful comments stood out. Not enough that she built a successful business while raising kids, she also became the community manager of the well-known website indiehackers.com. A place where founders of small businesses and side projects share their stories transparently. Now if that wasn't enough, she recently launched Rosieland, a place for educational products on community building. So if you need an expert on communities, look no further.
Various bits from the web
In each newsletter, I include a few (today only one) links that I discovered during the week.
See you next week
PS: I am still exhilarated by the Braintrust workshop I hosted this week. Big shout out to The Pioneers Josie, Yina, Anders, Max, and Narayan. You gave me a running start 🙌