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I think I will take the contrarian's position on this one.
 
I think community nets *are* thriving.
 
I think this is a very fast-moving train, and many interests are coming
into play -- interests that were not there even two years ago. companies
smell money. Entrepreneurs smell money (how many people do *you* know who
are now trying to sell HTML/Web skills? I can name a dozen without
thinking hard).
 
The concept is evolving. The platforms are evolving. When we began more
than a year ago, we had gopher. Now we are leaving gopher behind pretty
much. Will we be able to stay abreast of the next phase? I can't say.
 
I have a suspicion that networks that founder do so for several possible
reasons; sometimes one reason dominates, sometimes it is a combination of
many factors, including: too much technical expertise and not enough
"people persons", too much vision and not enough technical know-how, a
low tolerance for diversity, too much diversity and not enough balance,
a lack of experience and comfort in raising money and doing "business", a
lack of clear purpose, too few stakeholders.
 
Those are, I think, some of the main problems.
 
But many communities are finding common ground for building a network and
for doing the hard work that goes with it. And make no mistake, it takes
many, many hours of persistence to build a network. There is no
difference between building a community network and in building a
community: both take enormouse amounts of time and devotion; they take
unending passion and zeal and commitment; they take a tremendous
willingness to take personal responsibility and to grow individually.
 
Building a community network and sustaining it mirrors how we live our
lives; the honesty and sharing we bring to relationships we will bring
into a community network; the selfishness and controlling attitudes we
bring to relationships we will bring into community networking.
 
I am more encouraged by the increasing excitement about community nets
than I am discouraged by their difficulties. If it weren't difficult, it
wouldn't be real. And the challenges will never stop. Never. So if you
are not interested in a lifelong challenge, then you will not want to
stay in community networking.
 
don't know what the weather's like elsewhere, but in Charlotte, NC, it is
a sunny Fourth; intermittent firecrackers get set off by neighborhood
children and I have just worked myself into a genuine sweat hacking away
on a cedar tree. Is this a great country or what?
 
Hope you're all having a great Fourth.
 
Steve Snow
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