As I grow older I get increasingly uncomfortable taking part in online communities. I don't mean that in the sense of making conversation and posting normally - I'm thinking of being actively involved. Questions come up about what the community wants to do, or there's the overall suggestion that community input is desired.

This post isn't written in relation to an isolated example. I can think of at least three online communities that this has been an issue with in the last year.

The reasoning behind my discomfort is fairly straightforward - I don't feel like it's my place to have an opinion. I've never been much of a joiner - I tend to create my own communities or projects and have others join me. That said I've been doing my best to get involved but I worry that my opinions are too confrontational. In one community I was posting my reaction to a recent piece of content it released (after being asked to do so). I was, without exaggeration, shaken up by the content they released. When I expressed that in their call for feedback I was met with confrontation and hostility.

On another forum it was a question of policy change. Nothing all that important but in my eyes the vote was premature. Essentially the question was being asked without discussing the objectives. A little like saying "Should we buy these ingredients?" without thinking about what the dish is to be. No one else seemed to think it was worth asking what the community's goal was and I had to balance my reluctance to endure social awkwardness with my desire to be (at least as I see it) a good citizen. My question was merely met with a question and then ignored.

A third forum. This one I've been wading in heavily and trying to help as best I can. Forums are a dying medium for the most part and this one is no exception. In a year's time I would be surprised if it isn't completely dead given the current course it's taking. I say that with the hope that the ship can be righted but the fear that without significant change...well. I'm surprised no one else is willing to talk about the issue.

Of course in doing so I fear that I'm alienating the nebulous "community" that still exists there. I went through their formal channels and passed the special vote that they have. In theory I'm well within my rights (and verbosely encouraged to stick my oar in!) but I still feel like an outsider with no business interfering. They've been there a lot longer and presumably have some interest in the continued success of the community. But here I am as the new kid trying to take the time and energy to do something about the ailing forum. It's a bit of a pickle. I want to respect their experience and what they've put into the place but also can clearly see that without changes the writing is on the wall. Erk.

One can perhaps see why I'm more of a creator than a joiner.