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Thu, 17 Feb 2005
On Finding Your Tribe

Julie is getting ready for her Northern Voice talk, and she wanted to know if I had a post about tribalism that she could quote. I've been filling her ear with my nonsense about this for quite some time, but I've never really posted about it before.

I don't consider this to be an earth-shattering concept, but some people that I've tried this out on have had a strong reaction to it, so...

The basic observation is that human beings are members of tribes. I hope that this will be a surprise to no one. In fact, according to the loosest definition of a tribe:

a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest

people belong to many tribes. If you look at the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), I think that you'll find that it's composed of tribes. The broader open source community isn't really a single community but a community of communities -- or a tribe of tribes. I suppose that my association with the ASF is what biases me towards tribe as a word for describing all this. The first time that I really thought about tribes in this way was when some ASF friends started the Tribal Knowledge Group. I thought this was a really cool name, and it was probably around that time that I started going on about tribes (Sorry Marc, it was not tribe.net).

Here are some other tribes that I'm a part of:

  • Depressed realistic Lisp Hackers
  • Mac OS X freaks
  • Male Figure Skating Lovers
  • Deborah Henson-Conant Lovers
  • Pragmatic (as opposed to Ideological) Open Source developers
  • Bainbridge Island "Geeks"

I'm sure all of us can come up with a number of tribes that we are in -- at least in spirit. Our membership in tribes is an expression of ourselves. I want to find other people who are in the same tribe . When I arrived at MIT as a freshman, I felt a sense of connection with many of my fellow students (more so than most of my life to that point). It was like coming home, or being with "my people". I had found my tribe, or at least one of them. As I progressed through my college years, that big tribe turned out to be composed of many smaller tribes, and I had that experience of finding my place in some of those smaller tribes as well.

As we grow up (yes, I'm including myself), we learn about ourselves and the tribes that we are a part of. Sometimes we have to be with a group of people in order to know whether we are in the same tribe or not. The difficult thing about our human tribalism is finding out what tribes we belong to (a function of ourselves) and then finding other people that are in one or more of our tribes.

Getting involved with open source software has been a major source of my tribe finding interactions, probably the largest since I left the university environment. Writing this blog has been a even larger source. If you want to find out who's in my tribe, see who's linked to me or commented/tracked back. Those references have crossed into the physical world, and I've been fortunate enough to meet people in real life at conferences and other meetings. That wouldn't be happening without my blog.

Tomorrow we're heading up to Northern Voice, which is (partially) billed as an introductory blogging conference. I suspect that the organizers were thinking about people finding their voice when the came up with the name. All I know is that as I sit in the auditorium on Saturday, I'll be finding my tribe as well as my voice.

[23:24] | [computers/internet/weblogs] | # | TB | F | G | 6 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post

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I work at the Open Source Applications Foundation (OSAF).
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