For many times, we have been elaborating how wonderful to see Global Voices growing. During our Santiago Summit in early May, we have once again witnessed the dynamics of contributors, authors and translators alike, in person. These people, coming from all over the world, fly as long as 42-hour flight+layover to Chile not just because of, thanks to donors and sponsors, free tickets and accommodations. It’s not just because they happen to be available during that week. It must be something more about those monetary elements. It could be love, some say.
As many people may know, vast majority of our contributors are volunteers. A small number of editors, managers and directors receive compensations, but almost definitely not enough to cover their monthly expenses. Global Voices Online, no matter in English or in other languages, is still working until now, mostly due to continuous enthusiasm and active participations of volunteers/contributors. At least I am grateful to them EVERY SINGLE DAY. It may sound cheesy or cliché to some people, but I am always delighted to see new articles on the site for me, as a reader, to understand more about the world. I am always inspired to see new translations on our Lingua sites, so other people can benefit from these information in their own ways (and their languages).
Afterwards, some people, within or outside GV, ask me, what the difference is between Budapest Summit 2008 and Santiago Summit 2010. The obvious answer is bigger. The number of GV people is bigger, the venue is bigger, and even people are bigger (both age and size). But, there is actually an undercurrent before, during and after the summit this time, that I didn’t notice in Hungary.
Some (long-term) contibutors are leaving, or at least considering to leave Global Voices.
Several editors are very curious, during the summit, in learning how other teams/editors recruit more contributors. It’s of course a good news seeing more people joining in the community. This time in Santiago, however, when I talk to people in private, leaving Global Voices seem to be like a popular topic not on the agenda.
Global Voices now almost has a standard welcome rituals for new members in the community. First the designated editor will send out a notice to our (by far) biggest Google group mailing list to welcome new people. Then, people will receive dozens of emails from all over the world, saying welcome in different ways (and often in different languages).
Isn’t that warm and sweet?
But when people decide to leave, they disappear quietly.
They leave the community by stopping receiving emails from mailing lists, by not participating discussions within groups, and by not writing or translating articles in Global Voices. Sometimes it’s a sudden end; often it’s a gradual ebb.
I am not saying that no people left GV after Budapest Summit in 2008. There were, and quiet a few of them, but at that time, their major reasons were different. Some people started a new job, some people started a new stage of life (e.g. marriage or having a baby), and others moved to an new industry not related to internet anymore.
This time in Santiago, however, many people are leaving, or thinking about leaving, because of some frustrations.
Maybe the community has grown so big and complicated. Maybe the information within the community is longer transparent enough. Maybe they feel insufficient communications between teams. Maybe their suggestions are never recognized or adopted.
The topic becomes so common in the venue and in the hotel, that makes me even start to wonder if I am just too complacent with the status quo in GV.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I never feel frustrated with current situations in Global Voices, which I believe some people have heard from me before in private, but I am still here, not intended to leave yet.
This topic makes me think about what happens, though. These people join the community, sometimes long time ago, with wholehearted passion, ideas and insights. What happens that make them feel disorientated, disillusioned, disappointed, disconnected and disenchanted enough to leave Global Voices? Where is the downpour from to put out the inner fire to write/translate/contribute to Global Voices?
I assume there must be a reason. Why do they, if as authors, no longer feel excited when seeing their articles are translated into more than half a dozen of languages? Why do they, if as translators, no longer feel eager to translate new articles into their languages for local readers? Whey do they, authors and translators alike, no longer feel overjoyed when their contributions are read and spread by thousands and thousands of readers, directly or indirectly, around the world?
So far, I don’t have a short and clear answer, but as a middle director of this growing community, I believe it’s part of my faults. Honestly, it’s never easy to manage an online community, especially like this one with so many different cultures and backgrounds involved. Clearly, I am never a good-enough director. I am still learning and thinking of new ways to serve these contributors, and hopefully my learning curve will be able catch up with growing curve within the community. Otherwise then, it may be my time to say goodbye.