Think Open Community Doesn’t Really Exist? Read This.

Liverpool Street station crowd blurphoto © 2007 David Sim | more info (via: Wylio)

I know there’s already been lots of talk about Open Community, but having just read it, I can’t help but share what I think is a spot-on example of open community as Maddie and Lindy talk about it in the book. It’s one thing to hear them talk about the concept of open community, or to hear me or other Kool-Aid drinkers echo it; it’s another to see an example of it coming from a group of people who probably have never given a second’s thought to open community in the context that we social media people do. Like, say, a group of speech language pathologists from such far-flung places as Barbados, Canada, and various locations throughout the US, connecting and forming their own open community.

Don’t take my word for it; read it for yourselves. And weep because it’s so awesome!

Just over a year ago “twitter†was a foreign concept to me. I was introduced by a friend and could not for the life of me figure out how it worked. I thought “why would I keep randomly posting ‘what’s happening’?† and in 140 characters too. It really wasn’t working out for me. Then a few months on, I saw a random post by a guy called @StutteringMe. I was quite intrigued and followed him promptly. This gave me the motivation to search for other persons related to the speech therapy field, and was the start of a beautiful relationship with twitter. I found persons tweeting about autism, down syndrome and many other areas I was interested in. Most importantly I started to meet speech therapists/pathologists from all over the world. They were only a few at first, but this number started to gradually, then quickly increase over the next months. We shared our experiences, talked about our lives, our practices, patients, offered ideas, asked questions, and it made the community more real, more like a family. Here were these people all over the world who had never met, only sharing the same profession (or passion I would call it), coming together to talk, while waiting for a patient to show up, waiting in traffic, cooking dinner for family, even while in labour! This was the new face of speech therapy. Then Bob Bateman (@speechbob) showed his creative genius and came up with the term #slpeeps. This was a perfect description of us. Now any SLT(P) who joined twitter could use this hashtag to find us all, and we could use it to speak directly to our community.

We have grown and progressed in leaps and bounds, with over one hundred slpeeps now present on twitter, from the newbies like myself to the veterans. The big organisations such as ASHA and CASLPA have taken notice and become involved, and so have many of the major companies such as Super Duper and Proed Inc. This has contributed significantly to our professional development. We’re able to discuss topics of interest, share info on new research and resources, and we have somewhere to turn and bounce ideas off of when we have absolutely no idea what to do with a patient. It is guaranteed that if you present a case to the #slpeeps you will get some feedback, sometimes within minutes. SLPs-to-be are also an active part of the community, something I wish I had while in grad school.

How cool is that for this bunch of health professionals to have taken Twitter so far beyond “what’s for lunch” and developed a support network? Including a goal bank and resource share folder…stuff they either aren’t getting from their professional associations or just things they want to own and shape the way they want them to be, instead of being pigeon-holed into doing things the way their association offers them.

Some association professionals would see this as a threat…I personally see it as a wake up call. Do you know if your members have formed their own open community? And if they have, what can you learn from it and incorporate into your association’s offerings?


Lindy Dreyer November 17, 2010 at 8:48 am

Actually tearing up. Thank you so much for sharing this story, Maggie. This is exactly the kind of example that we hope to gather over the next several months. If you’re reading this, and you have a story of open community in action, please get in touch with us to share it. You can do a guest post here, or we can write it up for you, or we can come up with other options…whatever makes sense for you.

Janelle November 17, 2010 at 12:47 pm

I am part of the SLPeeps community written about in this blog post. And yes, it is just as great as described! Our Twitter community is made up of truly generous SLPs, and I am the better for it!

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