Screw Community

iStock_screwCommunity is a word you’ll hear all over the internet. You’re part of a community on Twitter. Blog networks are a community. Your blog’s comment section is a community. The whole blogosphere is a community.

You’ll also hear that you should be part of these communities. You should be contributing. You should be giving others a leg up. Do your part! Join in! Show that community spirit!

But I’ve been wondering lately – exactly what is this community everyone’s talking about? Who is in this community? What does being a community mean? What are we all supposed to be working towards? Who started this community in the first place?

And how did I suddenly become obligated to it?

I bet a lot of you have that blank look on your faces right now. “Well… uh… Community. You know. The good of all. And… Well, we’re working towards… umm… building a community, James… You know.”

No. I don’t know. Someone explain it to me. I’d be much obliged.

What is the Blogging Community?

No one has been able to give me a satisfactory answer to this question yet. They sure can tell me when I’m not being an active member of the blogging community, though. I have people every day asking me for donations, free support, cut rates, volunteer work, blog posts written for no pay.

Free copy. Free design. Free marketing. Free promotion. For the community.

And if I don’t accept these requests – many of which come from people I have never even heard of before they came to me with their hand out – I’m suddenly accused of not “contributing to the community.”

What the hell?

When did I become the bad guy just because I won’t give a complete stranger free stuff? What did I do to deserve a guilt trip?

Many of these people have a self-assured attitude, too. They really think they have the right to ask for free goods. They feel they deserve it. They’re shocked when I decline. They’re hurt and dismayed. They’re disappointed.

How could you, James? How could you betray the community?

Look. I think that what we have here is a definition breakdown. Betrayal is turning your back on something you promised to uphold. If I ever made a promise to uphold the blogging community’s needs, I’d like to see the transcript of that press conference.

Screw community, I say.

Communities That Are Worth Contribution

Now, I’m not saying that all communities aren’t worth the effort. Don’t get up in arms, there. I’ve had great experiences contributing to my local community, for instance. Right now, it’s desperately trying to get better playground equipment for its parks.

I know what’s at stake – X dollars gets X equipment and if I contribute, my kid gets a great place to play and I get a great place to read a book on a bench in the sun. Awesome.

My local community doesn’t make me feel guilty if I don’t contribute. No one comes to ask for my money or my time, either. They put an ad in the paper. Contribute or not, if you like the cause. I don’t have an obligation to fork out because I live in this town. I could ignore the whole idea completely, if I wanted.

And I’d still be seen as a fine, upstanding member of the community.

Of course, I’d feel bad if I used the park anyway when I could have helped out. They just gave me something for free. I feel like I should give back to those guys. We’ll help each other out. It’ll be great.

So what does the blogging community give back?

Selflessness is Not a Business Proposition.

I’ve had people shocked – shocked! – that I wouldn’t lose my time, lose billable hours, lose money, take focus away from my business and give away my work for the community.

Note: not “for a reciprocal pat on the back.”

I’d be cool if they wanted to trade a free blog post for some ad space on their site, for example. If they want to make an argument that I’ll get new readers if I help them out, I’d love to hear about it. Tell me the marketing plans, the predicted growth, the risk investment stats.

I am all about “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” We need not bring money into this.

But I do need to get something out of it. Sorry.

Now, if you ask these people what they’re giving, they’ll say that contributing to the community is its own reward. That’s my benefit. I gave to the community. They got free stuff. Warm fuzzies all around.

Screw community.

People who toss the C-word around never seem to have anything of value to give back for the value they want to receive. They want my time and effort, they want me to build their success for them, but they have absolutely nothing to offer me in return.

They are – and there’s no beating around the bush here – deadbeats.

Community Deadbeats

A deadbeat, for those of you who have never had someone camp out on your sofa, is the guy who wants you to give him money for his great idea.

Now, this idea may never quite get off the ground, but in the meantime, this guy believes you should support him while he tries. He tells you a sob story, gets money off you, sleeps under your roof, eats your food, and buys lots of unnecessary stuff without making any real steps towards achieving his great idea.

Deadbeats have taken this brilliant concept to the internet.

They just started a blog, or a new site, or some membership program. They don’t want to put in the time and effort it takes to build a legitimate readership from scratch. They have no money. Just a great idea. They want other people to invest instead. They want someone else to put in the time and effort on their behalf.

They want to ride on someone else’s success.

They say things like, “We want to build this for the community. And your contribution will go a long way towards helping us get there.”

Let’s translate that, shall we?

“Hi. I have no money, I have no skills. I have no readers. I have no traffic. There’s no guarantee my venture will work. It may never work. But if you work for free for me, you can enjoy a sense of personal fulfillment because you helped build something great for the community.”

Wow. What a concept. When I started three years ago, I had to build my business through blood, sweat and tears. You mean we can get free businesses these days? Just for being part of the community?

Screw That. I Want My Own Community.

Hey, everyone! I just formed a community! It’s awesome. You’d like it. We’re full of sunshine and sweetness. There are heaps of warm fuzzies. We even do group hugs on Tuesdays. We could have a mascot, too. Maybe a cuddly panda bear on a pile of jelly beans. Awww!

Aren’t you glad you’re part of this community?

Okay, now that the fuzzy bit’s out of the way, let me see here . . .

I need 5 bloggers, 4 copywriters, 3 coders, 2 designers, a bookkeeper, a financial consultant and two market research pros. Oh, and an SEO guy. You can all start today, too! There’s no money in it, but I’ll give you a link on my as-yet-not-built-unknown-brand-new site.

Wooo. A link. Exciting, huh? I know!

Since it doesn’t currently have any traffic or readers besides the ones you’ll be sending me, you won’t get anything out of it for at least six months or so. Maybe even a year. Wait, though! You have the chance to promote the hell out of my site and make all your own readership go somewhere else to read your posts, but whatever!

Aren’t you glad you’re part of this community? You didn’t even have to join!

This is a brilliant plan.

I’m Not a Complete Ass

I get that it’s nice to help other people when you can. I do my share – I offer this blog right here, full of all sorts of excellent expertise, knowledge and advice that millions of people can use to their own personal and financial benefit.

This blog is free. It is also time-consuming. It is demanding. It loses me money every time I write a post. I do it because it helps you guys out.

Off the blogosphere, I help the needy. I donate to Kiva and the Alzheimer’s Society and the SPCA. Even the War Amps (they really do send your keys back in the mail). In return, I feel like I help make the world a better place for me, my kids, my family and my friends. That’s what I get back from those contributions.

So far as I can tell, helping your brand new post aggregator or marketing blog or copywriter website hit the top ranking page of Google does absolutely JACK to improve anyone’s world but yours.

Let’s not bullshit, here. When you ask me to give you free stuff to make your website or blog or whatever get more readers or business, it’s not for the community.

It’s for YOUR profit and success.

That is not community, to me. “Community”, last I checked, involved more than one person. Unless you can convince me that more people than YOU benefit from my hard work and help, screw off.

Now, if I’m wrong about this ‘community’ crap, then set me straight. Show me the noble goals of the blogging community. Get me a member roster and a statement of purpose.

Then I’ll decide if it’s worth it for me to contribute.

Screw the blogging community. I’m gonna go take my kid to the park.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Truer words were never spoken.

    I have encountered the above more times than I care to remember. Another issue I’ve, ahem, enjoyed is hearing from folks that because EVERYTHING can be found online eventually, I should NOT charge for my products because on the Internet, everything should be free.

    Jolly. Then put in the hundreds of hours I have in the past to gain the knowledge yourself.

    I’m all for helping out folks…and I’m all for supporting my family as well. Community has to definitely be a give and take; when it morphs into 100% take take take (or even more than 51% take take take), it simply makes ZERO sense to participate.

    This has to rank as one of your best posts ever….and given the quality of what you write, that’s saying something indeed.

    Make sure to pack in some coffee at the park, too. 🙂
    .-= Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s last blog ..Today’s Make Money With Your Own Products Tip – Give 100% Affiliate commissions! =-.

  2. Gordie Rogers says:

    Those people who ask you for handouts in the name of community are bums.

    The thing is that for a community to exist, the members of it first need to know one another and then like and trust one another. A community should have a mutual respect for each of its members and people should be willing to give first without being asked before asking for something for free.

    A nice hard-hitting post with balls! Great job!
    .-= Gordie Rogers´s last blog ..Review: Living in Lanzarote. =-.

  3. Evren Kiefer says:

    I love those posts when you uncover and challenge preconceptions while liberating people from culpability. One can easily forget that “What’s in it for me” is a legitimate question to ask. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

  4. Hi James – Thanks for bringing this up. As you say – the ones asking for the free stuff are those who have nothing to offer and no intention of giving anything back. And trying to make you feel guilty by saying you’re letting down the community is so low.

    I hope all these loafers and spongers read this post and leave you alone – but they’re probably too lazy to actually read anything that doesn’t benefit them directly.
    .-= Cath Lawson´s last blog ..Should You Talk Dirty To Your Customers? =-.

  5. Lol, love it.

    Happy to say that I’ve not had this battle thus far – but I’m sure the time will come at some stage.

    Enjoy the park 🙂
    .-= Sally, Snappy Sentences´s last blog ..Courting your customers with content =-.

  6. James, I hope whoever got the bee buzzing in your bonnet is laying pretty low now… you’re right of course.

    Communities aren’t free but it’s not all about money either- give/ take simultaneously and ensure everyone benefits, not just yourself, but also know that the people paying are the people who count.

    Ignore the rest as they will clearly remain faceless internet entities who dissolve into their ‘community’ of the countless others like them, whether they realise they’re a member or not.

    It’s great to read posts that stick the knife in the chest rather than the back.
    .-= Caron Margarete´s last blog ..The Haerbinger September Issue =-.

  7. @ Barbara – What gets me the most is the righteousness these people have:

    “Hi. Want to post for us while we get off the ground?” (That usually takes ANY business at least 3 months and the norm is a year.

    “Sure thing. Can you let me know what rate you’re offering?”

    “Rate? What rate? It’s for the community, dude.” They sound like I should apologize, nearly. “We’re flat broke, come on. What did you expect?”

    “Um… I expected to be paid for my work.”


    Worse, I have a feeling that it’s unspokenly become rude to expect to be paid.

    “Oh wow, James is such a prick – he actually asked for money for a year’s worth of posts. Doesn’t he know he has the benefit of the possible potential of the maybe advantage of the could be opportunity of landing A SINGLE CLIENT??”


    @ Gordie – That’s just it! Community is when someone I know and trust comes to me needing help and I say, “Are you kidding me? Why didn’t you come sooner? Of COURSE I’ll help! What do you need? Is this enough? Do you want more? Wait, let me throw this in too, and this…” without EVER thinking money.

    Everything else is just a business proposition. Not a community.

    @ Evren – I always think three times before writing stuff like this, and take a deep breath before I hit publish. I like challenging people to think more, but I’m also well aware I sometimes play Russian roulette with subjects.

    *click*… *slumps in relief*

    Oh god whew, they like it. I’m good.

    @ Cath – Hahah, they’ll probably scrape it, change my name to John Smith and stick it on their blog 😉

    @ Sally – And when it does, now you’ll know what to say 🙂

    @ Caron – Actually, it was a few people; there are a lot of ‘community’ members like this. (heheh, and I love that knife in the chest instead of the back. Too funny.)

    What I don’t like is that these people do come with give/take propositions – but never immediate give. Red flag. That’s what everyone has to watch out for.

  8. The post rocks all right!
    Can you differentiate blogosphere with blog community?
    Maybe a post about that?
    .-= poch´s last blog ..Is Fox News Really a News Outlet? =-.

  9. Hey James, this is a great post – I agree 100%. I keep telling clients left and right that a business has got to be sustainable and that it’s got to justify the effort that everyone else brings to the table, and it’s amazing how some people just refuse to get it!

  10. Lordy, lordy, you struck a cordy! 🙂 I would be willing to bet these people you speak of would be the first to start pissing and moaning if they were in your shoes. I get this sense of entitlement thing from my kids all the time, it is annoying, it irritates the hell out of me and when they try it they never get anything!!

    I am one of those very new bloggers. I got a new reader yesterday…all by myself! 🙂 Okay, so maybe not ALL by myself…actually, I have to give this community some of the credit because guess where I’m learning all this good stuff from????? 🙂

    I have to get back to work now, have a good day!
    .-= Jackie Lohrey´s last blog ..Coffee Talk =-.

  11. Oh James, definately one of your best posts! Hard hitting and straight to the point. I wonder how many other A-Listers have wanted to post something similar? Most of them, I’d guess….
    .-= Melinda | WAHM Biz Builder´s last blog ..Does Your Customer Service Suck? =-.

  12. You can’t beat a good hard rant ;0)
    I think part of the problem now is that everyone can get on-line and be a “writer”. Consequently, there are more and more people around who don’t put any sort of value on writing. They can’t, or don’t want to, differentiate between good and bad copy and need to be taught.
    I think more of us should follow your lead, James.
    .-= Mr Uku´s last blog ..Writer’s block is just laziness – Discuss =-.

  13. Whoa, what a rant! I can’t help but wonder to whom this is directed towards. I would definitely hate to be on the receiving end of this one.


    .-= Chris from AB Web Design, LLC´s last blog ..The Importance of Targeting Local Search =-.

  14. James,

    A lovely rant. With you all the way. Similar “requests” have been coming to me more and more in the last couple of months, sometimes with nice, angry follow-ups (“are you ignoring me?” um, yeah) to charm me further into helping out. There is something bad in the blog-water, and I’d love to know the source.

    Screw faux community. The real ones are worth their weight in gold.


    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..How Passionate Are You? =-.

  15. So, how do you really feel? 🙂 I agree with you that people have taken the definition of community out of context. A community is a group of people that share a locality, cultural heritage, similar interests, etc. So, yes you are a member of the blogging community because you share an activity with others that also blog, BUT it does not obligate you to provide free resources. What really bothers me is the the sense of entitlement. Many today seem to believe that people who have more (wealth, celebrity, success, power,time) OWE everyone who has less. It is a shameful and unacceptable attitude. You are not a villain for choosing how you will spend your time and resources (Yes, you know this but thought I’d weigh in with support).
    .-= Karen Swim´s last blog ..Creepy Strangers and Bad Sales Tactics =-.

  16. This must be “money Monday,” as this is the 3rd post I’ve read this morning that was about money…all of which I agree with 🙂

    Although I value community, I’m not a fan of the way it is being used. I live in a community, but there aren’t any people mowing my lawn or washing my car for me…what gives?
    .-= Nathan Hangen´s last blog ..The Power of Money =-.

  17. Absolutely true.

    I wrote about my own pet peeve with the “community” a couple of weeks ago. See the link below.
    .-= Avonelle Lovhaug´s last blog ..Why the “community” makes me want to poke my eyes out =-.

  18. Love this post! In a huge, huge way.

    So, I start a blog. Or I decide to join Facebook. Or Twitter.
    And then all these people come along and tell me how I am supposed to use it and what it’s really for and who to talk to (namely: them) and who I should promote (namely: them) and I keep thinking, “Just because we both have blogs doesn’t mean we’re a part of the same ‘community’.”

    But honestly, I think it’s a lot like real life. There *are* people who will try to crash on your couch. Hopefully, in real life, you don’t hang out with those people. There are people who get you and people who don’t. You find ‘your people’ and ‘your community’ in life. It works the same online.

    I think the ‘false community’ idea spreads to affiliate links to though. When I learned that someone I’d been reading for a long long time only made recommendations for things/people who essentially were paying her for them, I admit to being dismayed. Now, of course, I know it’s a common practice. But I also feel like that’s one area where “I must be paid” gets into a gray, fuzzy area. What’s your take?

    Overall, I’ve come to accept that some people will ask for free stuff. But I don’t have a problem saying no (or pointing them to other free resources). They might get angry, but it’s up to me to establish my worth and giving away my services and my time doesn’t do that.

    Thanks for a great post!
    All the best!
    .-= Deb Owen´s last blog ..chasing greatness =-.

  19. @ Nathan – You’ve got it all wrong, dude. YOU have to set up the car wash in YOUR yard and provide the soap, water, electricity, labor and Armorall before they wheel a mower closer for you to use. Of course, you have to fill it with gas, though.

    Money Mondays… I think I’ll steal that idea, btw 🙂

    @ Karen – Ahh, yeah, you know what I’m talking about, don’t you. I appreciate the support!

    @ Kelly – A very good question. Where did all this get started?

    @ Chris – Well, to begin with, the five people that contacted me last week, each with separate demands. And the hundreds who came before them. And the hundreds more I see badgering less experienced bloggers and writers, because those people often write to me to ask if I think they should say yes or no.

    When ‘opportunities’ become so smoke and mirrors that a person can’t clearly see if it’s a good deal or a bad one… that’s kind of sad.

    @ Mr. Uku – I invite all those people who believe writing is easy to come create 10 original and informative educational blog posts of 700 words for my blog that include no links or resources to their own products or services, and to do so within 7 days or less. They must also be fully edited and proofread and provide high-level value for readers while making my blog look damned good.

    Then once they’ve done that, they can do it again. For the next year. Until I hit total fame.

    I think they’ll quickly realize that it isn’t as easy as it sounds.

    @ Melinda – While it may be blogosphere suicide to say so, I might extend that it isn’t the A-listers who should complain…

    @ Jackie – WOOT! New readers are good, chica! Keep it up!

    @ Danny – They get it if it keeps *their* business sustainable, I bet… 😉

  20. My wife is a social worker. She works for a mental health agency. Her job is to coordinate their mental health care to help them get better. Most people don’t abuse her assistance, but there are those who think her agency is be obligated to give them free housing, free transportation, even cash money. More importantly, they think they should get it just for asking. There’s a word for those people, entitled, and they are the ones that screw things up for everyone else by taking away time and resources from those with genuine need. They have a saying at her job, “never work harder than the client.” If the client isn’t actively trying to be a part of their recovery, then don’t try to do all the work for them. There are plenty of people out there who are trying and do deserve help.
    .-= John Hewitt´s last blog ..30 Poems in 30 Days 2009: Day Twenty =-.

  21. Mary E. Ulrich says:

    Hi James,

    Loved the rant. Also loved that it raises so many interesting questions.
    One good rant deserves another.

    Most of my 60 yrs. has been spent as a volunteer for the community. Now I wish I was one of the Rockerfellers or idle rich looking for something to do between bridge games, but I’m not.

    Seth’s idea of giving things away for free vs. volunteering vs. actual income keeps me awake nights. My income for this year is $11.00. Yep, $11.00. Couldn’t make this up.

    I try not to get bitter. When they call and beg for my help– and then beat me up because if I am volunteering, I am doing it my way–I focus on my son’s needs, and the fact that if I don’t do it, noone else will. And I really mean no one else will.

    Last week I was trying to get a coat rack built for the 25 people (my son included) who last year had to throw their coats on the floor every day. When you depend on the charity model, there is no dignity. And the Boy Scout that promised to make the coat rack for his Eagle Scout project–didn’t do it.

    This is why I believe so strongly in civil rights for people. Not charity. I do not know the answers and cannot solve all the problems for people with severe disabilities. But I can make a difference for this one group of people. This week I’ll make a couple more calls, piss off a couple more people. But maybe I will be successful. By next week it will be colder and we will probably need the friggin’ coat rack.

    The coat rack and the dignity that hanging up your coat brings is important to me. The staff complain about it, but they work for minimum wage and already donate things. The director just had a heart attack trying to make things work. So, somehow I’ll make it happen.

    I’ve spent my life being a great community organizer. Been to workshops on it. Know John McKnight personally. But, you are right it is mostly a fraud. I am not really a community organizer. I am just a great member of the community with “sucker” written on my forehead. Granted it is very specialized and small group. But I don’t know how to watch injustices just happen. If my son and the members of his group have a place to hang their coats, or they have some craft supplies so that EVERY project isn’t made out of empty toilet paper rolls, then maybe their life will be a little more interesting. Not the life I hoped for. Not the life I know is best practice. But it’s the life they live today.

    Maybe it won’t matter in the long run. But at least for today, I’ve done the best I can do. And that is my definition of being part of a community. It’s throwing the one starfish back in the ocean. Making a difference for this one group of people.

    I’m not even sure this makes sense–I’m going to go take a bath, cry and then start making phone calls. And please –I’m not asking for a coat rack. I’m not asking for anything.

  22. James,

    Maybe it’s just because I’m soooo well-known now and I wasn’t before, or maybe it’s really a new thing. I’ve heard a lot of kvetching about it lately, though, so I do think there’s at least a lot more of it lately.

    That, and I’m soooo well-known. 😉


    Never work harder than the client.

    Oh, my goodness. I’m stealing that & reminding myself of that every day from now on. Love it.

    Until later,

    .-= Kelly´s last blog ..How Passionate Are You? =-.

  23. Spot ON! I think the scenario can be applied to various aspects of social media.

    As a designer, I can empathize with our position that you/me/we deserve to get paid for our work. (Or compensated in some fashion).

    I’m sick and tired of all the proselytizing about crowd sourcing; in business you bring together team members that a best suited for the project because you believe their contribution to be of great value.

    How does giving ‘stuff’ away for free add to long-term value?

  24. So, uh, James, does this mean that you won’t be contributing to my community by giving me a year’s worth of work for no compensation? (KIDDING! please stop throwing the fruits)

    Seriously, though, I’m sure anyone who has any kind of expertise has experienced this. When I was in the legal field, people were constantly hitting me up for legal advice. As a writer, people are constantly asking me to draft things for them. Hell, I’ve had people ask me to run their Fantasy Football team for them!

    Here’s the thing though, I’ve always given stuff away (just as I’m sure James and everyone else who’s commented on this post have). But when I do decide to give stuff away, it’s my choice, and 99 times out of 100, I give it to someone who DIDN’T ask for it.

    There’s a difference between CHOOSING to be charitable and being made to feel that you’re OBLIGATED to be.

    Then again, reading these comments, I’m probably preaching to the choir on this one.
    .-= Adam Di Stefano´s last blog ..Pick the Right Media to Advertise In =-.

  25. Wow, I have to agree, that was quite the post. And well said. It bothers me that people do that because of my own veiw point. There have been a couple people that helped me out a bit and I can’t stand the fact that I didn’t do anything for them at the time. So I find a way to pay them back, one way or another. I just wouldn’t be able to stand a one sided deal.

    Great post.
    .-= Chris Anderson´s last blog ..OMV Update Sept. 20 =-.

  26. @ Chris – That’s the thing. I think a lot of the askers of these kinds of community deals don’t see that it’s completely one-sided. Cheap. Real cheap.

    @ Adam –

    There’s a difference between CHOOSING to be charitable and being made to feel that you’re OBLIGATED to be.

    What’s interesting is that most of the people don’t specifically come out and say that I’m obligated. But they certainly do use some crafty techniques to imply that I’m a jerk if I don’t give them a leg up.


    @ Joann – Exactly. It’s like the team we are here at MwP. I’m here to be successful, sure, but if all aren’t successful right along with me, then what good is that? Yes, we all have to put in work, but we *all* put in work, and as much as possible in equal measures. That’s community.

    @ Mary – Aw, man, don’t cry!! I don’t want you to cry. I want you to go out and kick butt and feel proud and be strong and all that good stuff. (Okay, well, you can cry if it’s tears of joy. Deal?)

    @ John – Amen. Yessir, boy.

    @ Deb – Missed you last round!

    My take on affiliates is this: If you know and believe it to be good because you’ve seen it for your own eyes, then you promote it. Whether it’s from a buddy or a no-name. You tell other people.

    And if you don’t see it, don’t know if it really works, don’t know if it has value… you don’t. Simple. Even if it’s from a buddy.

    @ Avonnelle – Will read!

  27. Great post… The word community is so over used. Churches throw the word around, bloggers do, businesses do, and many others. I’m sick and tired of people joining a Social Media community only to push their stuff as free advertising. I’m really not interested in the communities around Social Media, but I am interested in the relationships that i’m developing because of it.
    .-= Doug Sandquist´s last blog ..It’s not a one way street. =-.

  28. Michael Martine says:

    Community is the people who keep showing up, who are THERE for you.

    Everything else is amateur psychological persuasion tactics or pure self-delusion. Invoking the word when there is no definable collective sense is hollow.

    Hammer, meet nail. Good one, James.
    .-= Michael Martine´s last blog ..The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Email Marketing for Your Blog =-.

  29. Preach it!

  30. Rob Pickstone says:

    Isn’t a community a group of people who share similer interests and have the platform to exchange their views? The success surely depends on the level of engagment.

    Online there are plenty of people who join a community but don’t participate – so the community pretty much fails. This is similer to a village committee organising a village fete but only a handful of locals are enthusiastic enough to engage and organise – hence the fete fails, no-one turns up and the negative impact carries onto the next year!

    There is no such thing as a blogging community – the interest/area is too wide – that would be like saying there is one sports community, one gaming community and one online gambling community.

    Smaller is better and usually more engaging, which I think is the whole point.

    I agree with most of your rant – will have to retweet it 😉

  31. James, I have to agree with others that this is one of your best posts. I’m all for giving to a real, identifiable community. Like you, I started – and maintain – my writing blog without looking to get anything back and I’m happy with that decision. I love helping people, but that does not impose an obligation to give more of my time for free so someone else can profit from it.
    .-= Sharon Hurley Hall´s last blog ..Free Ebooks From Get Paid To Write Online =-.

  32. Woo-hoo! Loved this rant. Absolutely right on the button!

    Reminded me of myself in 1996, just starting out as an infopreneur, and asking one of the top affiliate marketers then if he’d like to sell (exclusively) my brand new (untested) ebook – and keep (gasp!) 50% of the profits (which could, technically, run into the millions!). He quickly set me straight – and I respect him forever for it!

    All success

  33. You GO! I’ve recently gone from blogger-for-fun to blogger-to-make-a-difference, and it is alot harder than I thought it would be to get a following. But, there is something VERY satisfying about working hard, learning the ropes, paying my dues and seeing the little successes along the way. When I do reach my ultimate readership goals, I will know I did it and didn’t rest or depend on the efforts of others who have gone before me. In this way, I become a contributor to a community that I love being a part of.

    Part of business basics is to establish your own credibility and your own voice. Gotta earn the right to be heard wherever you are.
    .-= Cheryl´s last blog ..Energy, Oh Energy =-.

  34. Wow. yeah like everyone up there said this is one that pulls no punches.

    I agree that most people’s understanding of community is pretty out of whack. There does need to be relationship and reciprocity. The more there is of one or the other or both certainly makes any request more likely to be granted.

    And the thing is, if you ask someone something (provided you are willing to extend whatever it is you have in return) and they say no, then you need to be okay with that. If you’re asking someone to do something for you for free (though barter may be involved) and in the name of community (assuming the real community/relationship is there) and they say “No.” then act cool. No, don’t just act cool, BE cool.

  35. Right on! I’m new to this but I did have occasion to ask James for advice which he freely gave. He knows me not! The advice in his reply was or I could say will be worth $$$ for my future. I fully intend to reference James & MWP as much as possible in my future work. I follow 2 or 3 blogs on blogging and MWP is at the top of the list.
    Intellectual property is a product, just like a can of beans in the grocery store. If you pick it up and use it, you pay for it. Intellectual property always has a price tag, be it fee for service, payment in kind, or the placement of referrals and recognition for the use of the intellectual product. The problem is though, that there will always be shoplifters. All we can do is refuse to share with them in the future.
    Thanks James & Co. for speaking up about it.

  36. That said… wanna write a piece for my blog? LOL good post.

    I’m not familiar with this “give me something for nothing” stuff, really. I’ve never been guilt-tripped on “for the community.” Maybe if people actually knew me, it might be different.

    Begging for Re-Tweets is probably the closest thing I’ve encountered, and NOBODY gets paid.
    .-= Indiana Jim´s last blog ..Adventure #29: Parsecs, Psych, and Potpourri =-.

  37. You’re dead on, and there’s going to be a pretty big shakeup in the whole MMO field pretty soon as the posers run out of cash, time and ultimately interest… when they find out it’s hard work after all.

    Which is partly why the whole SEO thing is – for most people – totally overblown. Put your good stuff on the web, let the search engines index it. If it’s good as you think it is, it will work it’s way up. It just takes a while. Like 6 months. Or a year.

    But guess what: once it’s there, it ain’t going away.
    .-= Dave Doolin´s last blog ..Practical WordPress Tip #13: Posts in Series need same tag =-.

  38. LOL. Funny stuff. And, of course, you’re absolutely right. Most REAL businesses go to their bank manager, get a big chunk of money and then PAY people to do the important stuff they need to build their business.

    Unfortunately, too many people online think they can bribe people to do this for free with fuzzy benefits.

    Nope. Offer people genuine WIN-WiN propositions. That’s the real key. Or go to the bank, get some money, and pay people to do your work.
    .-= Paul Hancox, copySnips´s last blog ..How To Tell The Perfect Story =-.

  39. Holy wow, guys. Check out the comments! Alright… *rolls up sleeves*…

    @ Paul – Good point. Real businesses go get seed funding and loans to finance their startup. I had to do it; many of you had to do it too. Credit card debt, personal loans… we found our money the honest way and funded our own startups.

    So what’s changed? What’s made it that “anyone can have a business” has become “everyone should build each other’s business”? I don’t think so. Unless it’s a true business partnership, and that’s one that’s… well, like you said. Win win.

    @ Dave – You have horses! You are now my most favorite person of the day. I miss riding, considering it’s beautiful fall weather…

    I digress. Business is work. Those who try to shirk that, fail. And if they succeed in profit, they still fail as people. S’what I say.

    @ Indiana – Hey, if you want to retweet… lol.

    @ Bald Old Man – Aw, you’re making me blush. But see, you’re the perfect example of the kind of contributions I’d like to make. The real kind, the ones that really *do* make me feel like I did right that day.

    @ Scott – Since Kelly stole John’s great slogan, I’m stealing yours. “Don’t just act cool. BE cool.” Rock on with that.

    @ Cheryl – That. Is. Exactly. It. Yes.

    @ Dr. Mani – LOL, yeah. That’s about exactly the kind of offers I get five times a week. Too funny.

    @ Sharon – Ahh, you know what I’m talking about, eh? (I have to say, I’m glad to consider you part of my community.)

    @ Rob – Well, there are a few extra definitions of a community, so it’s not just a common interest, but yeah. That does have a lot to do with it.

    What’s interesting about your comment on festivals is that typically, organizers who really want to make it a community one research what the people of the community are interested in, and provide a party that aligns with that interest. THOSE get good turn outs.

    The ones that just have their great ideas and need people to make themselves look successful in next week’s paper? Yeah. No. Fall flat.

    @ Dave/Michael – Yeah, there’s two more people who know what I’m talking about. You guys definitely uphold what community means. I’m proud to consider you both part of mine and hope you consider me part of yours, too.

    @ Doug – Hee hee! I think I hear ‘community’ tossed around MOSTLY in social media circles. And those that come to me with hands out MOSTLY come from those circles. Coincidence? 😉

  40. Yes.



    The exact same thoughts have crossed my mind, so thanks for crystallising that thinking. Some good, common sense there that surprisingly uncommon.

    Now we need a bright spark to set up an “Uncommunity” of like minded people…a place we can all hang out and become community iconoclasts. A community, if you will…

  41. My thoughts here:
    .-= Milan Davidovic´s last blog ..Don’t just screw off… =-.

  42. @james I simply cannot believe the arrogance some folks have regarding getting help online…. I can’t imagine that folks would have had the insensitivity to demand writing from you!

    Just wrote me own take at . What a great topic!!
    .-= Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s last blog ..SCREW Community! (My own personal take) =-.

  43. True. In fact, during the course of research for a client, we found that blog traffic is actually falling for some communities. Maybe Facebook is taking it over, maybe not.
    .-= Rich Wilson´s last blog ..Direct Response for Social Media =-.

  44. Excellent post and something to think about if and when I get to the point to get people making requests like that of my site for the good of the community.
    .-= Mik´s last blog ..I had a dream – matey =-.

  45. Hi James – I guess part of functioning in any community is knowing how to set your boundaries!
    .-= Robin´s last blog ..When Someone Close To Us Is Struggling =-.

  46. I suppose the blogging community is all of the millions of bloggers in the blogosphere? I don’t know. The only community you should worry about is the one right here. What you built here – that’s the real definition of community.

    This post struck a nerve with me, or a chord, whatever…I can relate. I receive email asking for free stuff on a regular basis. I stopped responding to most of them. It’s insulting, really.

    You know what I hate even more though? Certain A List bloggers who shall remain nameless who ignore my emails when I have a question but when they want me to donate for an anniversary or think I should do an interview to promote their latest books they’re my best friend. Or even worse, people who trash me when I post a low paying gig or accept a sponsorship they don’t approve of and then ask guest bloggers to write content for their blogs for free.

    I’m not bitter, I promise.

    Incidentally, do you know why I pay guest bloggers at FWJ? Because I don’t believe folks have to give out free stuff all the time to get ahead.

    Good post. Now I’ll be thinking about this all day. I have a feeling a “what is community” post will be coming around soon. I better stop though. I can go on about this stuff forever.

    Congrats on the Top 10 thing, by the way.
    .-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..Top 10 Blogs for Writers Announced =-.

  47. Wow … I don’t even have a substantive response (too tired, too beat, too depressed), but yes, great post. We can call ourselves “community” all we want, but the point is COMMUNING. If you’re not all working together, it’s not communal, and anybody who asks for favors without giving anything back is clearly focusing on individuality, not community.
    .-= –Deb´s last blog ..Let’s Not Forget Civility =-.

  48. I think where people get it wrong is they think it’s as easy as “joining a community”. It doesn’t work that way. You need to be accepted by the community, and that takes time and effort.

    Start by participating. Join in the conversations. Offer to help if you can, without asking for anything in return. And then, when you’ve been there for a while, feel free to ask for a little help from time to time. My rule is to give as much (if not more) than I ask for.

    But don’t just stroll in and ask for the world. All you’ll get is people turning their backs on you. And rightly so.
    .-= Bill Harper´s last blog ..R.E.S.P… er, can I phone a friend? =-.

  49. James, please DM me on Twitter when you get a chance.
    .-= Chris from AB Web Design, LLC´s last blog ..Google Adds Parameter Handling and Filtering to Webmaster Tools =-.

  50. James | Postcard Printing says:

    You clearly have a point but that how it goes in the internet world. It is called marketing at its best.

  51. lolol Welcome to our world. Okay maybe not everyone is an ass or self proclaimed entitled jerk. But I have to tell you from what I have seen there are more bad guys than good. You are one of the few writers I know that can “bitch” eloquently. Maybe bitch is a harsh word but it’s too bloody early in the morning for me and I can barely speak let alone write. But I had to share my kudos for this post!
    .-= Gabriella´s last blog ..The Cost of Optimization – Time Equals Money =-.

  52. Fabulous piece! I shall be sharing it all around “the community” free of charge. Cos I’m that kinda generous, I am.

    One thing though, I don’t feel you need to justify to anyone what you do for helping the needy. If anyone asks you to, tell them that it’s none of their damn business!
    .-= Kath´s last blog ..In My Place =-.

  53. Yes, yes and one more yes!

    It seems that people are equating community with communes, and I don’t live or work or participate in communes. Nor did I start my business to ‘volunteer’ my skills.

    If you want what I have then you will pay for it. If you don’t, fine, learn it on your own. I buy what I need – product or service – and expect you to do the same.

    Like Barbara, I respond to many statements about how information on the internet is free with the following: “yes, finding the information is free…are you sure you found the right information? are you sure you looked everywhere possible? are you familiar with the 100+ search engines currently available for use when searching the internet – and how to use each one?”

    I have similar statements for those wanting/needing/asking about copywriting service for print or website, primary research techniques, etc.

  54. I so totally agree. I never understoond this “community” that we’re supposed to be “obligated to”.

    Since when do I have to answer to people I’ve never met and who I haven’t agreed to provide a service?

    I think we need to ask ourselves this: If we don’t post every so often, or we don’t “contribute”, what’s the worst thing that’s gonna happen?

    Is someone going to yell at us? Or spank us?

    Will this go on our Permanent Blogging Record?

    Will we get shunned by the Blogging Elders, and bansihed to some remote Social Media Outland?

    Chances are: No. No. No. And NO.

    People need to lighten up.

  55. Does it count when people contact you and want to post on your blogs for “free?”

    I get contacted often by folks volunteering to “guest post” for me (and I use the term loosely), but if I read their so-called post it is nothing but an advertisement and has little to do with the subject of my blog. A similar ploy is those who send me “press releases” and scold when I don’t publish them.

    (This does not apply to those few legitimate guest posters that I’ve used on my blog, most of whom were invited to guest post and all of whom I knew of well in advance of the guest post.)
    .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..10 Ways To Make Your Freelance Business Fail =-.

  56. Kenji Crosland says:

    Hear hear!

    People’s sense of entitlement are really getting blown out of proportion these days.
    .-= Kenji Crosland´s last blog ..Sep 10, How to Write a Review =-.

  57. @ Kenji – The anonymity and facelessness of the Internet may make people feel less awkward about asking? I doubt any of the people would approach me as a stranger on the street to ask the same thing.

    @ Laura – I have one of those hounding me as we speak – it’s been weeks of “No, thank you, that’s not a good fit for our blog,” and repeated attempts to push me into a yes.

    She met the wrong gringo for that 😉

    @ Friar – Believe it or not, taking a vacation reminded me of the fact that Bad Things will not happen if we say no. And I’m saying no way more often these days.

    Time to think of James, a little more.

    @ Charlene – That’s a point in the right direction. I am where I am and in demand and successful because I bothered to put in years of hard work and learning. It irks me that some 20-some living in his parent’s basement comes along out of the blue thinking that my life goal is to help him get rich so he can buy a new stereo.

    @ Kath – Haha, good point! I know too many people who justify themselves to death, out of fear they’ll be seen as bad people. Thing is, simply saying no without justifying anything actually tends to increase perception of value and offers more respect!

    @ Gabriella – Make no mistake. I can bitch eloquently. But I sure ain’t anyone’s eloquent bitch 😉

    @ The Other James – How about marketing at its worst? 😀

    @ Chris – Check your email! 🙂

    @ Bill –

    You need to be accepted by the community, and that takes time and effort.

    Exactly. Well said.

    @ Deb with Needles – Well, we could all start a commune for our community… 😉

    @ Deb with Knives – Aye. I know full well you’re one of the people getting the brunt of these requests, just like I am. I’m glad to see the post on your site today. You go, girl.

    @ Robin – No one told me about setting boundaries! I had to learn! (Works well, though. Good point!)

    @ Mik – We like to prepare you well. 🙂

    @ Rich – Well, I’m not so concerned about falling traffic and more concerned about people’s sense of entitlement that encroaches on my personal time, but maybe you’re right – maybe Facebook will take over! (Or maybe not…)

    @ Barbara and Milan – Great posts, and comments on each of them for you!

    @ Steve – Dude! Where the hell have you been? Glad to have you back. And if we’re joining the Uncommunity for the Non-Community Minded, I think we should have a theme song. One sung by munchkins. Mmhm.

  58. Yeah, well I think this speaks to the whole “information wants to be free” ethos of the Internet as we know it. Makes it easy to exploit those who create that information.
    .-= Maria Schneider´s last blog ..When Self Publishing Makes Sense =-.

  59. For me, this idea of entitlement extends beyond the idea of community and goes right into the online business model.

    Supposedly we’re bad business people if we don’t offer five bonuses with whatever we’re offering.

    I try to imagine someone going into IKEA and saying “Okay, I want to buy a bed, but I’ll go across the street to another store unless you also offer me the mattress, pillows and 50% off bedding for the rest of my life.”

    The flip side of that, of course is the seller who tries to scare the buyer into investing in “the community” (ie buy their stuff) because it’s only available for a limited time and is going to be much more expensive next time the “community” opens up.

    As if IKEA would sell beds that come and go in the store and get more expensive each time they come back in stock!
    .-= Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome´s last blog ..Relieving the Pressure by Living in the Present: Cath Duncan Interview =-.

  60. I really agree with a lot of what you are saying, though there are some great communities online that rely on contributions to keep going. I’ve been running Independent Fashion Bloggers (IFB) for 2 years, just to give bloggers a place to rant and ask questions/get answers. I don’t make any money from it, though we need to start getting some money together to develop a user-friendly platform so people can better find each other and ask questions, and also, so I can pay people to help me, because there’s a lot of work that needs to be done, and I’m at maximum capacity.

    Anyway, with IFB there is no way I can come up with all the issues about blogging from my own experience, and there are A LOT of other people who are way more qualified than I to share with the ‘community’ their own experience, but all in all, what we try to do is stay informed and protect us bloggers from being taken advantage of.

    That said, I’ve had up to *here* with people I’ve never heard of, who wouldn’t be doing something if THEY weren’t getting paid… asking me to do stuff for free, it’s not just posts, but information, contacts, consulting, even my design skills *heh* and my photographs just so they can make a profit from my work. That’s total bullshit.
    .-= jennine´s last blog ..When should you start charging money for your blogging experience? =-.

  61. @ Jennine – There are indeed great communities that use contributions to stay alive, and those have their place, purpose and time. They’re also often (if not always) mutually beneficial in some way, and they also work to benefit a wider group of people as well.

    Good to see you here, btw!

    @ Alex – Now that’s very, VERY interesting. I too can’t stand the “free, free, free”, and as you’ll note, the only free thing we do around here is blog – and we’d cut that back as well during the past year.

    If people gave less away for free and started standing up for what they believe in a little more (like, that their time is worth a bit of money?) then maybe they wouldn’t have to ask for free handouts to stay alive.

    @ Maria – Information wants to be free? Wow. I’ve never heard it say a word to me, so I must be in the dark on that. The guy who says he heard information said that *really* has to get in touch with me! 😉

  62. Thank you!
    Ironically, someone just sent me an email asking to do a load of work finding influential bloggers and getting them to sign up for THEIR network… all for a badge in their report. Mmm…yummy badges in mysterious reports going to unknown people.
    .-= jennine´s last blog ..Links à la Mode : The IFB Weekly Roundup =-.

  63. @ Jennine – WHAT?! You didn’t LEAP on the fantastic offer of an ugly jpg whipped up in 15 minutes that you can post on your blog and use to drive all your traffic over THEIR way?!!


  64. A community should support itself and not just be looking to one or two people to do all the work. It is amazing how people can ask for help without any thought into if what they asking benefits the other person in any way.

    Great post and I am glad I just found your blog! So I am thinking you should write a guest post for my blog, what do you think? 😉

  65. @ Jim – Sure thing – I’ll guest, you pay $75. Sound like a plan? 😉

  66. Thank you for this.

    “Many of these people have a self-assured attitude, too. They really think they have the right to ask for free goods. They feel they deserve it. They’re shocked when I decline. They’re hurt and dismayed. They’re disappointed.”

    Unfortunately, the sense of entitlement (especially here in the US) seems to be growing all the time. It’s already at levels that sadden me, and it just seems to be increasing. I really hope that pendulum swings soon.

  67. James – Great post!

    I have a related situation in my IT consulting business. Pleas from prospects to lower fees because of all the referrals I’m going to get from said prospect. Don’t have any contact information or introductions…but nifty promises of incoming business just as soon as we work cheap and “do a great job” of making their business better.
    .-= Kathy Herrmann´s last blog ..Online Strategy Divas Talk Biz =-.

  68. So, I’m a bit behind in reading Men with Pens posts. Got to this one and FACE PALM! Wow, I can so relate to this – and I’m not even an uber successful writer…yet. I don’t mind pitching in for the greater good – when I’m part of the greater good. But when things turn ugly, that is, when people begin to take advantage or, heaven forbid, expect me to continue to do things for free or at low cost, they seem offended when I say “no.” This even has roots in my client base. After working with a company (as a freelancer) for over 3 years, they approached me with a request that I reduce my rates because “they didn’t want to pay so much and they could get someone to do the job at 1/4 of what I charge.” I not-so-subtly suggested that they go hire that other person – what a deal! They balked, I gave in a bit, and will now be letting them go as a client at the end of this year. (Don’t tell them, they don’t know yet.) Point is – I can be a sucker for the “greater good” or own up to the fact that I do, indeed, need to earn not only a living wage, but a fulfilling wage. Still working on that. Thanks for another great post and for making me think.

  69. @ Lizbeth – Yeah, that’s another example of spongers – the clients that guilt trip you into lower rates. Sucks, that.

    @ Kathy – Oh, now that’s an interesting application, eh? I’ve had a few of those, as well. They come off looking like joint venture kind of things and apparently the joints at work are all mine. Um, no.

    @ Mr. Lich – Well, I think it’s more in the online world than the offline one. People wouldn’t walk up to you on the street and ask you, y’know? But yeah. It’s becoming prevalent throughout the ‘net.

  70. Matthew Newnham says:

    Great post, James – well said, as usual.

    Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is quoted infamously as saying, “There is no such thing as society.” ** And that single remark has remained the subject of heated debate, 30 years on. (Did she really say that? Did she mean it? What did she mean?)

    I think there are elements of that debate here, too… since “society” and “community” invoke similar reactions…

    The thing that seems difficult to address in a balanced way, in the midst of often polarising views, is that regardless of where you sit in the socio-political debate (or everyday life, for that matter) is that belonging to community is a funny mixture of a birthright and a privilege.

    Most of us are all for opportunity, and don’t like to see exclusion.

    And yet in our desire for freedom of opportunity, we don’t manage to speak in measured tones of the responsibility to contribute. Contribution hasn’t been a vote-winner since I don’t know when. (Even that famous JFK speech about asking what you can do for your country was made *after* he was elected!)

    Shame we’ve lost the habit of fair value exchange, so that these debates have to come up in the first place.

    But I guess that’s part of the human condition. We just don’t have to support those aspects that don’t serve.

    ** Side note:

    Thatcher’s supporters say that the quote was taken wildly out of of context, that she was actually addressing a tendency for some people to blame their habits and situations on general conditions in society.

    On the other hand, this quote is also seen by many others as legitimising what became a rampant rise in “me first” materialist values in the 80’s (a la Gordon Gecko’s “Greed is good…” mantra).

    Not surprisingly, the Global Financial Crisis (and I’m sure there are other more interesting versions of GFC) and shocking crimes (e.g. Columbine) bring out calls for a return to community values and behaviours. And about time too, say many.


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