11

I've joined a community and read the rules. More than once even. I've lurked in the community for a while. Occasionally, I've poked my head out of a dark cave and even said a few things. I doubt they've been memorable, but at least no one told at me to get back in my hole. I've voted in community polls, but I don't feel like these have been "drive by" votes, because I stick around.

I have customized my avatar and profile, but I'm not sure how else to participate. Jumping in to conversations where I don't know the participants isn't my style. I feel that I know the topic, but I am not the expert that other members are (or at least play on the internet).

What can I do, as a user, to increase my participation in a community? To make this question more specific, assume that it is a professional community with a minimal amount of off color topics/memes/etc. I'd say think something like Stack Exchange, but it is not a Stack Exchange community so I don't want answers specific to that particular community.

10

You've said you know the topic (i.e. you're not a newbie to the field) but you don't feel you're an expert. And you're reluctant to participate with people you don't know, perhaps (I speculate) out of concern for being judged -- on the Internet nobody knows you're a dog, an undergrad, or a seasoned expert, after all.

One approach I've found helpful in "breaking the ice" is to ask questions or start conversation threads. I don't mean throwing a one-liner out there without any context; I mean asking a well-written question, explaining where the question comes from (why is this even a question?) and what I've tried already. For example:

I'm trying to improve the performance of my flux capacitor. Right now it is very finicky; it only kicks in at precisely 88MPH, but I live in a city where reaching that speed is not safe. I'd like to modify it to add a "safe mode" switch that lowers this threshold to 55MPH. (I don't want that to always be on, though, because I do need to drive normally on highways sometimes.)

I've tried adding a control circuit to the frobbitz that feeds the doohickey, but that resulted in it not working at all (at least up to 100MPH). I thought that would be ok because of the limitation on technobabble dilation, but no go. How should I be approaching this problem?

This sort of question shows that you know something about the domain and asks for help. In a community full of experts, odds are that somebody wants to help you. This will lead to conversation, further debugging, and, ideally, the beginning of a bond between the two of you. Now you're starting to know at least one member of the community, so you might be a little more willing to offer input to somebody else's post. And then you'll get to know that person a little, and then the next one, and soon enough you won't be facing a community full of strangers.

2

If you don't like jumping in to discussions of others, start your own and see if anyone jumps in with you. This way you can meet members of the community and feel more at home jumping in on other discussions without feeling like you are coming out of the middle of no where.

You can get to know people who came to talk with you rather than pushing your way in to their conversations. You could even try to target your question off of a previous conversation that a user you are interested in talking with has been involved to try to make sure it is something they will find interesting; perhaps even a question asking for expansion on some previous conversation of theirs.

1

Ask and Answer.

For a time ignore the "community" factor; treat the place as a tool for solving problems (yours and others'). You came there for some purpose - due to the subject of the community. Don't worry about your problems being 'trivial' or 'obscure', or about your answers being 'sub-par'. A trivial question is an opportunity for the less brilliant members to show up and participate. An obscure one will get the marginalized specialists out of their nooks. A sub-par answer is better than none, and moreover, remember the curious caveat of human psyche: people are less inclined to answer a question, than to correct an error - a question that didn't get any answers likely will remain unanswered, while a question that got a wrong answer will probably soon get a correct one!

You'll get the hang of the community in the process. After questions, suggestions and ideas will come; you'll feel less resistance against piping in, in a discussion which you felt you don't belong in, if you talk with people you talked with before. Eventually, you'll just join the community.

Simply put, use the site - and the community part will come later by itself.

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