The importance of community
Issue 118: Seeking like-mindedness and new perspectives when gathering
Community1: A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
This week was our annual user conference at Webflow and it was awesome! The artist formerly known as No-Code Conf, now Webflow Conf, hold a special place in my heart. I started working at Webflow the week before No-Code Conf in 2019 and had the chance to meet community members right off the bat as I onboarded. Of course in 2020, COVID happened and we didn’t have a No-Code Conf. It was supposed to return in 2021 and COVID was renewed for a second season. This year we were able to safely gather remotely and in-person for the first time since 2019. The energy was incredible online and at The Midway in San Francisco, California.
Though I’m proud of the announcements of incredible features and initiatives our team work so hard on, the best joy was seeing community members re-unite, meet for the first time, and gather. Mason Poe, one of our amazing long-time communities said it best, that 2019 felt like the first day of school and 2022 felt like the reunion2. The Webflow community is one of the best ones in technology, design, and internet publishing. Being around them sparked me to reflect on the importance of having thriving communities in your life.
Community can be one or many, often overlapping. You don’t have to pick only one to be a part of. Many people in the Webflow community members are also in Figma’s, including myself.
Though the word community can mean different things for people, I’ve found many common attributes in communities I’ve been a part of: Webflow, Figma, Cocoa (iOS/Mac development), Nine Inch Nails, On Deck, Destiny (video game), and so many others. I could write a post about each and every community I’ve been a part of but will use the Cocoa community as a reference to the important attributes. The biggest community for iOS and Mac designers/developers is called CocoaHeads, but in the Emerald City, it’s called Seattle Xcoders. Let’s explore important attributes of community.
Safe and inclusive
A community that isn’t safe or inclusive isn’t a community. Full stop. My parents are refugees from Vietnam. When they came to the United States, they didn’t know anyone—living in a world completely different from the one they left behind. The only sense of community they felt safe in were other Vietnamese people with the same shared experience. This may sound like an extreme example but it’s true about any community. If a design meetup is not safe for its attendees. If you organize or run a community, you’re responsible for upholding that safety, and when trust it broken, it’s on you.
There are many groups that use the word community as a means to spread harm and hatred. The Friends of Humanity in the X-Men comic books is a hate group disguised as a community—looking eerily familiar to The Proud Boys.
A starting place
I started my career with designing and developing on the web, then iOS for a long time, and now back to the web now that it’s fun again! As a newbie in iOS and Mac, I felt alone in learning and growing. Communities then didn’t have the same technological capabilities to gather online as they do now, so I went to a local meetup called Seattle Xcoders to meet people. Seattle is well-known for Cocoa developers. The Omni Group was thriving and one of the flagship companies when it came to Mac and iOS software. People like Brent Simmons and Gus Mueller were frequents who attended. Simmons, the creator of a the beloved NetNewsWire RSS reader app. That app was one of the main inspirations for me to get excited about software design in the first place. What made Xcoders special is how welcoming and humble everyone was. It was a place you could go without knowing anything about Cocoa development, and someone would teach you.
A place to grow together
Jaimee Newberry is someone I met during my early iOS days. At the time, Newberry was already wildly successful in her career, leading design at Zappos and when she joined Black Pixel, I reached out to her on Twitter. She was (and still is) so generous with her time and became one of the reasons I explored writing and public speaking. In fact, my first speaking opportunity was a referral from her to share at Cocoa Conf, giving my first talk at the conference in Portland, Oregon.
I was nervous about my talk since I had little experience doing any prior. When it came to give my talk about designing for the Apple Watch, the place a practiced it was at Seattle Xcoders, the safe place to start. Xcoders was the place where I knew if I messed up or didn't give a good talk, people would give feedback and be supportive. I knew I got it the next time.
Build relationships and connect
The core foundation of any community is built on relationships and connection. Just because you have a Discord channel or show up to a meetup doesn’t guarantee a community, though it can be the starting place. I met one of my good friend Joris a SoundCloud meetup at WWDC in the early 2010s. The one thing in common we had there was that we didn’t know anybody else, so we started talking. Back then, Joris was living in Amsterdam and I was heading to Paris shortly after WWDC. While in Paris, I took the train to Amsterdam and it sparked a friendship of nearly a decade because of community. The next time you go to a conference or meetup, say hello to someone new. You never know where the conversation will take you.
A place of belonging
Simply put, a community is a place you can rely on for support, whether you know anyone or not. Whether you're in the beginning of your career journey like me, where the end is closer in sight than the beginning, communities are the places where you always feel welcome. Though I no longer live in Seattle, I know I can stop by Cyclops Cafe & Lounge in Belltown and always have a place to feel at home.
Though I could do a week without talking to a human being to recovery and recharge my introvert tendencies, I left Webflow Conf with such inspiration and energy from the people in the community.
Whether it’s the desire to grow in your career or achieve something important in your life, find a community to join to help you get there.
RIP Kevin Conroy
I’m devastated about the passing of Kevin Conroy, the Batman of my generation. His iconic voice in Batman: The Animated Series is what I hear in any comic book. Fun fact, Conroy was roommates with Robin Williams at Juilliard.
An incredible week for designers and developers
Webflow Conf wasn't the only conference this week. I'm excited to catch up on the announcements and content from Clarity Conf, Figma Schema, and GitHub Universe.
000 Series zine update
Since launching the zine in July, I've received 72 purchases. What started as a personal goal and an excuse to dog food Webflow's ecommerce feature has become a digital product. The support of this encouraged me to create more zines in the future. Thank you for your continued support—much appreciated!
Tweet of the week
GitHub released a variable font, Mona Sans. Can't wait to try it out!
Also a great comedy show, but we’re not focused on that
Heard another community member mention this