What I learned from my Neighborhood

Last Friday I was offline, not by choice, but due to the power going out due to a storm that hit Northern California. Sure, not a severe storm in comparison to any area that receives regular hurricanes, but most Californians were off guard, myself included.

I’ve a sub-level garage that’s below street level, and in the rare case of a storm the sump pump will activate and clear the drain. Sadly, in this rare case, the power went out, and no more sump pump. My neighbors, who share the same wonderful design and I realized we had to resort to buckets to clear the drainage area or risk our garages becoming a swimming pool.

What was really interesting was to see how the community came together, neighbors helping neighbors (some who don’t speak to each other on a frequent basis) and all chipping in. Some residents were away on vacation, and if they didn’t receive the help of a neighbor, their garage would be flooded. Others, too elderly to carry water in a bucket had to rely on the help of those around them. Not all was well, as some renters let the garage flood, they simply didn’t care.

Strangely, this all reminded me of you all, that is, those who are in my online community. The web industry is a unique one, there’s an amazing amount of collaboration that occurs, and online neighbors help and assist each other. Sometimes, we can’t physically assist them with bailing buckets, but from information, advice, or just morale support. Communities often form by need or interest, in this case, we all live in the same proximity but were brought much closer together than ever before through this bonding experience. I’m on much better terms with all my immediate neighbors, we all helped each other.

Aside from avoiding a minor disaster, (and am getting a backup generator) I learned a lot about how communities and neighbors respond in the physical world and online. The strength comes when members collaborate, help, and support each other.

Downed Tree on 280 takes slows freewayPicture 192miserablePicture 185

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6 Replies to “What I learned from my Neighborhood”

  1. Hi Jeremiah:

    We had a storm like that here in Chicago last fall – I remember a friend telling me about how he and his neighbors worked around the power outage.

    They had a line of generators running down the block – extension cords running everywhere. Trouble is most generators do not have a big enough gas tank to run thru the night. So they each took a night where they were responsible for filling all the generators.

    People helping people!

    Neighborhoods – the original community!



  2. That’s a very compelling story. I’ve always supported the notion that people bind together to fight a common enemy.

    A way that can be translated to online communities is that if there’s a rise of a danger or problem that affects us all and we work together to stop it. Say if alien intruders came together, and we got a part of the alien’s body part. Then a scientific community, or any for that matter, could upload all the data regarding it, analyze it, comment on it, and we could be using all our heads instead of just a few people working on an issue.

    The thing is that alien’s don’t come intruding (atleast not to my knowledge) and other issues aren’t thrilling enough. Humans tend to lean toward immediate gratification, it’s just our nature. Psychological studies show that delaying gratification does result increased happiness (I read it in class somewhere). Coming together to remove the water will have direct and immediate results, whereas coming together to solve issues regarding Africa will not. Hence to bridge that gap, the issue has to catch the attention of a few key individuals, in this case Bono or Don Cheadle. Bono is apparently really passionate about these issues and an expert too. He tries to make his case to all of us so that we may also perceive this issue as thrilling or imperative/serious and some catch on and some don’t.

    The effect lingers away after a while for a lot of cases. The emotional feel you get after movies only remains for so long, and that is a powerful, visual appeal. These are a lot of issues in here and I see communities doing great things to work towards quick issues. If a woman in a community experiences racism, we will see people looking to solve it.

    My call to action would be that we try to shape our minds to be also flexible enough to tackle long term issues without seeing immedaite results to reinforce our passions.

  3. I empathize with your plight. During the bad winter of 2005 (Oakland), our downstairs flooded and we were only able to keep ahead of the water pouring in by using a tag team of wet/dry vacuums. Prop up intake and it can suck up a good amount of water. We were emptying about 20 gallons of water every 10 minutes. Kept up for 6 hours! Definitely would recommend keeping a wet vac handy if you have a below grade garage.

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