I just read this quick breakdown of semiotics for another project today and it got me thinking about the signals we're sending with our communities. We all have signs in our online spaces, whether it's part of the brand design, the layout, avatar choices, even words in bios. The problem is that they are read differently by different cultures. There are many different cultures represented in the communities I work with - both in terms of nationality and language (and religion, and sports fandom, all the ways you can slice and dice people to give a subgroup a label), but also in terms of what they do. A Java developer is different from a DBA is different from a marketer. If we're serving them all the same, we're not serving them well.
I've been thinking generally of the problem of expanding English language communities into Asia lately. It's a thing I'm thinking about for my job, but also has come up in many conversations with other community managers. I am worried about entering those spaces, trying to build a community that is rooted in a culture I don't understand, a language I'll never speak. What would I say? How would I present myself? I don't want to be perceived as the bull in the china shop. Or worse, that I'm there to colonize on behalf of my company.
I've known that at a gut level for a long time, but it's good to add this to the list of things I can articulate about the problem. Maybe someday I'll actually be able to solve it.