The community factor

The night before I left for Las Vegas to attend Glass Week and the Building Envelope Contractors conference, I listened to YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley describe how building a place where "creative types" could work together freely in an online community was his initial goal in creating the video-sharing Web site. YouTube developed far beyond that initial scope—from posting funny cat videos to propagating democracy in the Middle East—but trillions of views and a billion-dollar Google buyout later, it stays true to its community- inspired origins.

The glass fraternity that started as the Flat Glass Marketing Association and grew into the Glass Association of North America has shed the clubby atmosphere of resort meetings and formal dinners of bygone years when competitors would gather to break bread and toast one another. These industry gatherings of yore are wistful memories as, today, most everyone works longer days without the respite of tennis matches and hole-in-one prizes. What remains is a hard-working core of industry volunteers who continue their yeoman's labor to promote and protect the glass industry's vital interests.

The association staff has tried a number of tactics to revive attendance in the face of consolidating member companies and others too pressed to make the trip in tough economic times. The last few years have seen a rise in multi-meeting meetings. This year's eight-day line-up: the Insulating Glass Manufacturers Alliance, followed by the shrinking Glass Week, overlapping with the BEC meeting, capped by a National Fenestration Rating Council meeting. And in the middle, "Logic," a new, one-day, off-site, invitation-only event.

It could be the economy or four-plus meeting fatigue, but something about that invitation-only event didn't jive with the fast and fluid Facebook YouTube community-sharing world we live in. Coincidentally, one of  Logic's keynoters was social media guru, Chris Brogan, who advised the upper management-only crowd to design mobile-friendly Web sites and ensure that their messaging is accessible to all via multiple platforms, from smartphones to tablets to laptops.

As the world around us demands democratic openness and takes to the streets to challenge closed hierarchies, accessibility seems ever-more integral to community building, relevance, strength and longevity. As so many visionaries have said before him, Hurley remarked that he never could have imagined what YouTube has become.

Here's hoping the same for a revitalized glass community of the future. 

Harris is publisher of Glass Magazine. Write her at nharris@glass.org

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