Good Citizenship: Vote Early, Eat Chocolate Often
I just got another email from Michelle Obama. She told me I'm one of the most important supporters of the campaign. That seems either extraordinarily hyperbolic or extremely grim, considering the relationship between my current salary and that of the average (or below average) Mitt Romney supporter. But somewhere beyond the realm of fundraising and political marketing, her appeal is an honest reminder of the nature of democracy: we are not subjects but citizens, not victims of the Braindead Megaphone but members of a community.
A real community allows for dialogue and debate, which in turn leads to knowledge, an entity often equated with power. Just as importantly, a community can foster mutual support and respect among its members. The internet, with its infinite ability to create (and to allow us to create) networks, has vastly increased the scope and number of communities of which we can be a part. Among my networks are the two chocolate communities Seventy Percent and the Chocolate Life.
What both sites have in common is that while they are professional extensions of their founders, the chocolate talking heads Martin Christy (of Seventy Percent) and Clay Gordon (of the Chocolate Life), they are also open arenas for a much larger group of individual chocolate enthusiasts. There's also some debate between these two chocolatey content curators about who became a professional chocolate critic first (around ten years ago) and when and where they can and cannot appear in the same room, but both men have been very good citizens indeed. As Gordon points out, "What is interesting is that the chocolate communities are complementary and overlap and are not directly competitive."
So who is the chocolate community? I asked.
"There isn't just one," Gordon answered. "In part, it's the industry. In part, it's everyone who loves chocolate. What I do is interact with all of those groups."
"I think the chocolate community has grown and changed," Christy said. "Blogging has become much more important. Chocolate attracts a lot of hobbyists who begin their own chocolate journey and then get more involved as professionals or semiprofessionals."
Both men have tech backgrounds (the British Christy in computer programming and the American Gordon in video production) and have taken advantage of available technology to host ongoing conversations about everything from bean-to-bar chocolate making in India to where to source wholesale candied orange peel. Seventy Percent's interactive forum component has not changed much since its inception and is a bit clunky, though the site recently received an elegant redesign. The Chocolate Life, more haimish in appearance, might be a tad more user-friendly by allowing users to create their own blog posts.
In the ultimate act of good citizenship, Clay Gordon made sure to include John Nanci of the eight-year-old Chocolate Alchemy in his own accounting of the "three established communities in chocolate that are the most dynamic and 'serious.'"
If you're stranded by Huricane Sandy this week, you could take our president's advice and vote early. Once that's done, break into your emergency supply of Mast Brothers Chocolate. And then think about giving something back to the chocolate community.