Dennis Callahan (@denniscallahan) has posted a series on www.learnstreaming.com about the need for learners to take charge of their own learning process. He draws similarities between joining a gym and our learning - the need not just to watch (lurk?), but also the need to get involved and gain experience. All that is undoubtedly true.
Also true is his assertion that when we enter the social media assisted learning space "we have identity,,,,,,we have space...... and (to a degree) we have commitment". However what is not true is that belonging and participating means that we are growing the communities which we have voluntarily joined.
Committed and even organised we may be in our approach to learning, but the best will only come when we make the effort to get the best out of our new community friends.
Yes, we need to have the courage to take the first steps and to share, even to make ourselves vulnerable by asking the question that is real to us but which we suspect may seem very innocent or naive to others. how many times have I heard people say "I had that question too but was scared to ask it in case I looked stupid"? there are no such things as stupid questions - only silly answers!
I believe that there is one more step we need to take. In community, there is no difference between us as human beings - we all have needs, experience and ideas. Some have more in one area than in another and therein lies the power of community - but the trick is how to get that power released in order to optimise the learning available.
If we see our virtual and social media driven learning communities as composed of anonymous addresses that might respond in some way to a post or a question, then that is all they will remain. The quality of response will match the question - and no more. However if we begin to see the address as a warm caring human sharing our interests and treat them as such then we stand a chance of them warming to us and going the extra mile in sharing. If we are able to share a little of ourselves (and I do not mean the meaningless drivel that gets the SoMe such a bad name in some places) and if we take a moment to shape our posts, Tweets etc in ways that acknowledge each others humanity, then we are subtly inviting others to go the extra mile. Many will do so, sadly, some will not.
Is this kind of respect and human care and warmth the answer to the Subject Matter Expert (SME) who will not involve themselves in a learning community (virtual or F2F) because they "do not feel valued for their contribution"? There are very few parents who will not give everything they can to help their children. We need to tap into the same emotional energy in working in our communities.