Shamshirji Rai Luthra (Śamaśīra Rāya Lutharā) is a welfare activist, community catalyst, and quotable visionary. He got his start as a content consultant and voice trainer in Nepal ahead of India's second radio boom, then went on to author two books Talk To Win and Lazy Ways To Enlightenment, and establish four Ning communities. He continues to deliver inspirational talks to live audiences and leverages the Ning platform to further spread his message of self-development through constructive thinking and proactive communication. While several developers have been employed to assist with the network design, Shamshirji has devoted much time to learning HTML and CSS and has managed much of the customization of these unique and beautiful communities himself. A man of many talents, we had the great pleasure of interviewing Shamshirji about his motivation, his brand, and his life's work.
I was born in New Delhi, India. My mind and my body is my physical home, for I take it everywhere I go, and through them both, I find my center. I love staying in peaceful and naturally magnificent interiors, and outdoors. I create (and so I find) solace in my family home in New Delhi, and my sister's home in Mumbai.
When did you start your first dedicated online community? What was its concept?
Ning was my first stop, and hopefully the last, until and beyond I last. My karmic intent is to trigger constructive change. As a healer (voice, word, media, books, touch, hug, thought, you name it, I just seep my spirit and heal through all!), I see countless 'moksha mongers', 'Come, Let Me Enlighten You Spiritual Quacks' and 'Corrupt Teacher's' in the 'spirituality seeking' marketplace. Better than Spiritual Ashrams, where a lot of 'hanky panky stuff' happens, I find online communities and social networking safe, distant but close enough to the soul. You don't actually meet people, but meet their spirits. And you can connect to them, on a sub-conscious platform. You can heal them, motivate them, educate them, and promote them. You can be a Guru watching them and guiding them 'from a distance', You can be their Beloved Friend. That was the intent of my first community Talking Rich.
You’ve created a few additional Ning sites since, could you describe how these communities complement each other?
Oh Yes! We now have four Ning sites. (The first three are to be redesigned once we move over to Ning 3.0.)
1. SHAMSHIR RAI LUTHRA - We will use it as a Discourse Forum for my teachings, which will be enlisted under nine areas of Self Knowledge. Friends, Students, Followers, and specially, Non-Believers are welcome to debate and question my insights and teachings. (The best use for the fabulous Ning Forum feature.)
2. ASHIRVACHAN SCHOOLS OF LEARNING - We will use it as an online version of our future-print magazine 'Ashirvachan' which includes articles that inspire and enable Courage, Intelligence, and Knowledge. (The best use we can find for the Ning Groups feature will be here.)
3. TALKING RICH NEW MEDIA - We intend to use it to promote our Mind Training and Speech Classes Programs, under the brand TALKING RICH STUDIOS, as well as make it a live 'Virtuoso Directory' of Artists, and Creators from around the world. (The best place to use the Ning Member Categories feature.)
4. TALKING TIMES - This is a voice paper, which endorses real people and real experiences. Talking Times is moderated by thought-leaders from across the world. (The best use of the Ning Blog feature.)
How have these communities helped you and your business, brand or mission?
Honestly, to date, we're just spending it all: cash, kind, and time! Been a popular celebrity, and an outgoing and interactive person, in real life; the past half decade or more, ever since the 'free Ning days,' I have been up nights, and days, stuck to a chair, hooked to my computer, self-learning computer design and HTML, and becoming a virtual communicator. We hired designers and still consult with a few, but you need a dedicated team to manage a virtual community, I didn't find people, who were eager and equally committed. Because, real life's ups and especially the downs, spares no one/get's everyone by their ****. On the other hand, in my heart, I always felt that the Ning Team was mine, and I belong to them. It's time now to change my 'alone'ness (I never feel 'lonely,' because I can even talk to furniture!) with some great live-wire company. I will be using the real world more: just got myself a brand new ride, to go socialize, and to spread the word, and then post it first: through Ning, on Facebook, and across the Internet. And not vice versa. Thus, finally, there's nothing like sitting under a Bodhi tree, breathing in the universe, and exhaling wonderment.
Do you have a guiding philosophy when it comes to creating online spaces?
Yes, I do. Like any physical space, any online space is sacred. We must use it wisely, and be respectful for another's space as well. Our 'comments' and 'content' reflect our intent, personas, brand-images, and mindsets. Our posted Words, our Image Designing, and our Shared Content create our karma in the online world, more powerfully than in the real world, for they become our virtual 'bodies' and 'minds,' through which we feel, and be.
You make great use of the Language Editor on Ning and change out-of-the-box terms like “share” to “circulate,” “members” to “voices,” and “blog” to “insight.” What other terms have you customized to better suit your community?
What an exceptional question, Dear Allison! Thank You for noticing. The most important 'two words' of all that I have changed using the Language Editor is 'Powered by' to 'Co-created by.' Because, 'Empowering' others is greater than just 'Power'ing. Ning is doing more than just 'powering'. Ning is empowering individuals. Because, Ning is not just website designers or server hosts. Our virtual worlds (our communities) are created by both you and we. If it wasn't for your 24-hour support, our minds wouldn't feel reassured and 'log out/step out' of our virtual house, to explore the actual world. And if it wasn't for our belief in you, you wouldn't be in the top of our minds. So, together, we are living it, right from the days of free Ning, and we will not stop until we learn to sustain our successes. I've actually 'greyed my hair' sitting in my chair and exploring Ning, and I'm sure you all: John, Aaron, Allison, Martin, Kevin, Phil M., Phil P., Pierre, Bernard, Chris, Blake, Alena, Brian, Francois, Federico, Stephane, Answer, Tashina, Myra, Amanda, Crystal, Monica, Ioana, Joanna, Corey, Dustin, Michael, Danni, Jon, Nikhil, Saritha, Anaurag, Anup, Oveiz, Kevin K., and David, have sacrificed a lot of your freedoms, as well, for the sake of our 'Collective Freedom'. The least we can do is thank you, by calling you 'Co-creators.'
What do you see as the next phase in your community's lifecycle?
1. We really need an Audio recording feature, hooked in to all the other features.
2. And a multiple network sign-in feature for our managed Ning networks, as well as signing-up, and collaborating with other Ning networks.
Let me explain how and why:
* Co-Promotion: Collectively, all Ning communities together are bigger than Facebook. For, numbers is just a game. Money and Time Investing Leaders are the ones who can create more value, because they are the risk takers. And Ning has many of them. A Ning Community Owner is like a Thought Leader of Ning. Put all these leaders together, and ask them to organize, and collaborate databases, content, community welfare work and their commercial ventures. That's the next phase, or the next level of social networking that we wish to initiate. If just four of our networks are conjoined, to begin with, just a single Ning sign up, that would be a test run for many more.
* Constant Progressive Communication Through Technology: What if all content uploads on blogs, images, etc. are not just written content, but responses in either audio or video formats as well. That would be the next level, of communication. Technology drives communication, and communication drives technology. The importance of developments in Electronic Devices must be understood by New Media, and Community Creators like Ning, and Facebook. Uploading audio responses, instead of text comments is the next level of communication that the world audiences are near-ready to use. Hope Ning Research and Development is aware of the progressive human mindset, and will remain ahead.
* Dear Ning 3.0: This time, let us lead agin. This time, let your Ning Community Leaders intuit your next success.