Making FOSS Successful
I’m a community guy in a company that has lots of products, both open source and commercial, I’m lucky enough to get paid to work on open source projects. What I’ve learned in my work with the community is that building a successful project takes more than many people think. Some folks in the corporate world have a distorted view of how open source projects work. A lot of the corporate types hear about open source and think that sprinkling magic “open source” dust on their product will suddenly make it successful. They’ll have contributors pile on and massive marketshare will follow.
Community Building Success Factors
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what establishes the foundation for communities? What matters most? Which things are the building blocks for all other activities that go on? I’ve identified what I believe to be the four most important building blocks for community: Leadership and vision, trusted converstations, infrastructure and simplicity. In this post we’ll look at each of these building blocks.
What They Forgot to Teach You about Open Source
There seems to be a misconception about what’s required to build a vibrant open source community and it’s not “community management”. Community management focuses on providing infrastructure and facilitating communication for a community. This includes setting up events, maintaining TO-DO lists, keeping forums under control, making announcements, etc. And that’s all well and good, in fact it’s vital. However, although this role is important it will likely not lead to any significant growth in your community. Communities need Leadership in order to grow because leaders create a vision of the future that draws people to their communities and motivates them into action.
Multitasking is a Lie
Does instant messaging (IM), email, and social media make us more productive? Of course they do, right? … Well, the real answer is ‘no’ (what would be the point of this post otherwise?:). As a Community Manager for two open-source projects I reach out and ‘connect’ with people as part of my job. In doing so I use Twitter, mailing lists, IRC, and discussion forums almost constantly, but what about people who aren’t tasked with making connections and building community? Is it good for them?
Flock Theory and Leadership
I have to admit that I’m a bit of a collaboration and community junkie and as such follow some obscure topics. One topic I’ve had on my radar for quite some time is Flock Theory. Flock theory tries to describe the self-organizing and emergent aspects of human behavior. Succinctly put, behavior in some cases is not a property of any individual person (or bird), but rather emerges as a property of a group or social network (flock). This concept can be used to describe aspects of both collaborative teams and open source communities. I’m not going to analyze the merits of the theory but I do want to introduce its concepts which I think have implications for team/community productivity and possibility even individual information relevance.