Community News

Open Source Stats--But What Do the Numbers Mean?

rdo I recently sent a report to project management containing some numbers that purport to describe the status of the RDO project.

I got a long and thoughtful response from one of the managers—we'll call him Mark—and it seems worthwhile sharing some of his insights. To summarize, what he said was, don't bother collecting stats if they don't tell a story.

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Online Communities Meeting Face to Face

gluster One of my favorite things about working in online communities is that you can spend nearly all your time with someone online but have no idea what they look like. I went out to dinner with a friend that I've known for ages from the DevOps community, and he went up to order and put it on the tab I had open—and he couldn't remember what my real name was. He came back to the table and we had a good laugh about it—how we've known each other for some time, we're good friends, but there's some things that you just miss out on.

The face-to-face meetings are really important because you get to know why someone reacts a certain way to ideas that are proposed—in person. It's really hard to hug it out over video chat, even though you can indicate a lot in email, in chat, and mailing lists.

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Growing a Contributor Base: Speed Matters

racing bicyclist Others have written good general information about how to attract and retain contributors for your open source project. Here, I'm going to focus rather narrowly on one critical factor in growing your contributor base: speed. Since it's what I'm familiar with, I'm going to write with the maintainer in mind.

The moment a new contributor posts a PR or a draft patch, a timer starts. The longer maintainers take to respond to their submission, the lower the chance that person will ever contribute to the project again. While no one has done a specific study on this that I know of, my experience is that it drops by half in a couple of days and it gets very close to zero in only a few weeks. If you're running a young project and looking to attract lots of new contributors, there may be no higher priority than dealing with first-time contributions quickly. Minutes to hours is the target here.

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Community Managers Sit Everywhere. Should They?

fedora This week's community blogging prompt by Stormy Peters includes the question, “should community managers sit in marketing or engineering?” This is a very individualized decision and not an easy one at that.

A lot of companies support open source communities. The Fedora Project is supported by Red Hat. Red Hat’s support is huge and includes infrastructure, engineering and non-engineering contributions, budget for community driven activities and events and community coordination assistance.

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Encouraging New Contributors

gluster Open source projects survive off new contributions and new contributors, bringing new ideas and new focus to their work. A new project starts with one person or a few people putting code out for other people to use and contribute to, a successful project creates a pathway for contribution.

In Gluster, we've focused the past two years on making our infrastructure effective for contributing, and inviting more contributors into our infrastructure. Open source isn't just about opening up your code—it's about building a supporting infrastructure that invites people to contribute. For projects to be successful, the community needs to be able to participate in the governance, the documentation, the code, and even the hosting. Said another way, a healthy project can attract more diverse skillsets with more transparency.

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Onboarding New Contributors in the Fedora Project

fedora Fedora is a community with a lot of moving parts and has at least five different ways of thinking about new contributor onboarding. Unlike some single code-base communities where there is a focus around a repository or a bug tracker, Fedora is constantly working on lots of things and the linkages can be hard to see. Some of those activities are directly (in a creation sense) related to the amazing Linux distribution we produce.

These activities, like Release Engineering, must happen or no bits get shipped. Other activities are critical to the experience of Fedora, like Design. Without these activities we might as well not ship. Some activities, like a lot of the work done by Fedora Infrastructure, are critical to providing the tools and glue we need to get our work done.

Onboarding is much on the mind of communities of late, thanks to Stormy Peters' prompt on how community works at Go read it, as it inspired this post and will contain lots of great information in the roundup post later this week.

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Community is Messy

messy There is an adage in the wide world that goes something like this: "If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans."

A less faith-oriented version of that line of thought breaks down to "Life Happens." Which all means that no matter how well we prepare the structure and flow of our daily lives, chaos and random chance can always cast such plans aside and potentially damage all we have built, sometimes irreparably.

Communities are no less immune to this kind of ill fortune than any one person. Even with the best intentions, communities can become embroiled in conflict and strife that can burn like a brush fire through all of the great things you've accomplished.

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A Community of One

alone in a crowd One of the quirky aspects of "community" in the free and open source ecosystem is that, for many members of a given project, they are physically and geographically isolated. Using tools like git, mailing lists, and any number of messaging tools, developers, writers, and other community members can focus their efforts and do their work from any place on the planet with electricity and a connection to the Internet.

As someone who has worked from a home office for nearly 18 years, I can tell you, it has its advantages. I can set my own hours, create a comfortable office environment, and work on my own pace. There are, of course, disadvantages too. I have to self-motivate, be my own IT systems administrator, and deal with somewhat atrophied social skills.

In your community, you are often going to have people in exactly the same situation. Somewhere out in the world, working full- or part-time on your project, from their homes or schools or offices. Maybe there are other project members nearby, but often they are working alone, connected by electrons instead of photons. So how do you manage a community of dozens or hundreds, when many of the are alone?

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Focusing Your Community Message

laser prism During SCALE 15X last weekend in beautiful Pasadena, California, the Red Hat booth was visited by hundreds of attendees, all looking to find out more Red Hat and the projects with which it works.

Many times, the questions were specific: "what's the best platform for managing virtual machines?" Or "how does CentOS fit within the Red Hat universe?" In those instances, we had more than enough knowledge in the booth to get the right information to those folks. The more tricky conversations, though, were the ones where the questions were far less specific, including the dreaded "So what is Red Hat?"

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Overcoming Culture Clash Part IV--Getting Started Toward Cultural Diversity

differing communication styles In the last article, we finally went beyond theory to some practical tips on how to improve communication in your community. In this article, we get even more practical, offering some easy to follow tips which will make a material difference in your communities.

There are two concrete things—one piece of advice for both community developers and individuals seeking to join a community, and one piece of advice for community projects interested in encouraging greater geographical diversity. Each one has a number of consequences.

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