Barriers to community growthJuly 22, 2009 7:01 pm community, freesoftware
I often talk to vendors who are interested in growing their developer communities around their free software projects. When I do, my advice centers around two things, one of which I think I can help with.
The first is your project vision – why would someone look at your stuff instead of anyone else’s? You are competing for the attention of the pool of free software developers out there, as well as trying to grow that pool, and what will draw people to your project is your vision.
The second is the Hippocratic principle of community building: Primum non nocere, first do no harm.
Most communities fail to reach critical mass because someone becomes interested in your project, and just bounces off it, because of some difficulties they meet when engaging you. To build a successful community, it is usually sufficient to build a compelling vision, and remove all non-essential barriers to participation in your project that exist.
I have compiled a check-list of various barriers to entry which are found in vendor-led projects, roughly grouped into technical, social and legal barriers to entry. Sometimes it’s appropriate for a new community member to face a learning curve – you want to maintain a tone in your community, and ensure that core developers understand the social and technical norms of your project – but often the things that they have to learn are incidental, rather than essential, and removing these is a worthwhile thing to do.
Without further ado, here is Community barriers to entry (pdf) – I’m publishing this under CC BY-SA 3.0 and I would be delighted to get feedback on this to help improve it and make it more useful. Comments welcome!