Thought of the day

11:05 am community, gnome

When I was growing up in the small village of Bangor Erris in the West of Ireland, we had a bitter rivalry with people from Belmullet, the next town over. In sports, and in school, it was always “them” and “us”.

I went to boarding school in a much bigger town, Ballinasloe. It’s fair to say that not everyone in Ballinasloe knew everyone else. Our idea of “them” and “us” changed – “we” were the boarders, the townies, the bus students. There were even smaller factions – Creagh, Ahascragh, Kiltormer, …

Malcolm Gladwell mentions Dunbar’s Number, the magic figure of 150 as the maximum size of a village in the Tipping Point – the same figure is cited in David Wong’s article “the Monkeysphere”. Beyond around 150 people, groups start to segment into smaller clans, identifying differences and similarities on ever smaller scales. Towns don’t organically grow with huge rates of change, but companies, projects and industries do. And as these grow, our self-identification evolves with them. You go from being “a Google guy” to “a Google Mountain View guy” to “a Google AdWords guy” or “a Google Docs guy”.

When GNOME was young, “us” was GNOME, “them” was KDE. But GNOME has turned into a bigger town, and “us”  is different now. How do GNOME developers self-identify now? By employer (Red Hat, Collabora, Novell, …), by area of participation (l10n, docs, art), by geography? And how can we recognise these sub-communities and start building bridges between them?

2 Responses

  1. Juanjo Marin Says:

    I totally agree with you. We should build bridges to all the members of the GNOME ecosystem and build a strong sense of belonging.

  2. Dave Neary Says:

    Luckily, the GNOME project has been doing this for years – pretty much from the point where it became clear this was a problem. Hackfests are a way for hackers to identify with people in a particular problem area, whether that be design, multimedia, metadata, GTK+, GNOME Shell, whatever.

    This helps ensure that people working together virtually also know each other physically.

    It is a hard solution to apply more generally, but I think it is worth trying to figure out how we can encourage this type of meeting, without making it harder for new contributors to get involved.