Encouraging new community membersApril 10, 2017 11:47 pm General
My friend and colleague Stormy Peters just launched a challenge to the community – to blog on a specific community related topic before the end of the week. This week, the topic is “Encouraging new contributors”.
I have written about the topic of encouraging new contributors in the past, as have many others. So this week, I am kind of cheating, and collecting some of the “Greatest Hits”, articles I have written, or which others have written, which struck a chord on this topic.
Some of my own blog posts I have particular affection for on the topic are:
- Effective mentoring: Why do most mentorships fail, and what can we do to make them better?
- Encouraging more non-technical contributors: How do you value non-technical contributions if you don’t have those skills in the community?
- Open source community building: A guide to getting it right: Something of an anthology, I wrote this article as a guide for companies engaging with communities (existing or creating their own) – and this covers a number of best practices for creating a welcoming environment.
I also have a few go-to articles I return to often, for the clarity of their ideas, and for their general usefulness:
- “Open Source Community, Simplified” by Max Kanat-Alexander, does a great job of communicating the core values of communities which are successful at recruiting new contributors. I particularly like his mantra at the end: “be really, abnormally, really, really kind, and don’t be mean“. That about sums it up…
- “Building Belonging“, by Jono Bacon: I love Jono’s ability to weave a narrative from personal stories, and the mental image of an 18 year old kid knocking on a stranger’s door and instantly feeling like he was with “his people” is great. This is a key concept of community for me – creating a sense of “us” where newcomers feel like part of a greater whole. Communities who fail to create a sense of belonging leave their engaged users on the outside, where there is a community of “core developers” and those outside. Communities who suck people in and indoctrinate them by force-feeding them kool-aid are successful at growing their communities.
- I love all of “Producing Open Source Software“, but in the context of this topic, I particularly love the sentiment in the “Managing Participants” chapter: “Each interaction with a user is an opportunity to get a new participant. When a user takes the time to post to one of the project’s mailing lists, or to file a bug report, she has already tagged herself as having more potential for involvement than most users (from whom the project will never hear at all). Follow up on that potential.”
To close, one thing I think is particularly important when you are managing a team of professional developers who work together is to ensure that they understand that they are part of a team that extends beyond their walls. I have written about this before as the “water cooler” anti-pattern. To extend on what is written there, it is not enough to have a policy against internal discussion and decisions – creating a sense of community, with face to face time and with quality engagements with community members outside the company walls, can help a team member really feel like they are part of a community in addition to being a member of a development team in a company.