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Leading a professional, vendor-backed open-source community - part 1

Saturday 30 July 2011 11:56:35 pm

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Leading or Managing a professional, vendor-backed open-source community does not present the exact same characteristics as leading a community-driven project. While the basics remain, unique characteristics arise that need to be addressed diligently for successful results. Here is my 2 short cents on the subject.

 

EDIT : The continuation of this story was published : Part 2 of Leading a professional, vendor-backed open-source community 

 

The discipline of Community Management, applied to technologies, is pretty new in the landscape of professions. We can safely assume that de-facto community leaders emerged as the first so-called high technologies started existing. Back in the late 60s. These beginnings, and the very nature of the business models applied to this new field, did not spur tech communities. In effect, patenting and protecting led to closed circles of acquainted people, often employed by one single company.

The 70s, the Free software movement, Richard Stallman and fellow anti-software-patent activists marked a change in the way software projects were living. They started being open. This openness was enforced by the copyleft licence idea, itself direct (and some might say today: unrealistic) translation of the Free software philosophy. Undoubtedly game-changing.

 GNU/Linux opened the ball of large-scale open projects. While existing for centuries in other areas like Local Communities, (Software) Community Management, in the sense of what i will detail today, was born by then. As a discipline, at least. I am not sure that people started calling themselves "Community Manager" in resumes: the terminology was not widely spread yet, nor were business models existing around free software.

Open source

 

1998 was the creation of the OpenSource Initiative. The start-ups burst, and the literal mass-start in commercial open-source projects naturally let the discipline of (Software) Community Management mature into a multi-disciplinary profession, challenging mix of Product Management, Innovation Management, Marketing, Evangelism, Mediation, Politics, Public Relations, Governance and Dictatorship.
 
On a side-note, the advent of social media tools, the new ways of online marketing led to the emergence of a plethora of Community Managers and Social Media experts/gurus/über-masters. If you are the kind of person taking your daily ramble on social networks, you were certainly followed by one of those. I love them, truly. It is just that, although the term is the same, the actual job and required skills are different between a pure B2C, social-media Community Manager and an Open-source Community Manager. There are overlaps, of course. The clarification is now done, so let's get down to business.

 

The basics remain

Every single Community has its own traits, prompting the Community Managers to adapt and establish tactics accordingly. This is often where the challenges reside. There are, however, a few basics which ought to be followed diligently, in my humble, personal opinion. Not willing to wax lyrical, i will shortly present them.

Open

 

Openness & Transparency

"Trust is a nonnegotiable requirement of community leaders"

Jono Bacon in "The Art of Community".

Openness and Transparency are very efficient daily tools to build trust. Regular feedback gathering, open processes, open channels, open code repositories, open governance rules and code of conduct and transparent communication. Make your Community feel like an open place, engagement & enablement will follow.In the eZ Community, this principle is applied at all levels :

 

I think we have reached a first possible coffee break. Next time i will continue describing the basic principles i am applying in daily managing an open-source community. I will also start diving into the very unique aspects in developing a professional, vendor-backed open-source community.

Until then, happy eZ Community life!

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