Your Community is your Best Features

Gina Trapani (Lifehacker, Todo.txt, Thinkup) (Saturday, 4:15pm)

Open source software thrives on collaboration. It’s not just pushing code with a special license. Some helpful links here.

Todo.txt took off when someone volunteered to help get it versioned. Moments of goodwill, sharing, help, and collaboration will drive a project. You want these moments.

Growing Community

1. Enable Peer Consultion

A founder or manager can’t do it alone. One person doesn’t scale. If collaboration has to go through one person, they will be a bottleneck.

See “Web is a Customer Service Medium” - Why wasn’t I consulted?

ThinkUp setup a notification bot on the pull request hook to email all developers on the list. This encouraged any developer to do code review. More eyes, fewer bugs.

2. Convert Newcomers

Initiate a warm welcome to all users. Code is not the only kind of contribution. People can lead organization efforts, document, wireframe, design, etc…

The key is to get users engaged, figure out what their skill set is and what they can contribute.

Defining work is harder than doing work. Coders have it easy - we have specs, task lists, bug lists. Non-coders find it harder to define their role in a project.

3. Cast a Wide Net

Diversity matters. Coders often come from a somewhat homogenous group. A range of skillsets and life experiences can drive your project.

The key is to reach across multiple channels. Spread a single message across many types of media to find and engage your users and potential contributors. Not everyone uses the same tools.

4. Fulfill Your Destiny

Clarify your vision:

  1. Define project
  2. Define values - OSS often has common values, but what specifically
  3. In group behaviors communicate - what you do should reflect your values