[maemo-community] Discussion about Maemo community management...

From: Dave Neary dneary at maemo.org
Date: Wed Feb 18 19:20:03 EET 2009

Ian wrote:
>> I actually can't find any community manager in the communities / social
>> networks I'm part of. Yet many of them are quite vibrant, based on
>> common goals and using efficient tools.
> Dunno if you have signed the ubuntu code of conduct but anyway...what
> about mako and now jono's work as community manager?
> Some very recent examples:
> http://www.jonobacon.org/2009/02/13/the-docs-were-indeed-rocked/
> http://www.jonobacon.org/2009/02/14/ready-to-jam/

Presumably Quim doesn't think of himself as part of the Ubuntu community.

As a past community manager for OpenWengo, I see what he's getting at.
Hiring a community manager seems to come from noticing a problem first -
when a company is the primary force behind a free software project,
communities of developers don't easily form by themselves around it. And
yet when a project is born from a nascent community effort, things seem
to happen much more easily.

Think of the Linux kernel, GNOME, KDE, GIMP, Debian, or even GNU on one
side of community-initiated projects - volunteers don't feel like their
treading on someone else's turf when they start contributing. Or if they
do, very quickly someone dispels that myth for them when they ask a
question like "how about if we did this?" and they are told "what are
you waiting for? Go for it!".

On the other hand, if you look at free software projects that do have
community managers or community developers: Ubuntu, SuSe, MySQL,
OpenWengo, even Eclipse & Mozilla, these are examples of projects born
from corporations, or which crystallised early into company form. Most
of the contributions are from company employees, and volunteers don't
really know where to start, occasionally they'll take a ball & run with
it to be told that their idea doesn't really align with the priorities
of the project, or patches and mailing list threads go unanswered by
anyone from inside the company, giving an impression that people aren't
being listened to.

And so the company hires a community manager, to work with developers
inside the company to improve their community participation, to listen
to complaints from the community & improve things within the company
based on that feedback, and also to be more pro-active about
communicating the reasons behind company strategy & decisions, and
ensuring early availability of information. All good things. And all too
often, a band-aid over the real problems: management wasn't consulting
the community before, and they still aren't, they're funnelling through
the community manager. The team weren't communicative before, and while
they might improve, they will never be free software developers, in the
sense that they are doing their day job.

A small mind test: how many developers within a company, working on a
company sponsored free software project, will continue working on the
project after being laid off? In my experience: 0.

But I have seen many GNOME developers paid to work on GNOME, who
continue to work on GNOME after leaving the company who paid them. It's
a labour of love, and while they're happy to get paid for a while,
they'd probably do it anyway.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that Jono's doing a bad job, he is
fulfilling a role, advocating the community to Canonical and keeping the
community happy & busy & feeling responsible for parts of the project.
But the fact that he's needed underscores my core point: the strategic
direction of Ubuntu is not decided by the community, it's decided by
Canonical and then the community is brought on board with it. Mark
Shuttleworth is the guy who makes announcements about the future of the
project, not a community member of MOTU. To reinforce what Quim said,
true community projects don't need community managers.


maemo.org docsmaster
Email: dneary at maemo.org
Jabber: bolsh at jabber.org

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