Trust In Communities

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  3 comments for “Trust In Communities

  1. January 8, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    I definitely agree, Guy.
    One of the counter-arguments that frequently comes up is something like this: “people need to download my packages and report bugs without the overhead of joining the community.” A Community Manager needs to push back pretty hard on that idea, because what that really means is, you don’t have a community at all–you just have a down-load site!
    In a community, it’s extraordinarily anti-social, for example, simply to post bugs anonymously. If you’ve found a bug, the sociable thing to do is to help the developers understand your report, and to stick around long enough to confirm that their changes actually fix the problem. That sort of cooperative consumption is “contribution” at least as important as the actual coding. If, as a Community Manager, you grant your users the right to lob smoke-bombs over the wall and run away, all you’ll get is smoke. A community has to be an organic, living thing, like a farm. You can’t run a farm when the soil blows away. You can’t run a community when the “members” run away. The life of the community is in the contributions.

  2. Carey O'Brien
    January 12, 2009 at 11:31 am

    All the points you’ve made are valid and appreciated. That being said, I will submit to you that taking a public stance by sharing one’s own contribution or questions doesn’t come easy to everyone. This is especially true for those of us who grew up in corporations where intentional visibility to oneself and most especially others was not very PC. Open communication was not the norm. This can also be true for those who are contributing in a foreign language. It can require a certain level of confidence in your capabilities to actually hit the ‘Post’ button.
    How is this challenge overcome? I believe the best method is for community members to pay attention to the culture of each community they would like to contribute to. Some communities foster a very easygoing culture where all contributions are appreciated. Whereas others expect members to achieve a certain level of technical or background experience before contributing – and can provide rather deflating, terse comments to contributors who do not.
    So, people who don’t yet feel confident contributing in this open world can build up their confidence by starting out in smaller, less intimidating communities. Eventually, they will realize that all contributions are truly valuable.

  3. January 12, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Thanks Carey,
    You are very correct about the reticence of some community members (especially new ones) to participate in the process. Quite frankly, I think this is one area where a good community manager earns their paycheck. They need to not only encourage folks to participate, but also work with project/site leaders to champion a more open process.
    I’ve found that one way to get project/site leaders and management to understand the value in a more open & collaborative process is to highlight the business benefits of such a system. There are a lot of case studies out there (especially communities like the Linux kernel) that have proven the inherent business value of encouraging open collaboration.
    Thankfully, in the case of our DISA forge.mil initiative, the sponsor (Rob Vietmeyer in the DISA CTO office) has set out to create an ‘internal Sourceforge.net’, so we already have management support for doing things in an open way. The challenge I’ll most likely face as the community manager is getting the project leads on board with this method of doing things, and then also encouraging individual contributors to do this as well.
    To that end, we are starting with a small number of projects (no more than 5) so that we can provide the necessary level of ‘on-boarding’ expertise. The hope is that if we get a small group of people participating in an open way, that will show future projects coming into the site the way to do things.
    Thanks again for your comments!

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