Community — what a profound difference it can make for projects, businesses and organizations of all types. I’ve spent my entire career helping organizations build communities, ranging from internal communities to developer communities, with a strong focus on open source communities. The goal in fostering a healthy community around open source is to engage consumers, customers, and others and encourage them to contribute. With these thoughts in mind, let us consider a few of the important first steps in setting a community strategy, and then I want to tell you about a very special community-focused event that is coming up.
First Steps to Building Open Source Communities
What should a company do when setting an open source community strategy? This is less well understood than it should be. First, it is critical to understand the business value that can be derived from building a community. Just as diversity within an organization can drive tangibly better business results, a healthy community can too.
When taking a stab at developing a community, many people are inclined to rush into blogs and social media strategies without defining the precise business value that a healthy community can drive. Once you understand how to drive toward business value, you can then put together a strategy as a broad set of goals and actions. These are “big rocks” that you pledge to execute on for, say, a year.
Among the big rocks, you want to define the the stakeholders surrounding your community. Are engineers represented as well as leaders from diverse functions throughout your organization? In addition, you want to carefully plan out your governance structure, and codify it so that everyone has a central reference point — typically a strategy document — to refer to.
So, in summary, the first few steps toward building a healthy open source community are:
- Understand the business value
- Define the stakeholders
- Set a strategy
- Where required, codify a governance structure
There is much more to do, of course, in setting your healthy community on a good path. Should you hire a community manager? What will your social media strategy be?
A Conference on Open Source Communities
With all this in mind, if you would like to learn much more about building out an open source community strategy that can flourish, I am chairing a special event coming up and it would be great to see you there. At The Linux Foundation’s upcoming Open Source Summit North America , taking place in Los Angeles Sept. 11-14, 2017, I am the founder and program chair of the Open Community Conference. I have been working with The Linux Foundation to make this a very compelling conference. The theme of the overall summit is “inspiration everywhere,” and there will be a collection of very inspiring open source experts at the Open Community Conference.
One of the other regular conferences that I lead is the Community Leadership Summit, but the Open Community Conference will differ in format from that one.
The Community Leadership Summit brings together community managers and leaders to discuss, debate, and evolve community strategy (and how the sausage is made).
By contrast, the Open Community Conference features a very rich and highly accessible set of presentations designed to let everyone — including people new to open source — learn about how to build rich communities around open source, harness these approaches, and thereby drive business value.
Here are just a few of the top-notch presentations and presenters that we have lined up for Open Community Summit:
Aim to Be an Open Source Zero – Guy Martin, Autodesk
Open Source Project Infrastructures – Elizabeth K. Joseph, Mesosphere
Scaling Open Source: Lessons Learned at the Apache Software Foundation – Phil Steitz, Apache
So You’ve Decided You Need an Open Source Program Office – Duane O’Brien, PayPal & Nithya Ruff, Comcast
Bootstrapping Community – Colin Charles, Percona
Open Source Licensing 101 – Jim Jagielski, Capital One
You can learn much more about what we have planned for the Open Community Conference in a free webinar I did with The Linux Foundation, which also lays out more of the specific presentations that are scheduled. The webinar includes a Q&A session in which I address the first steps that organizations can take in setting a community strategy. I really hope to see you at the conference, and you can follow my updates on Twitter @jonobacon.