Building a Better Developer Community Webinar Wrap-up

Dec 12

Written by: Stephen Walli
12/12/2012 12:52 AM  RssIcon

Jono Bacon delivered an Outercurve Foundation webinar last week on Building a Better Developer Community.  Jono is the Ubuntu community manager for Canonical, the author of “The Art of Community”, and the organizer behind the annual Community Leadership Summit so he is well qualified to discuss what it takes to evolve a strong community. 

Jono shared his take on the four essential mechanics of community:

  • Communications: It’s important to build strong communications channels for a group of geographically distributed people.  It’s also important to ensure there are appropriate channels for people doing the work.  For example, forums tend to be more popular with users while IRC and email reflectors tend to be more popular with developers.
  • Structure and teams: Different people will have different interests and its good to consider how work can be structured for different teams of people.  This is where governance comes into play and how leadership works within and across teams. 
  • Collaboration: People will need resources to collaborate with one another, and these tools need to be relevant to those doing the work. Developers will need different tools and workflow than documentation people, or people interested in art and design.
  • Environment: Jono defined the culture of the project as the project environment.  This is where community management comes into play to set the mission, to co-ordinate the teams and ensure everyone is moving in a share common direction towards the next milestones and releases.   

While having those mechanics in place are essential, Jono also spoke to need to pay attention to how people get involved in a community.  First, there needs to be an on-ramp where people discover your project, get interested and try things out.  Next, those people need to be developed and given the skills and knowledge needed to succeed.  This isn’t simply documentation but could be events like developer days.  As people become comfortable and competent, they need to be directed towards ways they can contribute.  (Jono pointed out the Ubuntu developer community started tagging easier bugs in triage as “bite size” so people interested in getting involved could find easy places to start.) Lastly, the community needs to reward and celebrate contributors and their success to provide positive reinforcement.  

Ultimately building a strong community is about building a sense of belonging for all a community’s participants.   The webinar is available online (slides with audio presented after you register).  Please provide us feedback on this webinar and others you would like to see from the Outercurve Foundation.  

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