Community Building 101
“…success comes entirely from people and the system within which they work. Results are not the point. Developing the people and the system so that together they are capable of achieving successful results is the point.”
Recently, that quote stirred some controversy among my peers. The part about “results are not the point” was hard for some people to understand and come to grips with. Aren’t results always the point? Well, as with most things, “It depends”.
Many a project has gone down in flames because they failed to take the time to really think through a communication plan that educated their stakeholders of the organizational value of their project. Communication is one of the most important factors to the success of your community. Without communicating your project or program’s benefits and successes, users and stakeholders alike won’t be aware of new offerings, program progress, or the goals and direction of your project.
Imagine being lost on a deserted island with no hope of being discovered with only a volleyball named Wilson to keep you company. There’s a reason pirates used marooning as a form of torture. It’s a miserable existence (if you can call it that) that usually doesn’t end so well. But yet that’s what becomes of most corporate knowledge. It’s left on various file servers and websites across the enterprise with little hope of discovery or rescue (aka. reuse).
Building a Better Mousetrap
“Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Is there any more familiar quotation related to innovation? I doubt it. However, “build a better mousetrap” was actually a misquotation. What Emerson really said was…
Communities are NOT Teams
I recently stumbled across a great post called Communities Manifesto: 10 Principles for Successful
Communities by Stan Garfield that I highly recommend. In his post Mr. Garfield lays out 10 principals that define community and also has suggestions for helping them grow and mature.
Why Trust Matters
Abraham Lincoln may have understood trust and community better than anyone in our nation’s history. He knew that maintaining trust meant having the people’s confidence… and with confidence you can lead. I can’t imagine having to make the kind of decisions that he did, but I can imagine how important maintaining the people’s trust must have been through that period in history. Every leader must have their community’s trust to be effective.
The Art of Listening
My how things have changed! Just a few years ago companies and organizations could buy multi-million dollar television ads and make a mediocre product successful. People trusted companies to produce great products and would rush out to buy the latest and greatest gizmo because they knew it was going to work as promised. Unfortunately, most companies violated that trust by producing crappy products or products that didn’t solve user needs. Fortunately for us this is changing thanks to inventive companies that are taking advantage of social media and it’s ability to let them talk directly to the customer.
Making FOSS Successful
I’m a community guy in a company that has lots of products, both open source and commercial, I’m lucky enough to get paid to work on open source projects. What I’ve learned in my work with the community is that building a successful project takes more than many people think. Some folks in the corporate world have a distorted view of how open source projects work. A lot of the corporate types hear about open source and think that sprinkling magic “open source” dust on their product will suddenly make it successful. They’ll have contributors pile on and massive marketshare will follow.
Community Building Success Factors
Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about what establishes the foundation for communities? What matters most? Which things are the building blocks for all other activities that go on? I’ve identified what I believe to be the four most important building blocks for community: Leadership and vision, trusted converstations, infrastructure and simplicity. In this post we’ll look at each of these building blocks.
What They Forgot to Teach You about Open Source
There seems to be a misconception about what’s required to build a vibrant open source community and it’s not “community management”. Community management focuses on providing infrastructure and facilitating communication for a community. This includes setting up events, maintaining TO-DO lists, keeping forums under control, making announcements, etc. And that’s all well and good, in fact it’s vital. However, although this role is important it will likely not lead to any significant growth in your community. Communities need Leadership in order to grow because leaders create a vision of the future that draws people to their communities and motivates them into action.
Flock Theory and Leadership
I have to admit that I’m a bit of a collaboration and community junkie and as such follow some obscure topics. One topic I’ve had on my radar for quite some time is Flock Theory. Flock theory tries to describe the self-organizing and emergent aspects of human behavior. Succinctly put, behavior in some cases is not a property of any individual person (or bird), but rather emerges as a property of a group or social network (flock). This concept can be used to describe aspects of both collaborative teams and open source communities. I’m not going to analyze the merits of the theory but I do want to introduce its concepts which I think have implications for team/community productivity and possibility even individual information relevance.