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Community Meeting 17 Jan 2006

Discussion Threads

  • Reactions to the Fogel book
  • How to enroll interested participants
  • Capturing FAQs, avoiding losing people
  • What do we call our different communities
  • How do we relate to public negative comments?
  • Can we reach out to groups who won't approach us themselves
  • Be aware of echo chamber, get broader feedback
  • What is our organizational commitment to transparency and decision making authority outside osaf walls?
  • Articulate writing can be painful, do it anyway
  • Participant contributions needn't be valued equally
  • Can "outsiders" earn authority?
  • What scope is credibility "spendable" in?
  • Forum for community development ideas?


Q: What stuck out when you read the book?

  • comparisons between different open source projects -- put that on the table
  • no secret formula: suggestions of what has and hasn't worked well
  • a lot of individuality, different projects are different
  • also read sun book
  • try and avoid distinctions between staff and outsiders
  • make procedures and processes clear
  • osaf vs project (cosmo, scooby)
  • two hundred bases, you should step on most of them
  • felt like osaf was doing a good job
  • Easier to make decisions, people in a room -- less efficient to do it on mailing lists -- frustrating to write up email, wait for no one to respond to it, then make decision 3 days later

Q: How are we doing as an open source project?

  • people looking for basic information, they have trouble finding it

Q: Should we take the same approach across the projects? (e.g. contributor license)

  • already have different licenses
  • some things would make sense to not duplicate
  • project is shaped by individuals, so expect projects to have slightly different flavors
  • some prefer to leave mechanics up to individual projects
  • could share legal template
  • clearly defined where we can wiggle and where we can't

Q: How to respond when someone asks what process they should follow when engaging with the project?

  • Cosmo has a pressing need, a potential volunteer asking for this information
  • Ted is a resource for all projects, his role is as knowledge transfer agent
  • It would be satifsying to have a checklist of what needs to be done by each project

Q: People are showing up in irc at off hours and its clear that they don't know where to find information.

  • We are looking at overhauling information architecture of website and wiki.
  • We have agreement that we could use some help (like mozilla developer site), get someone to help lead a similar kind of effort.
  • Structured brainstorm, workshop meeting, open meeting, Ted and Jared are putting it together.
  • We can take measures in the interim, including collaborating on a FAQ.
  • Make it easy for people to know the canonical place to find information.

Q: Have we defined what our community is?

  • Hackers
  • Users
  • people interested in anything open source
  • people who are negative about the project and want to bring it down
  • translators (not developers)

Q: Is there a problem with people being negative about the project?

  • We can responding efficiently in forums to prevent a negative bubble.
  • Perhaps ignore non substantive comments
  • coordinated, factual response
  • mixed feelings about responding to negative comments
  • pr is everyone's responsibility

Q: Should we be preventing unrealistic expectations?

  • the more polished our website, more expectation that we have a polished product
  • make level of polish on materials, website match polish of project

Q: How do we define the community we want and seek out those people?

  • Perhaps any negative reaction is happening in a contained community that is sort of incestuous, only a small microcosm.
  • We've attracted some pim enthusiasts -- some don't have problems they are trying to solve with information management but enjoy thinking about it at an abstract level.
  • It might be worth seeking a community that does not necessarily identify as being interested in an open source project. With some initial engagement with us they may be happy to participate as users.
  • Example suggestion from csg: groups of elderly people who manage information and don't currently have appropriate tools. This group might not overlap our target of people who manage a lot of information, but might be interesting user base because they are far from what we know about already.

Q: What is purpose of writing things up?

  • create transparency for internal clarity, coherence and accountability
  • get outside input
  • create a record of decision making and reasoning over the long term
  • Observation: we always do better when stuff gets written down.
  • Private work optimizes things in the short term, but not good in the long run.
  • In the short term, it takes longer to write things up and involve people more broadly
  • To get leverage in open source, figure out how to get more people involved and helping
  • People self select to participate in ways that they provide value
  • As staff, we need to think about how we provide leverage
  • Internalize: the act of writing and articulating what you are trying to do helps you focus on the decisions you are trying to make.
  • Its a generalization that writing helps you work out a problem, not all people work the same way. Some people like to write code first to understand a problem - people find their own rhythm.
  • Technique: write as if you are writing informally to a friend/close colleague, then actually send it to the list

Goal: seeking to increase community participation dramatically

  • we will do it until we get it right
  • users: information intensive, but not necessarily technical
  • ask what are our first principles?
  • when people come with this or that agenda, be polite but don't need to be equally receptive to everyone's agenda
  • community volunteers that help us get to our major goals, that is great
  • people who want to do other stuff, we have a different stance (at the moment)
  • not a free for all, helps build a community if it is clear what this project is about, easier to decide
  • pim enthusiasts are not always exactly a direct fit
  • we've done a pretty good job of not being distracted, but each new wave of interest will bring new people with agendas that may not be aligned

Q: Is there a way that an outside person can gain authority (credibility/influence)?

  • staff member can rely that someone will respond
  • make it clear that people can earn credibility and authority
  • communicate more clearly that you can earn this
  • How do we convey that notion to people coming to the project: what are the rules of engagement of the project?
  • Requires expectation setting about what can be changed, what decisions are already made, etc.

Q: What is our governance model?

  • what is the chain of command?
  • don't want highly elaborated set of rules about how decisions are made, certain principles apply that are widely held among staff and community, and are the basis of legitimizing decisions
  • discussion about what are the relevant principles and how do they play out
  • Every team has the notion of a set of core contributors.
    • benevolent dictator model: dictator can say no
  • Good to make it clear: if you want to participate, this is how you participate
  • Perhaps it will become more clear with examples

Q: What is the scope of influence that someone can have if they are not on staff?

  • What can be influenced, what cannot be influenced?
  • Perhaps the vast majority of contributions will end up being qa, translations, etc.
  • To have a huge impact on the core and future direction, implies a big committment and some accountability
  • The more modularized we are, the easier it is for someone to impact one module, without being a dependency on the main schedule
  • We're open to non-staff members having more influence
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