Video: Jono Bacon, “The Engines Of Community”

Jono Bacon is the Ubuntu Community Manager. He wrote the book titled The Art of Community which is published by O’Reilly and Associates.

He gave the following talk at the O’Reilly MySql Conference and Expo titled, “The Engines of Community” where he talks through his perspective on the things to do (and not do) which trying to build a community.

I want to thank Amy Stephen who shared this talk on her blog and Twitter. Amy does a lot of commentary on the Joomla community and open source in general. It is fun to follow Amy so I can see how other communities function over time and learn from their experiences.

I think that this video and book might be quite helpful as the Sakai Foundation continues to define ‘Community Source’ and in particular as we look toward our next Executive Director and begin the review of the year-old Product Council.

I highly recommend the video and have ordered the book. I think that I will use the book as optional reading in my new proposed course (SI124 – Wisdom of Crowds).

Video Summary

Here is my summary of the first portion of the video.

He spends some time defining the job of ‘Community Manager’ and suggests that a large portion of the task is ‘dealing with irritating people on the Internet’.

He talks about a few myths about open source development including the perception that Executive/Business-types have that all of the contributors are “Tron Guy” whom we meet at a combination open source / science fiction convention.

He describes two types of community managers: (1) Evangelists/Marketing Community Managers – who are valuable to whip up excitement among a user community – but don’t contribute much to contributor growth and (2) Engineering community managers work on tooling and getting things done in the community and moving the community forward on getting work done.

He says that community leaders need to be “contextually capable” and need to match the right kind of community Manager with the community they are managing. Marketing managers can grow the ‘User’ or ‘Consumer’ community and engineering community managers can grow developer communities. Choosing a marketing style manager and putting them in charge of a developer community or vice-versa will generally result in disaster.

He comments on the role of governance or a council / board / code of conduct – and how those aspects fit into a community. He suggests that there is a need to focus on “getting stuff done”.

He says that biggest enemy of growth is when you in a community and it seems like the only thing that is happening is a lot of talk. Volunteers who spend too much time in meetings and not enough time contributing will get frustrated and (as Jono says) – “Go watch Lost”.

Continuing with his ‘two types..” theme, he classifies communities as ‘Read Communities’ and ‘Write Communities”. Read/User communities consume something and are fans – they don’t generally contribute to the thing they consume – they talk and theorize about it. Read communities need communication channels – just connect folks. Write communities are the people *making* and changing the software – their connectors need to ‘fit into’ the community rather than just talking to the community.

… I suggest you watch the video and buy the book and draw your own conclusions.

4 Comments

  1. Amy Stephen says:

    That is a great video. I have worked with the Joomla! project over four years and have seen a lot changes in our community. I have held various roles, worked on the Bug Squad and Communications, but never as a Community Manager. I have a natural leaning in that direction, helping people get connected with the project and sharing what’s going on.

    Lately, I do not have an official role with Joomla!. I felt like we weren’t reaching out to community and rebuilding involvement following our “GPL talks” which blew this community away a few years back.

    I tried to bring change from inside the project but wasn’t able to succeed. I decided to work on the outside and figure out why people weren’t getting involved. It seems like the timing was right as a number of others shared this conviction and a growing number of us are working on solving this problem. It’s not been an easy process but there finally seems to be changes coming that will be good for our project. More openness, transparency, and involvement, and the very beginnings of community doing more work.

    Jono Bacon’s video was very good, as is his book “The Art of Community.” Watching the Drupal community at play and work is a learning experience. They understand the power of community and focus on keeping that engine running. You *cannot* argue with their success, either. I keep an eye on them, as well, and learn a lot from those people.

    Interesting times. :)

    Hope to Karaoke with you someday, again! That was fun! Cheers!

  2. Amy, thanks for the note. I was taking a look at the Joomla! GPL Thread. I was aware of the earlier Joomla/Mambo discussions and more recent Open Source Matters issues and questions – I kind of missed how deeply “to GPL or not to GPL” question cut in the Joomla! community. It makes me doubly glad that Sakai uses a license from the Apache family of licenses (the ECL 2.0 license is a very simple alteration to Apache 2.0).

  3. Amy Stephen says:

    People in my parts call that the “Death Thread.” Not good times, for sure.

    I must admit, I have reached the point that I do not believe the license matters nearly as much (I know, heresy!) as how change is managed within a community. That thread is a good example of what never to do. The distinct possibility of change was introduced in a random, casual way, and within 24 hours there was a raging fire. Three months passed before leadership responded with clear direction and during that time, we burned the joint down. To this day, we are still recovering and you don’t get there without openly talking about it and figuring out how to empower people.

    I realize it’s kind of a “fad”, right now, but community management is an essential role. Not only to help keep passion in check, but more importantly to make certain people know how to contribute. Since there are no cubical mates, or front office staff, or managers in our virtual worlds, building into other forms of assistance is key to building high performance communities.

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