Meritocracy is now a bad word. It’s increasingly used to describe communities that are built around outspoken individuals. They often don’t have clear rules and code of conduct.
Alternative to that, is mentorship or apprenticeship driven community. In this model, new members are given clear roles and are presented with the expectation and rules. They are also assigned a mentor that makes it their priority for them to succeed.
This model doesn’t necessary clash with the idea of meritocracy, but it makes it much less likely. In order to make on-boarding new members efficient, it requires that these processes are written down. This removes a lot of power from individual members, as they can’t arbitrarily decide on what they want from new members.
I believe that such model also allows for greater diversity inside the group. Removing individuals’ discretion forces community to make it easier for more diverse group of members to participate.
Code of Conduct
I think that having a Code of Conduct is a basic building block of such a community. It doesn’t mean it’s welcoming or healthy, but it greatly increases the chances when coupled with clear on-boarding path.
15 years ago we got the Joel Test. It presents 12 questions to ask your prospective employer. Since it came, a lot of these are given and things improved a lot.
I think we could benefit from having a similar test for online and offline communities. I sure don’t want to waste any more time with larger communities without CoC and without designed onboarding process.