I feel very fortunate that I was able to attend Community Leadership Summit ‘09, that happened past weekend in San Jose. As it was only just a few days away from OSCON ‘09, biggest open source convention in the world, the mix of participants was skewed towards open source projects. I’m really happy about this because it allowed me to how drastically different projects interact with their communities and better reflect on my own community work.
Being a Web 2.0 alpha invite geek, I was naturally attracted to discussions about tools and work-flows that are in use. While we all deal with communities on daily basis, we have vastly different metric and approaches toward them.
Taking a number of open source projects for example, there was a lot of talk about counting SVN commits, patch and bug triage and mailing list management (visualization, early flame-war thread detection, etc.). On top of that, having a clear roadmap and goals present an important value for community so that they know where the whole project is going. This is worlds apart from your classical Web 2.0 startup where you are worrying about signups, users engagement and the number of mentions on Twitter and blogs.
Yet this does not mean that we can’t learn from each other. While their values might be different, we all still need to define goals for our communities, listen to them and then work with them so that they can reach their goal together with you. It just means that we have to talk more in meta terms, so we can identify different patterns taking shapes and then we can learn from specific case studies.
Incidentally, it looks like that the tools we have access to today are way below the needs and requirements of most of communities. Tracking of interactions across different online mediums, aggregating bugs and feedback together or even simple things like mailing list management is something that lots of people found lacking. While most of them want their tools to be free and open, there is certainly a market for better tools to support a wide variety of communities that are starting to form online and offline.