Rockin' In The Free World

Posted on 26th January 2009

Earlier this month, a good friend of mine, Jono Bacon announced that we was starting to write a book about building communities. It's been a subject that has been discussed at length by many communities, many times over many years, and there is no one right answer to it. Some methods work in one context and don't in another. You see it all depends on the people, and specifically the personalities, who are part of the community and who you want to encourage (or discourage as the case may be) into joining, rather more than the project or common interest element itself.

Jono's book, titled Art Of Community, will be a look at how to build communities from different perspectives. He's getting several notable Open Source community members to help contribute their stories and it looks like it will be a really useful book for those starting a project, or user group to get some ideas of how to make it happen.

The hard part of starting any community, is promotion. Jono himself is taking note of this for the book's promotion too. You see the book itself has started a community of people who are early supporters of the book, and want to help make it a success. Part of making it a success is letting people know it exists. As Jono is already widely well know in technical communities (I've known him for about 8 years thanks to him starting WolvesLUG near me), he does have a head start. But it still needs people to talk about it, discuss it and eventually review it. I thought I'd write this blog post, partly to help promote the website that the book now has, but also make others aware that the book is being written.

I'm looking forward to reading the completed book, as apart from being a great read, I expect it to become a great source of reference for helping new communities promote themselves and florish.

Having started Birmingham Perl Mongers back in 2000, been a Perl community member, a member of the YEF Venue Committee and a major contributor to the CPAN Testers project, I've been very accutely aware how hard it can be to build a community. Though it should be noted that the building part isn't just about getting a project or user group off the ground, it's also about keeping it going, and encourage others to get involve and help the community thrive.

A good case in point is the CPAN Testers project. I first became a CPAN Tester back in 2004, and contributed several thousand reports for the Win32 platform. It was thanks to Leon presenting a BOF at 2003 YAPC::Europe in Paris, that I first became interested enough to join the volunteer effort. Shortly afterwards I started contributing to code for the smoke tools and the websites, creating the CPAN Testers Statistics website in the process. With the help of the Statistics site I was able to promote the project to other Perl programmers at YAPC events, by show how valuable the service the project provides is. Over the last few years the number of testers has grown, and the number of test reports submitted has gone from a about 100 per day to over 5,000s per day. In June 2008, Leon handed over the Reports website to me, as I was eager to improve the websites and make them more useful. Since then, I've had several developers help contribute patches and ideas to the project and it has been very encouraging to see the community driving the site forward. CPAN Testers now have their own server, a whole family of websites and a great tester community. In our case the community has built itself and mostly promoted itself from being a useful set of websites for developers. It'll be interesting to see if Jono pinpoints anything that we actually did do to build the project community and just never realised we were doing it.

I'm also interested in reading the book, as it is likely to have some useful references for a book project I'm currently working on. Although I don't plan on making it a hard copy book, it will be available online, and I hope to encourage contributions and improvements. My book doesn't have a working title as yet, but the subject matter is 'organising Open Source conferences', and will also have thoughts for workshops, hackathons and large technical meetings. The blue print for the project is based largely on my own experiences of organising The 2006 YAPC::Europe Perl Conference, but will hopefully include other thoughts and comments from conference organsiers for other Open Source events, such as the organsiers of LUGRadio Live, which Jono himself was significant instigator of. Like Art of Community, my project will also be available online under a Creative Commons license, and I'll be watching to see how the Art of Community community establishes itself and see whether there are any good ideas I could use too.

I look forward to finally reading the book, but in the meantime I'll just have to keep an eye on the Art of Community website updates.

Comments

No Comments


Add A Comment

Ignore this:
Subject *
Your Name *
Comment *
Link

Some Rights Reserved Unless otherwise expressly stated, all original material of whatever nature created by Barbie and included in the Memories Of A Roadie website and any related pages, including the website's archives, is licensed under a Creative Commons by Attribution Non-Commercial License. If you wish to use material for commercial puposes, please contact me for further assistance regarding commercial licensing.