Blogs / Nicolas Pastorino / Part 2 of Leading a professional, vendor-backed open-source community

Part 2 of Leading a professional, vendor-backed open-source community

Tuesday 23 August 2011 2:44:12 am

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By : Nicolas Pastorino

Last time i put pen to paper was for the first part of this series of posts on leading a professional, vendor-led open-source community. I gave you my short, biased version of the open-source community management history, and started brushing-up what i consider as the basics of open-source Community Management. Please bear with me while i continue entertaining you with this part.
Grab your mug, turn-up the volume of your favorite tune. Action.


The basics remain (continued)

Meritocracy, Not Democracy

Meritocracy can be seen as a form of governance where "Reward hard work" is the motto. When implemented, entering the Community is synonym of resetting one's social status. This makes egalitarianism one of the cornerstones of a Community's structure, where members are free to build their own reputation through acting, participating, progressing. Almost no prior social artifact is connected to the local reputation of a member, liberating engagement, removing bias, enforcing fairness.
Putting collaborative meritocracy in place means helping members unleash their passion and hard-work, in a context where "doing" is praised. Excellent guidance, openness & transparency, no barrier in building one's reputation are principles that need to be coupled to an open reputation measurement system. This allows both individual members and governing organs track how recurring member commitment is, how loyal engagement is, reducing risks of unfair decisions or nominations.
Meritocracy encourages a sense of equality and belonging, usually inspiring new comers to join and further their reputation in the Community.
Meritocracy is also at the heart of the eZ Community. The members of the various teams are, for most of them, either long-distance members who have nurtured our ecosystem regularly, either newer member intensively starting their life in here.

A Social Economy

Open-source communities are powered by the willingness of volunteers to participate on a daily basis. Volunteering does not mean working for free, in an economic sense. Community members will still fundamentally exchange something they value less for something they value more.
As an example of this give & take paradigm in open-source, i recently contributed a few new features to the PHP Github API. I needed the package as a whole (the API) to be slightly enhanced to my needs. This is what i valued most. In a financial economy, this would have been the product or service i would have bought.
I spent a few hours coding the new features, and shared them back with the project. I would have needed these small tweaks anyways, and the overhead of sharing them back was marginal, yet made sure the standard package would include my small changes, easing any future upgrade. Sharing back also allowed getting peer-reviews, polishing the new feature. Finally, the enhancements were made available to anyone, and it felt good.
The capital grown in this case is not monetary, it is social. Adopting a positive attitude towards another community member grows one's social capital, and also benefits the whole, usually without making any other member worse off (Pareto Improvement). This is not air-kissing, it is the way it works, and has been working for several years now in open-source communities.
The social capital is not an end in itself, it carries belief in the community, adhesion to its core values and mission, faith. A strong feeling of belonging is the goal, the social capital is the currency, and the rest are processes, openly shared (like rules in a traditional market), enabling creation of value (eZ Publish in our case).
A Community Manager of Knowledge Communities (as opposed to pure Consumer Communities) can, by properly embodying this mindset, design the right processes & structures to lead the Community to eternal wealth.
The furnished daily exchanges in the forums of the eZ Community are one example of how the idea of living in a social economy is understood and experienced. My Twitter client also beeps every time a message related to eZ Publish or the eZ Community topics is posted, and these discussions also start now on Google+ : this social currency jointly built, every day, greases the collaborative & open production of a killer Content Management Platform, as well as volumes of extensions around it. Undoubtedly, without this enabler, eZ Publish would not be where it is today. This is also, on a side-note, what gets me out of bed every morning : you guys, the passion you generate. A gem.


Time for our second break. I just finished reviewing personal essential concepts in managing an Open-source Community. Next time will dive into the very unique aspects in developing a professional, vendor-backed open-source community.

Until then, happy eZ Community life !