What's the worst thing about open source communities?

What’s the worst thing about being an open source community manager?

Actually that question isn’t quite fair.

Opensource.com actually asked a whole group of community people what’s the best thing about being an open source community manager?

A whole list of upbeat answers was given by the community managers for Ubuntu, SourceForge, Joomla, MongoDB, the Open Knowledge Foundation and others — and almost everyone said the same thing:

Crystal_Clear_teamwork.png

  • people
  • community
  • spark
  • real user interfacing
  • etc..

You get the idea, it was people, people, people.

But the best answer came from someone who showed a little more realism.

Lydia Pintscher, community manager for KDE stated the following:

“The best and worst thing about being a community manager in volunteer communities is that you can’t force anyone to do anything. You have to win community members for your cause over and over again. It can be really challenging, but when you have people on board you know they’re really there because they want to be there and do what they are doing.”

… and with that negative she scored the most insightful positive of all managers questioned.

What a clever person she is.

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I agree with Lydia about the dual edged sword of being a community manager. I've been a community manager for the Apache CouchDB project for years now, and have seen exactly this. I don't know Lydia in her KDE role, but I do know that she helped to build the Wikidata community, which seems to be going from strength to strength. I've been arguing strongly, recently, that healthy open source projects need people. You (and Opensource.com) seem to be taking for granted that communities are worth having, but I think one of the big problems is that there are still so many people who aren't yet community minded. You're looking, in other words, at the problem of being a community manager. But as a community manager, I also like to keep in mind what it feels like to be a developer who isn't part of a community. Because that's where the community comes from: people who weren't part of the community before. If you can think how they think, then you can boost your conversion rates and entice more people in.
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