Values like trust, respect, appreciation and gratitude lie at the heart of community management.
I dropped into community management in late 2009 on a small communications budget for a new project in our community. The team needed internal and external communications guidance in team meetings. It was evident pretty soon that not only that particular team needed communication, but other teams in our community as well. My job started with writing articles, creating summaries on code sprints and other collaborative events. It was the big picture that was needed in our growing community.
When I started I had never even heard of community management. Our Open Source community is pretty technical and product-oriented by nature and the first thing that came to mind was product manager. Something did not feel right there as I was not into the product specifically, but into the people that work on the product. Very shortly after bestowing myself with this title I became aware of ‘The Art Of Community‘ by Jono Bacon. If anything, this was a revelation. I am a community manager!
As community manager I have seen our community grow, not only in the sense that we got more contributors, but also that the impact and economic dependency on our product got more substantial. Our community also diversified over time, becoming a project with more than one product.
The community formed itself when people started to contribute to the development of the product. It is an organic process that takes place in different forms in different communities. After a few years, large corporations started to use our product and became more dependent on it. With this dependency comes a need for quality assurance. People working in the community are involved on a voluntary basis, which is based on the principle of ‘scratching your own itch‘. That means you do what you gotta do. You have a problem; solve it and others benefit from your solution as well.
While there are differences between open source communities and communities that form around commercial products and services, there are also a lot of similarities. I was quite amazed when attending a Dutch community manager meeting for the first time that all community managers present were hired by a company and more had a marketing angle than were purely focused on community.
In 2014 I joined some myCMGR #CMGRHangouts and one where the difference between Open Source community management and the more business oriented community management really gets clear is on ROI (Return Of Investment). Although values like trust, respect, appreciation and gratitude are an investment in any community, the return part is a lot harder to measure in an Open Source community where the community usually consists of volunteers only.
I found my passion in community management and learned a lot about how people skills and a positive attitude work for your community. Assuming best intent of your fellow community members is essential.
Trust matters as one of the most important pillars of community management and clearly life itself. As humans we are wary and doubtful of each other. As a simple guideline it is putting trust in each other that will improve our lives and strengthen our sense of community.
On Community Manager Appreciation Day I will arrange a session with community managers from the Open Source world on ‘Governing Growing Open Source Communities‘.
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