What's the best thing about being an open source community manager?

open source communities
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I recently listed five best practices for community managers in 2014. Today, on Community Manager Appreciation Day, we've collected the wisdom of 14 great leaders from a variety of open source communities to find out:

What is the best thing about being a community manager?

 Here's what they said.

Zohar Babin, Senior Director of Community for Kaltura

Being a community manager for a large scale global open source project with a successful business around it, I think that the greatest part of my job is that I get to mix the two things I love the most: people and technology. My responsibility is to balance the two, blend a perfect atmosphere that ensures smooth communication and visibility in an open environment. I'm kind of a "scientist-juggler"—I measure, analyze, and experiment frequently, while the every day performance is pure art.

Jono Bacon, Community Manager for Ubuntu

I believe that communities shine the spotlight on one of the most beautiful attributes of human beings; sharing. When people collaborate together they have the opportunity to create things bigger and more empowering than any individual could accomplish.

While the output of this work is often elegant in its simplicity, the mechanics of bringing a disparate set of minds and motivations together to create something of elegant simplicity is complex.

I find the challenge of converting complexity into simplicity invigorating, and when the output of that work to benefits real people, it seals the deal for me that community management is what I want to dedicate my life to.

Ben van 't Ende, Community Manager for TYPO3

Spotting opportunities for cooperation between groups and individuals, matching those initiatives and giving these individuals the chance to use their skills to the benefit of a community so they get appreciated for their knowledge or just for their effort. Most community members want to share with the wider community, but have a hard time to find exactly where to share or at what point in time. As a community manager you have this bigger picture that allows you to work this magic, and I find that to be very rewarding.

Britta Gustafson, Community Manager for Cydia

*also a volunteer community manager at OpenHatch

The best thing about being a community manager is bridging the gap between people who use a project and people who work on it, helping both sides have better information—which means I help make projects better (and happier). I like that I focus on the people who use a project, talking to them, and learning what they're experiencing and asking for—it's powerful and practical to pay attention to the external face of a project.

I also enjoy the flexible range of tasks that I do as a "community manager"—support, moderation, a bit of marketing/publicity, a bit of product management, and all kinds of writing to improve things and glue them together. It's pretty creative: getting to look at the whole project/experience/community, understanding how the technical and social parts fit together, and being a person who makes connections and fills in gaps—identifying interesting problems and finding ways to solve them.

Daniel "d." Hinojosa, Community Manager for SourceForge

I love listening to people, whether they use SourceForge or not. I like to hear the challenges folks have in developing their code, in building their own communities, and the strategies they use to solve really hard problems. My current goal is to understand the divide in the open source software community around release early, release often.

David Hurley, Community Manager for Joomla development

The best thing about being a community manager is, without a doubt, the community. The opportunity to engage with, encourage, and enable community members to become more involved in a project, an idea, or a dream. I learn quite a bit by listening to others share their thoughts and as a community manager I have the distinct privilege of helping those thoughts be turned into actions.

Francesca Krihely, Senior Manager of Community Marketing for MongoDB

The best thing about being a community manager is the people you work with. You get to meet really passionate, smart, and inspiring people who contribute and give back to the communities they work in. I am fortunate to work with a community of really strong, smart engineers who are curious and whip smart. I really love watching community members I've worked with for years win awards, launch startups, raise funding, and launch their own open source projects. It's a great day job—helping awesome, talented people become successful.

Heather Leson, Director of Community Engagement for the Open Knowledge Foundation

*also a board member for Humanitarian OpenStreetMap

The spark. There is this spark that happens when you connect a person to an idea or a learning path or you connect people to each other and then step back. The moment of beauty is when people find their path/passion with a small bit of encouragement or guidance. At that moment, you know that your job to foster the next open source contributors/leaders is the best motivation ever.

Vincent Mayers, Open Source Community Manager for inBloom

Perspective is so important to the development and evolution of an open source projects, and everybody has one! As a community manager I get to disseminate the open source software communities perspective for our product and leadership teams so that we can incorporate this into our roadmap. I love this input from so many different sources. Also, I love that my role combines so many disciplines: sales, marketing, PR, recruiting, event management, project management, product development, and of course juggling.

Angela Oduor, Community Manager for Ushahidi

People make my world go round. I’d like to consider myself a people's person. I also love tech. The best thing about being a community manager at Ushahidi is the fact that I get to be a bridge between the tech and people.

Nicolas Pastorino, Community Manager for eZ Publish

The best thing about being a community manager is to lead a group of volunteers, from within, whose motivation and engagement can be of the purest. When ownership on the community's mission is broadly shared, an unmatched energy is created that converges towards making it happen, like I rarely have seen elsewhere. There's beauty in communities, and being given the honor to lead them from within is a gift, which I experienced to the fullest with the eZ Publish Community. They are human adventures, tenfold.

Lydia Pintscher, Community Manager for KDE

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.

David Stokes, Community Manager for Oracle / MySQL

The best thing about being a MySQL community manager is seeing what folks are doing with the product! A municipality providing public access to all city data, or a researcher using MySQL to collect unusual data, or even a small business using our database in some creative way. Seeing a basic tool, like a database, used in a million different ways to help people get to their goals stuns me on a regular basis.

Andreas Tille, Lead Developer for the DebianMed project

The best thing is educating newcomers on how to join the community and removing all hurdles to enter. At DebianMed, we work to support our leaders with two programs: Mentoring of the Month and Sponsoring of Blends. More on details on these program can be found in one of my talks on this topic.


 

Thank a community manager today! Join the conversation and follow this converastion on Twitter at #CMAD and #CMGR.

This article has been translated into French on FramaBlog. Thanks Alexis Kauffmann.

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3 Comments

Aseem Sharma's picture
Open Source Champion

Great article. The collective insights of people managing communities that are making a positive impact on business and society is very encouraging.

Thanks and Regards,
Aseem Sharma

Noah Slater's picture

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 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.

jhibbets's picture
Open Source Sensei

Great stuff Noah, thanks for sharing.
Jason

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