OSCON interview with Meghan Gill, MongoDB

How MongoDB motivates and inspires its developer community

A network of people
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The person who has a big hand in building the MongoDB developer community over the past six years is Meghan Gill. She was the open source NoSQL database's first marketing hire, and will be speaking at this year's OSCON about creating and nurturing open source advocates.

I caught up with her to ask about the challenges of overseeing the teams managing events, demand generation efforts, and more for one of the largest and most well known database developer communities.

Do you work solo, or with a team?

It's a team effort, with contribution across many internal departments as well as our ecosystem of 1,000+ partners. The community has grown over the years. The software has been downloaded over 10 million times, and we have more than 40,000 MongoDB User Group members and more than 600 advocates on our Advocacy Hub. These users demand nurturing—whether through educational content or networking opportunities—and we are proud that our integrated team across engineering, support, and marketing can help scale to meet the community needs.

How would you describe your community advocates?

Within the MongoDB community, our most enthusiastic advocates are people who are forward-thinking, innovative, and eager to learn.

What do you do to empower those advocates?

We've run many programs to empower our advocates. We provide many benefits and tools to those who want to become MongoDB user group organizers in their community. We invite a group of people to join our MongoDB Masters program each year and attend our annual summit at MongoDB World. And we have an Advocacy Hub online using a tool called Influitive. The Advocacy Hub is a place where our most enthusiastic users can give us feedback and get rewarded for it.

What are the benefits of running an advocate program?

Our user community is our most valuable asset. They provide amazing feedback and offer great suggestions for the kinds of content that we should create. By nurturing them, they become an extension of the team. And by rewarding them through education, recognition, career development opportunities, and more, the relationship is mutually beneficial.

Open source projects can be backed by associations, foundations, or companies. How does that affect the way you do community management?

We see measurable impact from our community programs, and we use Influitive (the platform that we use to run the Advocacy Hub) to measure it. Through the hub, we can pull metrics such as the number of new pieces of content, references, referrals, contributions, quotes, or beta testers that we’ve been able to source from our community. This helps us recognize the impact of advocacy on our business in a scalable way.

How do the advocates fit into the bigger picture of the community and community management?

While not everyone in our community is going to become an advocate, identifying the leaders in your community is one of the most important parts of community management. It's how you scale as your community grows. Advocates provide valuable feedback through things like beta programs. Our advocates also educate the rest of the community through tutorials, talks, and reviews.

You will also be talking about leadership skills. Where does that fit into community management at MongoDB?

For a large community like MongoDB's, you need to nurture your advocates to become leaders. As community managers, we can't be everywhere at all times. We need leaders to step up and educate new members, sharing their experience and expertise. The voice of someone outside of your company will always be more powerful than your own, so encouraging and rewarding that activity is key.

Any final words or community management tips you'd like to share with our readers?

Take a step back and think about what motivates your community members. Is it recognition? Is it education? Is it leadership? Is it a token of appreciation like a T-shirt? You need to understand that in order to encourage community members to advocate on your behalf.

About the author

Robin Muilwijk - Former Opensource.com and Open Organization moderator/ambassador. Robin writes and is active on social media to promote and advocate for open source in our businesses and lives.Follow him on Twitter @i_robin or on LinkedIn.