Keeping your culture afloat through a tidal wave
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How do you keep a project’s culture true to its core principles when it’s faced with overwhelming interest? In this talk, Azz and Kat draw from experience as early adopters of the Dreamwidth ...

How do you keep a project’s culture true to its core principles when it’s faced with overwhelming interest? In this talk, Azz and Kat draw from experience as early adopters of the Dreamwidth project, both from observing the founders build the culture they wanted to have, and their contributing roles in encouraging the culture in the face of a sudden surge of interest.

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  • Azz
  • Azz & Kat
  • Kat
  • Azz
  • Azz: popularity great, want to not make the bad happen.
  • Kat
  • Kat
  • Kat
  • Kat
  • Azz
  • Kat
  • Azz
  • Azz
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Keeping your culture afloat through a tidal wave Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Keeping your culture afloat through a tidal wave of interest ~~o/~~ Cultural Scaling Storytime with Azz (azurelunatic) and Kat (MissKat)
  • 2. Who are we? Azz • Azure Jane Lunatic • azurelunatic Kat • Kat Toomajian • zarhooie
  • 3. What’s a Dreamwidth? • Social blogging, a code fork of LiveJournal • Approximately ¼ million lines of code • Owners – Denise Paolucci – Mark Smith (zorkian) • 5 field offices, 6 paid staff (plus occasional extras) • 50-60 active volunteers – 2/3 women – 65% never coded before DW
  • 4. A Brief History of Our Project • 1999: bradfitz founded LiveJournal • 2005-2009: LJ sold various times • 2008: Dreamwidth code fork launched, slowly • 2009: 5 months of utter chaos – Tons of interest – Deep dive dev work – Sorting volunteers – Open Beta Launch
  • 5. The Problem • Great news! Your project is popular! • Bad news: everything you loved about working on it has gone away. 
  • 6. Our Solutions • Diversity Statement & Guiding Principles – A cultural compass when all navigation is lost • Quotes Database – Celebrating our awesome history • Jargon page – Unpacking our cultural baggage • The Welcoming Dance – Orienting new arrivals: friendly brutal efficiency
  • 7. Developing a Constitution • “Run it right” needs defining • Finding your values • What does “wrong” look like? • How do you avoid getting it wrong? • What does that imply for “right”? • Both technical & social principles • Be as comprehensive as you feel you need to be
  • 8. Diversity Statement http://www.dreamwidth.org/legal/diversityPlatitudes are cheap. We've all heard services say they're committed to "diversity" and "tolerance" without ever getting specific, so here's our stance on it: We welcome you. We welcome people of any gender identity or expression, race, ethnicity, size, nationality, sexual orientation, ability level, neurotype, religion, elder status, family structure, culture, subculture, political opinion, identity, and self- identification. We welcome activists, artists, bloggers, crafters, dilettantes, musicians, photographers, readers, writers, ordinary people, extraordinary people, and everyone in between. We welcome people who want to change the world, people who want to keep in touch with friends, people who want to make great art, and people who just need a break after work. We welcome fans, geeks, nerds, and pixel-stained technopeasant wretches. (We welcome Internet beginners who aren't sure what any of those terms refer to.) We welcome you no matter if the Internet was a household word by the time you started secondary school or whether you were already retired by the time the World Wide Web was invented. We welcome you. You may wear a baby sling, hijab, a kippah, leather, piercings, a pentacle, a political badge, a rainbow, a rosary, tattoos, or something we can only dream of. You may carry a guitar or knitting needles or a sketchbook. Conservative or liberal, libertarian or socialist — we believe it's possible for people of all viewpoints and persuasions to come together and learn from each other. We believe in the broad spectrum of individual and collective experience and in the inherent dignity of all people. We believe that amazing things come when people from different worlds and world-views approach each other to create a conversation. We get excited about creativity — from pro to amateur, from novels to haiku, from the photographer who's been doing this for decades to the person who just picked up a sketchbook last week. We support maximum freedom of creative expression, within the few restrictions we need to keep the service viable for other users. With servers in the US we're obliged to follow US laws, but we're serious about knowing and protecting your rights when it comes to free expression and privacy. We will never put a limit on your creativity just because it makes someone uncomfortable — even if that someone is us. We think accessibility for people with disabilities is a priority, not an afterthought. We think neurodiversity is a feature, not a bug. We believe in being inclusive, welcoming, and supportive of anyone who comes to us with good faith and the desire to build a community. We have enough experience to know that we won't get any of this perfect on the first try. But we have enough hope, energy, and idealism to want to learn things we don't know now. We may not be able to satisfy everyone, but we can certainly work to avoid offending anyone. And we promise that if we get it wrong, we'll listen carefully and respectfully to you when you point it out to us, and we'll do our best to make good on our mistakes. We think our technical and business experience is important, but we think our community experience is more important. We know what goes wrong when companies say one thing and do another, or when they refuse to say anything at all. We believe that keeping our operations transparent is just as important as keeping our servers stable.
  • 9. Guiding Principles http://www.dreamwidth.org/legal/principles We are committed to: Open access. We will never make it hard for you to get your data back from us or move to a different service if you want to. We will provide you with tools to facilitate backing up your data, and we will never try to lock you into using our service in any way. Interoperability. We will seek to integrate our service with other services on the Internet, following open standards, to allow you to work with other sites as much as you want to. Open source. We will release every code change we make under a generally-accepted open source license, aside from internal configuration files and anything we are contractually obligated not to publish. We will provide details on what code we don't publish, and let you know why. We will work with a community of volunteer developers, and encourage and nurture the volunteer development process. We are committed to making it easy for others to install and maintain their own instances of our server code. Community review. We will make our development process and our business decisions as transparent as possible, and look for community feedback at all stages. While we know we can't please everyone all the time, we know that our users are incredibly diverse, and the ways they use the site are just as diverse. We will strive to take your feedback into account as much as we can. Respecting privacy. We will provide you with tools to make choices about your privacy, and respect those choices at all times. We will never sell or trade your private data. We as a company are committed to maintaining your privacy and making it easy for you to show your journal and its contents to as many -- or as few -- people as you'd like. We operate our service under the principles of: Transparency: We believe that you should know why we make the decisions we make. We will explain our reasoning as much as possible. We will make it easy for you to know as much as you want to about what we're doing. We will always err on the side of providing more information, rather than less, whenever possible. At any point, you should feel comfortable that you understand why we're making the choices we're making. Freedom: We believe in free expression. We will not place limits on your expression, except as required by United States law or to protect the quality and long-term viability of the service (such as removing spam). We will provide you with tools that make creativity and free expression easy. If, at any point, we have to place restrictions on your expression, we will tell you why, and work to find the best solutions possible. Respect: We believe in the inherent dignity of all human beings. We will never discriminate against any group of people. We will work hard to maintain inclusive attitudes, use inclusive language, and promote inclusiveness at all times. Our Diversity Statement isn't just there so we can pat ourselves on the back. It's there because we believe that our diversity is our greatest strength. We will remain advertising-free. We won't accept or display third-party advertising on our service, whether text-based or banner ads. We are personally and ideologically against displaying advertising on a community-based service. Advertising dilutes the community experience. It also changes the site's focus from "pleasing the userbase" to "pleasing the advertisers". We believe that our users are our customers, not unpaid content-generators who exist only to provide content for others to advertise on. We are committed to remaining advertising-free for as long as the site exists.
  • 10. Brad, in his dorm room, with bml • Mocking legacy code let devs blow off steam • New devs needed a culture of support, not mockery • Principles check • Mockery died down, devs found other ways to express frustration
  • 11. Don’t stick to your guns • Cultural drift happens • Review your culture • Review your principles • Back down as needed • Change can be really positive
  • 12. Quotes Database http://qdb.dreamwidth.net • Just for fun • Cultural snapshot • DIY – public QDB not appropriate
  • 13. Problems it solves • An alternative to full public logging – Introduction for newcomers – Acculturalization for newcomers • Low-effort: fun, not virtuous • Compare to constitution
  • 14. Common Jargon • Large influx of new folks • Unfamiliar with terms • Central place for terms • Not highly curated
  • 15. Unexpectedly Helpful • Answering actually frequently asked questions • 2 times = into jargon page • Entries nominated by actual questions, less in-group’s idea of jargon
  • 16. Jargon Changes • Document early • Retire as prudent • Jargon fads can be really weird • Roll with it—unless it’s harmful
  • 17. The Welcoming Dance • We’re like bees! • Cultivating culture of inclusion and helpfulness • Sometimes we missed things • Sometimes people went away confused/sad
  • 18. Problems • There were way too many people coming in at once • Exhausting to invent new orientation speech from scratch • Project not suited to funneling new arrivals through a formal orientation • Project leader availability limited • Volunteer skill/project need mismatch
  • 19. The Welcoming Dance http://wiki.dreamwidth.net/wiki/index.php/IRC/welcoming IRC/welcoming The IRC Welcoming Dance! This is an outline of many of the features often found in the #dreamwidth IRC Welcoming Dance. Greet and welcome the new person. Inquire from whence they have come (from dreamwidth.org itself, from the FLOSS community, browsing through Freenode channels, or otherwise) as this may make a difference in the background information they have about the project and the purpose of the channel. If unfamiliar with the site/development project, it is often appropriate to explain; a number of freenode-browsing folks are unaware that #dreamwidth is ultimately centered around a coding project, and may have just dropped by to chat. Random chat folks are of course welcome as long as they act in accordance with acceptable channel conduct. Dreamwidth.org is an open-source social journaling project, a code fork of LiveJournal.com established in 2009. Diversity statement, guiding principles, and open source manifesto: http://www.dreamwidth.org/legal/diversityhttp://www.dreamwidth.org/legal/principles http://www.dreamwidth.org/site/opensource There is an infobot; infobot has been trained with some helpful links, including help on itself and some of the other channel bots. infobot, help infobot For FLOSS folks who are looking to get involved, do they have a dreamwidth.org account? It is not required, but it is a helpful tool for development and becoming/staying informed about all the things. Would developers like a dreamhack? They are free hosted Dreamwidth development environments. infobot, dreamhack If they plan to contribute code, layouts, documentation, or the like, before their contribution goes live, they'll need to sign and return a contributor license agreement. infobot, cla Other volunteer stuff besides development exists; there are some Dreamwidth.org communities with organizational stuff/info. infobot, communities Basic channel rules: don't be a jerk. Politics, especially US politics, and religious wars are not allowed. (Beyond the simple principle that it's easier to keep the peace in a low-politics zone, the site owners' politics differ enough that the two of them need to never talk politics with each other.) More detailed rules links are in the topic, which are:http://wiki.dreamwidth.net/notes/IRC#Rules & http://dw- volunteers.dreamwidth.org/14888.html Information on the Dreamwidth IRC channels in general: infobot, irc If people are using jargon you don't understand, don't be afraid to ask; there's also a collection of some of the local jargon. infobot, jargon There is a quotes database, featuring fun moments of times past and with some information about general channel culture. infobot, qdb Standard disclaimers about food, fiber arts, and volunteerism. http://wiki.dwscoalition.org/wiki/index.php/IRC#Hazards
  • 20. Risks of getting it wrong • Alienating potential volunteers • Negative buzz • Increasing exclusionary reputation • Discouraging interested newbies from dev/open source
  • 21. Iterating in the Firehose • Trial and error: identifying the common elements • Connecting the person with the right project • Identifying people who won’t work out, early – Helping them self- identify – When to give up? • People who came from open source were different from people from the site • People who came in via Freenode search were often trouble • Up-front indoctrination with cultural documents cut down on problems
  • 22. Storytime with Kat and Azz Successes • Dealing with firehose • That knitting enthusiast • Self-install vs. hosted dev environment • (Finally) dropping the co- lead • Handling difficult people Failures • Overwhelming • That knitting enthusiast • Poorly handled rejection from support team • Poor choice of spam team co-lead • Insular culture
  • 23. Q & A