Building Vibrant Open Source Communities

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I delivered this presentation in March at an SDForum event, where I was privileged to share the stage with Fabrizio from Funambol.

I delivered this presentation in March at an SDForum event, where I was privileged to share the stage with Fabrizio from Funambol.

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  • 1. Building Vibrant and Sustainable Communities John Mark Walker openCollabNet Community Manager October 16, 2008
  • 2. Building Communities
    • What is community building?
      • Building relationships with a critical mass of people such that these relationships may be leveraged for current and future business
    • Community development == business development for the 21st century
      • Your success now lies in the hands of people with a non-binding relationship to your business
      • 3. How do you keep them engaged while attracting more to your community?
  • 4. Community Best Practices
    • Lose the fear
      • Don't be afraid of a phenomenally successful community or project
      • 5. Commonly heard (mistaken) phrases:
        • “But it will cannibalize our sales!”
        • 6. “Our #1 competitor is our Open Source product”
      • Factor in the risk and go with it
        • Majority will happily use free product and never pay for it
        • 7. While they may not buy from you, they're also not buying from your competitors
    • How do you attract a mass audience to your free project and still maintain a lucrative sales pipeline?
  • 8. Community Best Practices
    • A: Don't be afraid to let your community develop its own identity
      • Lifetime community user will be different from your enterprise buyer
        • Will expect a more flexible, “hackable” product
        • 9. Do not like to be forced into a particular approach
      • Bottom line: Community product will differ from enterprise product
        • This is an opportunity!
    • What's the biggest mistake companies make when differentiating between free and something to sell?
  • 10. Community Worst Practices
    • Let's Design Our Project to Fail!
      • Boxing in your free product as a lesser competitor will ensure that it stays that way
      • 11. It's a self-limiting, self-fulfilling prophecy
    Free product Enterprise Product
  • 12. Community Best Practices
    • What to do Instead?
      • Your community is where new things should be attempted
      • 13. Your community is not the place to design all facets of a product by PRD
    • “Total Innovation Opportunity”
      • Maximizing of innovation points around your product offerings
      • 14. Must increase the variety of people using your software
        • cross-section of users, developers, tinkerers, etc.
  • 15. Community Best Practices
    • “Total Innovation Opportunity” continued
      • Maximize the points where your community participates in your project and product design
      • 16. Different types of users will touch the product at different stages
        • A hacker / tinkerer / hobbyist might prefer a lighter-weight product in a less developed state
        • 17. A sysadmin can make do with a product that works but requires some manual labor
        • 18. Typical end user will want something that “just works”
        • 19. Product development must capture feedback at each stage
        • 20. All users will be capable of producing documentation
  • 21. Feedback Loops
    • Feedback Loops
      • Tinkerers should be engaged with your engineering team
        • Do you have the mechanisms in place to allow for that?
        • 22. Do you have projects of interest for them?
      • Sysadmins can engage with your developers, product management and QA
        • Are there adequate paths of communication between them?
      • End users can provide valuable feedback for QA and technical writers
    • So now what does our product visual look like?
  • 23. Community Best Practices Enterprise Product Free Product Experimental UI New, open API
  • 29. Community Best Practices
    • Total Innovation Opportunity
      • New feature experimentation should happen in the community, where you can afford to make mistakes
      • 30. Side projects can also take place in the community
        • May develop into product features, or not
      • Development should happen at a faster pace in the community
        • Corollary: development should happen at a much slower pace for your enterprise products
    • How do you identify which community participants fill which role?
      • Much of it will happen without your interference
      • 31. However, demand generation does help – Eloqua, Loopfuse
  • 32. Community Best Practices
    • That's great, but how do I get more people involved?
    • 33. Be a part of the conversation!
    • 34. aka, The Community Development Long Tail
      • Engage with outside groups
      • 35. Recruit internally those with a voice (or can develop one)
      • 36. Don't worry about strict adherence to corporate messaging
  • 37. Community Development Long Tail
    • Where and How should I reach out to other groups?
      • Outside groups can be broken into 3 basic tiers
    Tier 1: Groups with obvious connections - Partner companies, relevant consortia Tier 2: Groups with less obvious connections - Educational orgs, community-driven projects Tier 3: Find some common interests among your community members and invest in them
  • 38. Community Development Long Tail
    • Tier 1 Groups
      • Most obvious and should receive the most focus
      • 39. Should justify each example with tangible business opportunity
    • Tier 2 Groups
      • Community-driven projects related to your technology
        • May be a quasi-competitor
      • Educational organizations with a technical focus
      • 40. Might be able to justify each example with future business opportunities
    • Tier 3 Groups
      • Driven by common interests of your community
        • Social causes, eg. political or charitable orgs
  • 41. Community Development Long Tail
    • Rules of Engagement
      • Identify strategic groups within each tier
      • 42. Within your organization find those who can express themselves
      • 43. Engage in conversations in and around strategic groups
        • Blogs, social networking, community web sites
      • Sponsor events and groups as resources allow
    • Messaging is so 20th century
      • Not all conversations are going to adhere to your messaging
        • You need to be flexible, within limits
      • Train messengers in basics, and then turn them loose
  • 44. Community Best Practices Enterprise Product Free Product Experimental UI New, open API Pol. org Char. org
  • 45. Community Best Practices - Examples
    • Red Hat Software
      • Has successful enterprise product - RHEL
      • 46. Has successful, growing community with its own identity – Fedora
        • Community product differs substantially from enterprise
      • Invests in social causes – OLPC, FSF
      • 47. Leverages community value into $$$
    • But Red Hat is not my favorite example...
  • 48. Community Best Practices - Examples
    • My favorite example – Google
      • Google's Open Source Program Office is a model to be emulated by tier 1 vendors
      • 49. Google invests in many social causes
      • 50. Invests in many communities, whether there is a direct relationship or not
        • Google Summer of Code
      • Community experience very different from their premium product
      • 51. Net effect: developers around the world ready to pounce on initiatives like Open Social, Android, etc.
      • 52. Net effect2: Google gets a pass for some PR miscues
        • Some press attention may be negative, but “people on the ground” very much revere Google
  • 53. Community Best Practices
    • Potential pitfalls
      • Product differentiation is good, but don't go too far
        • Community users need a convenient path to enterprise
        • 54. If you want people to buy from you, must give them a compelling reason
      • Don't over-invest in tier 2 or tier 3 community efforts
      • 55. If your product doesn't give people value, they're not going to join your community
      • 56. “Loose lips sink ships”
        • turning people loose on blogs is great, but make sure they have adequate training on what is and is not acceptable
  • 57. Community Best Practices
    • Key Takeaways:
      • Creating an Open Source product means creating a different product, not just a downsized version of what you sell.
      • You must create an emotional tie-in between you and your community
  • 58. Thank You Contact Info: [email_address]