A model for building communities?


For some time I have been thinking now whether it is possible to express the business and people dynamics of building communities, in particular open source communities in terms of a model that is easy to understand by software engineers and architects.

Before I go there, I wanted to share though why I think this is necessary. The background is a situation where many engineers from within the Symbian eco-system, with little hands-on open source practice suddenly faced the challenge of  becoming making open source work for them and their employers. Although there is now some really good literature out there, such as The Art of Community by Jono Bacon and the Open Source Way by Red Hat, I found that many of the people I worked with found both books too verbose, or the latter too much geared towards the use of tools and open source as a business. When I followed up with a few of our project lead, what they were really looking for was “a model of  building communties described in terms of architecturual diagrams, supported by not more than 20 pages of documentation“.

Is it possible to do this? First I was sceptical: after all open source communities are as much about people, as well as business needs and technology. People problems are often hard to express. Nevertheless, I had a first go at it and managed to put a crude, but not that well defined model in place and trialled with a few people with moderate success. At the Community Leadership Summit in Portland I hosted a session with other community managers, which was interesting but we didn’t end up with a model. I participated in many of the other sessions and came to the conclusion, that this can be done. I came away with many ideas mixed with my own experiences, with a core model and its basic elements in my head and lots of scraps and ideas on pieces of paper. Some of it I managed to develop on this blog, others I didn’t as my work-life got rather busy and I had no time to pick this up.

So what next? I hope I can spend some time on the model and publish installments on this blog over the coming months. By floating the idea publicly, I am putting myself under to get going. I am confident, that there will also be lots of discussion and conversation that will influence the evolution of the model. Am looking forward to it!

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About Lars Kurth

Lars Kurth is a highly effective, passionate community manager with strong experience of working with open source communities (Symbian, Symbian DevCo, Eclipse, GNU) and currently is community manager for xen.org. Lars has 9 years of experience building and leading engineering teams and a track record of executing several change programs impacting 1000 users. Lars has 16 years of industry experience in the tools and mobile sector working at ARM, Symbian Ltd, Symbian Foundation and Nokia. Lars has strong analytical, communication, influencing and presentation skills, good knowledge of marketing and product management and extensive background in C/C , Java and software development practices which he learned working as community manager, product manager, chief architect, engineering manager and software developer. If you want to know more, check out uk.linkedin.com/in/larskurth. Personally, Lars has a wide range of interests such as literature, theatre, cinema, cooking and gardening. He is particularly fascinated by orchids and carnivorous plants and has built a rather large collection of plants from all over the world. His love for plants extends into a passion for travel, in particular to see plants grow in their native habitats.
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One Response to A model for building communities?

  1. Lars Kurth says:

    When I started to put a model together, I realized that this isn’t as easy as I thought. However, I started to create a few pictures in my head, which are all about propagating plants and starting from a single seed or cutting. This may work better, but will take a while to develop.

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