DevCo: Experiences saving a young community


In the last few weeks, my life and that of many of the people I have worked with for a year and a half, has undergone some drastic transformations. My employer, the Symbian Foundation, is changing from an open source foundation into a licensing organisation without staff, all websites will be closed and of course this will have an impact on the open source community around Symbian. At some point in future, Nokia will hopefully build an open source community around Symbian. For now, we do not know what this will look like.

In summer, I took on a board seat at Symbian Devco, an organisation whose aim it was to give individuals a bigger role in the Symbian open source community. DevCo is (almost) entirely independent of the Symbian Foundation. The only dependency was that the Foundation was nice enough to host the DevCo website, help out with admin work and pay for a number of legal services.

It was my hope, that DevCo could continue in the event of the foundation closing. Unfortunately this hope was put to the test before a real community could form around DevCo. Just when the first issues were raised, such as “it really isn’t good for Symbian and MeeGo if there are two different Qt implementations”, which is essentially the direction things were going, events overtook us. First Nokia did make the right decision on Qt and then came the news about the Symbian Foundation.

At this stage, it was not at all clear whether Symbian DevCo would survive. To save DevCo, we had to go through a number of steps:

  • Get backing amongst the board and advisory council
  • Get enough of a vote to c0ntinue
  • Find a new purpose
  • Find somebody hosting the website
  • Find some volunteers who would run everything – some of this was previously done
  • Do some paperwork

At the beginning, it looked as if we wouldn’t get enough backing together. We started a discussion and a vote and at first it didn’t seem it would go anywhere. I am pleased to say that it does look as if we will be able to continue for some time. I have been impressed by people stepping up and volunteering. It took a while to build momentum: the news that Symbian Foundation would shut down the Symbian web-sites has helped focus minds. It became clear to many of our members that there is no home for the Symbian open source community any more, at least until Nokia has made their move.

The web-site has almost been moved to a new location (we are testing at the moment and the DNS has to be changed). We have some ideas on what the new vision will be. There has been really good grassroots support and more than a dozen people who are willing to volunteer and invest a little bit of time. There has been great support from what is left of the foundation and from All About Symbian. The legal set-up of DevCo has also some positive consequences, which should help Symbian centric open source projects such as Wild Ducks.

At this stage Symbian DevCo has a fighting chance to remain and fight for the interests of its community. I will let you know when I know more. It even looks as if we may be able to keep some Symbian Foundation web services, such as the Wiki as a proper Wiki instance running.

I am rather humbled. Thank you for the support. Let’s hope we can pull this off.

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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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3 Responses to DevCo: Experiences saving a young community

  1. Nal says:

    Hi Lars,
    Your effort is really commendable.
    I want to volunteer.
    Please feel free to email my email -ID– with tasks you want me to do– and I will take it on myself to do my level best in everything you need me to do.

    If it’s ok– you can mail me– and I will revert with more on my qualifications/experience etc– and what all I can do to help.

    Thanks.

    • Lars Kurth says:

      I will drop you a line: thank you
      Lars

      • Nal says:

        ok.
        Also, when I try to register on devco website– it gives error.
        says ‘cannot contact smtp server'; and when trying again– it says ‘email id xxx is already in database’.

        Can you please check this error ?

        A hint abt error:
        Having myself, worked professionally with drupal websites– I know that the ‘cant contact smtp server’ error comes when you have drupal’s smtp module installed– and on trying to send new user verification email– the smtp module tries to connect to server’s smtp daemon and cant– possibly due to server’s security/socket connect settings having been changed since last time when smtp module was tested as working ok…

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