Community Antipatterns: the enemies of a sucessful free software community

In this post I recommend you to watch an interesting video from Dave Neary, in MeeGo Conference 2010, about Community Anti-Patterns.

Dave Neary has been a GNOME Foundation member, community manager of the OpenWengo project, and a former contributor to the GIMP project.

In the video he talks about how to identify patterns in unsuccessful community-building efforts, and which measures can be taken in order to maintain our community fresh, active and productive.

Here I summarize the ones I liked best:

  • Cookie licker is the person assuming one task but not performing it, maybe because is not responsible, maybe because wants to do it but not having real time or possibility to do it and cannot tell himself the truth and give-up.  The solution to this problem is to be friendly to this person and help him to say “No”, make him feel that saying “No” or saying “Sorry, I can’t achieve this, I have no time” is not a failure, it’s ok, it’s better since other people can take the task and finish it.
  • Help vampire is the person asking help help help and monopolysing developers time. A good solution for this is encouraging “old newbies” to help the “new newbies”, so experience people can solve more complex tasks.
  • Black hole is when an active developer gets hired from a compay (to work on the project) and, strangely, becomes silent in mailing lists, or less active than before. This is usually because company does not understand the community model and asks for “code” and nothing else, or puts deadlines on developer’s work so “he is too much busy writing code to answer mail or participate in the community”. The solution to this is get companies trained about community developing, and ask the company to make public their interests in the project and their roadmap.
  • Broken record is when somebody is constantly reminding the rules in the mailing lists. This becomes a problem, because that person is not aware that she is disturbing, on the other side, she will think she’s doing the correct thing. However, other people in the community may get bored about this and become less active or abandon the mailing list. The solution is to contact that person privately and explain the situation, probably she will understand.

I have not much experience participating in free software communities, but I think most of these roles apply to any human community based on collaboration. When I was watching the video I remembered some small tasks that I assumed at the church community and could not perform because a lack of time. I have been a cookie licker! Also at job sometimes I act as broken record when communicating with other mates about some topic. I felt a bit embarrased to discover my faults but I liked very much the conference because it is very positive and puts you on the way of correct all this disfunctions.

If you liked the conference too, there is also a wiki maintaning all the information related to Community Anti-Patterns where you can find the complete list of unwanted profiles, and recipes for fighting that problems in your community.

About larjona

My name is Laura Arjona, I am a libre software user and fan of the free culture. If you want to contact me you can write an email to larjona [at] larjona [dot] net I am @larjona at identi.ca in the Pump.io social network. --- Me llamo Laura Arjona, soy usuaria de software libre y fan de la cultura libre. Si quieres contactar conmigo puedes escribir a larjona [en] larjona [punto] net Soy @larjona en el servidor identi.ca, de la red social Pump.io.
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