POSSE Tuesday: contributor types and making safe spaces

July 22, 2009 – 4:10 pm

I seem to have a 24h lag in posting these notes. I’ll try to catch up tonight.

Along the “there are so many ways (not just code) to get involved” vein, Dave started describing a few very specific contributor types to get everyone thinking.

  1. QA people who can turn “it broke!” into “it broke at this minute on this day.” (regression windows)
  2. QA people who can turn “gmail makes my browser crash” into “these 3 lines of code make my browser crash.” (Note that the same person may not be good at this and regression windows at the same time – even within what we consider a subset of OSS contributions are yet more subsets!)

Here are some more.

  1. Writing and pushing press releases to newspapers when a new release of the project comes out. (In general, if you understand marketing and PR, OSS projects need you.)
  2. Keeping up with and summarizing the floods of information about a project – for instance, Gary generates a map like this every so often of keywords floating across the Sugar universe, and reading the Fedora Weekly News is easier than keeping up with all the mailing lists and IRC channels.
  3. An anthropology student came to the last FUDcon. She was from outside the Fedora community, and talking with her about her observations on how people worked together was one of the most mindblowing conversations I had all week. Holding a mirror up to communities is very, very helpful.
  4. License questions? Legal debates? IANAL, but maybe you are!
  5. Can you run events and meetings? Jump into a project and help the folks there keep themselves on track. The success of the first hackathon I ran can be attributed directly to Omar Pradhan, a former US Air Force Captain with amazing project management skills, showing up and kicking ass in getting everyone on track all weekend (actually, making a track to get on; I’d put out this feebly muddled schedule. Why do I drive events and meetings so hard? Because I watched Omar at my first one.
  6. Do you copeyedit? Can spel, spot sentence fragments – incorrect grammar? Make things make sense? We need you.

What other surprising contributions have you seen to OSS that you’d like more of? (I challenge anyone to find me a person with the slightest interest in contributing to OSS who can’t contribute. Small children, employees of proprietary software corporations with a strict “you can’t work on this code” clause, luddites… anyone.)

One of my favorite quotes from the past week:

Every newbie is someone’s guru.

They’re already interested in and good at something. Find that. As Chris said, “It’s not that you need to change who you are to contribute – it’s that you need to find out who you are and then how you can contribute who you are.” Professors create safe spaces for their students to discover these sorts of things. The rest of us who care about new contributors joining our projects ought to do the same.

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  1. 2 Responses to “POSSE Tuesday: contributor types and making safe spaces”

  2. You’re probably really busy, but i’d love to hear more about #3, perhaps another blog post.

    -Yaakov

    By loupgaroublond on Jul 23, 2009

  3. I think the ability to help people find, enjoy, and grow their “secret superpower” is one of the most incredible and important aspects of open source. Even if you can’t make a living reducing test cases (very few such slots in the world), you can make a difference, and you can have fun.

    I’ve been really proud of the cases where we’ve been able to do that at Mozilla, but more than that it’s made me hungry to do it millions of times more.

    By Mike Shaver on Jul 25, 2009

What do you think?