Remember the Seinfeld episode where Kramer had the idea to make a coffee table book about coffee tables? I always thought that was a pretty elegant idea. Well, a few months ago, some of the smart folks on Red Hat’s community architecture team had a similarly elegant idea:
Write a book about building community the open source way… and write it with a community, the open source way. Meaning, open the text up, allow interested users to contribute, and see what happens.
The book is entitled The Open Source Way: Creating and nurturing communities of contributors and you can access the current text here and the wiki for contributors here.
I caught up with Karsten Wade, who is leading the project, to learn more.
There have been other books written about community-building over the last few years, but I am not aware of any others that have been written by a community. Where did the idea to start this project come from?
Our team, Community Architecture, has a strategic community role in Red Hat, and part of that is learning, distilling, and sharing knowledge. We bring the knowledge of how to produce software the open source way to different parts of the company. We’re all in a community of practice here, and have much to learn from each other.
Once we had the idea of a cookbook or handbook for internal needs, it was immediately clear that following the open source way with the content would be better, have more impact, and protect important knowledge in case our team gets eaten by raptors.
Most Twitter users have probably heard of the Twitter tradition of Follow Friday, where you take time on Fridays to introduce your friends to some folks they should be following. Well, I’m lucky to be working alongside some awesome people here at Red Hat, and I thought today I’d introduce you Dark Matter Matters readers to ten Red Hatters who say some pretty smart things online.
First, meet three members of the Red Hat Community Architecture team. If you are interested in the Red Hat approach to community-building, check out these three rock stars. When it comes to understanding how to build an effective architecture of participation, very few people have more experience or good ideas than Greg, Max, and Karsten.
1) Greg DeKoenigsberg: Blog | Fedora page | Twitter feed
2) Max Spevack: Blog | Fedora page
3) Karsten Wade: Blog | Fedora page | Twitter feed
As a special bonus, I’m going to introduce you to the newest member of the Community Architecture team, Mel Chua. From what I can tell, Mel may be teaching those three old guys a thing or two about how the next generation will be building community.
Red Hat has a quite a few folks with a deep passion for open source, but when Michael Tiemann, Jan Wildeboer, Venky Hariharan, and Gunnar Hellekson enter the room, their passion takes your breath away (example: I think Jan got a Red Hat tattoo last night– that is passion, man). These guys are great ambassadors for Red Hat, but also for the entire open source movement. Don’t expect any of these four to just toe the corporate line, though– each of them has interests and ideas that extend well beyond the corporate walls.
5) Michael Tiemann: Blog | Web page | Wikipedia entry
6) Jan Wildeboer: Blog | Identi.ca | Twitter
7) Venkatesh Hariharan: Blog
8) Gunnar Hellekson: Blog | Twitter
And finally, closer to home, I want to point you to a couple of folks in the Brand Communications + Design team that I think are doing some really great stuff online. First, my friend and 10-year Red Hat colleague Jonathan Opp, who has begun actively posting on his blog about brand, voice, design, and culture. You will not meet a more talented writer.
9) Jonathan Opp: Blog | Twitter
The last person I want to point out today is BC+D designer Adrienne Yancey. But it’s not her Red Hat work I want to point you to– instead, it’s a really cool blog she writes about food in her spare time. Her photography is beautiful, and it is worth visiting just to drool over the pictures of edamame salad and okra.
10) Adrienne Yancey: Blog
OK, that’s it for today. I’ll try to highlight some other Red Hat folks doing cool stuff online in a later post. After all there are over 3000 of us now working in about 30 countries around the world– there are plenty of great people and ideas to show you.
At lunch today, I sat in on a presentation by Red Hat community architect Karsten Wade about open source community-building best practices. Karsten referenced a concept he attributed to Greg DeKoenigsberg, who I believe may be the most talented community architect on the planet. The idea was crazy simple, and it was the first time I’d heard it:
Think of good community work as money you’d put in a bank.
Do really helpful things in the communities you participate in, things that make those communities more successful. If you continue to make these positive karma deposits for a long period of time, the balance in your community karma account will go up. Why do you want a lot of good karma in your account?
For a rainy day, of course!
Every company has times when, for one reason or another, they can’t (or don’t) put their best foot forward. Even the best community citizens (and Red Hat is one of the best, according to Matt Asay “Red Hat is considered the paragon of open-source virtue.”) have bad days.
That is precisely when you make a withdrawal from your community karma account.
If your balance is high, you are more likely to get the benefit of the doubt when trouble arises. If your balance is low or you have a negative balance, well, not so much. If you start making too many withdrawals (i.e. doing a lot of dumb stuff) and don’t make enough deposits, you will start having problems effectively engaging in that community.
I don’t know how that could be any simpler. Or more true. Nice one, Greg.
There was an interesting article in the New York Times Magazine this weekend about the metamorphosis of the word fail from verb to interjection. I know, I know, most of the computer-y world has been using the word in this way for quite some time (need some examples? go check out FailBlog). It’s old news.
But when the New York Times picks up on the meme, it means we have entered a different stage of acceptance altogether. It might be time to start paying attention before things get out of hand.
Anil Dash wrote an interesting post called The End of Fail a few months ago where he articulated some of the reasons why FAIL is such an ummm… FAIL for collaborative cultures.
Fail is over. Fail is dead. Because it marks a lack of human empathy, and signifies an absence of intellectual curiosity, it is an unacceptable response to creative efforts in our culture. “Fail!” is the cry of someone who doesn’t create, doesn’t ship, doesn’t launch, who doesn’t make things. And because these people don’t make things, they don’t understand the context of those who do. They can’t understand that nobody is more self-critical or more aware of the shortcomings of a creation than the person or people who made it.
When attempting to build a collaborative culture where innovation flourishes, the biggest enemy, as Tom Kelly has pointed out, is the Devil’s Advocate. I almost feel like the person who shouts FAIL is a worse member of the same species. At least the Devil’s Advocate brings some opposing ideas to the table. The FAILman delivers only judgment.