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From Rob Weir <>
Subject Re: After AOO 3.4, attracting new contributors
Date Wed, 28 Mar 2012 17:38:54 GMT
On Tue, Mar 27, 2012 at 9:38 PM, Kevin Grignon <>wrote:

> Many great thoughts here.
> In addition to supporting the open source movement, perhaps we could
> market participation as a way to learn and develop skills.
> As a newbie, it appears that much our message is around what we need -
> which is essential to understand, however we may want to focus on why
> someone may want to join and help them realize their goals.
> For example, if someone is looking to demonstrate their skills and develop
> portfolio work products, then AOO offers a sandbox of opportunity.
That is certainly one possible motivation.  Someone at the start of their
career, or considering a new career, starts with less in their resume.  So
open source participation can be almost like an unpaid internship -- gain
some experience, skills, references, etc.

There was a study a few years ago that looked at open source participation,
specifically looking at Apache projects.  The authors found:

"First, we find that developers’ motivations are not independent but rather
are related in complex ways. Being paid to contribute to Apache projects is
positively related to developers’ status motivations but negatively related
to their use-value motivations. Perhaps surprisingly, we find no evidence
of diminished intrinsic motivation in the presence of extrinsic
motivations; rather, status motivations enhance intrinsic motivations.
Second, we find that different motivations have an impact on participation
in different ways. Developers’ paid participation and status motivations
lead to above-average contribution levels, but use-value motivations lead
to below-average contribution levels, and intrinsic motivations do not
significantly impact average contribution levels. Third, we find that
developers’ contribution levels positively impact their performance
rankings. Finally, our results suggest that past-performance rankings
enhance developers’ subsequent status motivations."

(And no, I have zero idea what that means.  But it sure sounds impressive.)

In any case, new volunteers have various motivations, and so do more
experienced members who volunteer to mentor new participants.  So all sorts
of combinations are interests are possible.  But I suspect the same two
questions occur over and over again:

1) What are some things I can work on now that match my skill level and
time commitment?

2) I want to do X,  How do I get started, technically or procedurally?

In other words, we have volunteers looking for an area to help with, and we
have others who want to accomplish something specific, but need help
figuring out how to do it.


Some thoughts.
> Regards,
> Kevin
> On Mar 27, 2012, at 10:47 PM, Rob Weir <> wrote:
> > On Mon, Mar 26, 2012 at 9:39 PM, Louis Suárez-Potts <
> >wrote:
> >
> >> Hi,
> >> On 2012-03-19, at 08:41 , Rob Weir wrote:
> >>
> >>> Any ideas and the best ways how we can improve in this area after AOO
> >>> 3.4 releases?
> >>
> >> Lots, and these would complement the rather good ideas already proposed.
> >> What we did at OOo actually worked--to attract developers and
> contributors
> >> of all sorts. What worked against us I do not think I need spell out,
> but
> >> the cussedness of the code was not really the determining factor.
> >>
> >> What really would help, besides giving would-bes a clean entry, is to
> have
> >> mentors, more or less do-able tasks that are identified as such. (We
> tried
> >> getting to this many times, and I strongly urged my erstwhile
> colleagues in
> >> this area for, uhm, years. Finally happened, and we got our to-dos but
> >> still not clearly identified according to level of difficulty. I can
> >> conceive of several  here whose work would assist in the identification
> of
> >> tasks newbies could approach--and even post-newbies-and perhaps even in
> >> mentoring.)
> >>
> >> Also, what helps tremendously is what we are doing already: presenting a
> >> community that is open, friendly, and generally has a good attitude
> about
> >> what it is doing and where it is going. There are millions using OOo as
> >> their primary ODF implementation, and those mostly include those who
> have
> >> come to it via the national or sub-national government agency. I think
> it's
> >> about time that they are looking to AOO for the next step.
> >>
> >>
> > I think the idea of a new contributor mentor is essential.   This is true
> > for coders, but also website, translation, documentation, test, UI, etc.
> > What we have today is very much a "swim or sink" and "drink from the fire
> > hose" approach.  If someone is highly motivated, highly skilled and
> > persistent, and is able to withstand the apparent chaos of the ooo-dev
> > list, and penetrates the noise and asks questions, and repeats their
> > questions until answered, then they might have a 50/50 chance of
> > contributing.
> >
> > But let's be honest with ourselves -- there are a range of projects
> someone
> > can contribute to.  For would-be volunteers it is a buyer's market.  If
> we
> > make it too hard to get involved and contribute, technically,
> procedurally,
> > socially, then we lose.
> >
> > But getting new volunteers on board requires effort.  If someone is
> > spending 100% of their time on their own features, then they have no time
> > to help new volunteers become productive.
> >
> > One approach might be to define "essential skills" or "essential
> knowledge"
> > that a new volunteer needs to master in order to become productive, and
> > then a list of project members who are willing to help mentor new
> > volunteers to acquire those skills.
> >
> > For example, for the website, the essential skills might be:
> >
> > 1) Assume HTML/CSS, we're not here to teach that
> > 2) Help them get started with Markdown Text
> > 3) Help them use the CMS to generate patches
> > 4) Help them build website locally via the scripts
> > 5) Understanding the larger site design, including recurring page
> elements,
> > footers, etc.
> > 6) In parallel with above, understanding Apache, roles, decision making,
> > lazy consensus, CTR versus RTC, what Infra does versus what the project
> is
> > responsible for, etc.
> > 7) Help them establish a record of contributions to become a committer
> >
> > Anyone who has done the above can do 95% of what is needed to become a
> > master of our website.
> >
> > It would be wonderful if we had something like that, a check list even a
> > curriculum, for other common functions, as well as volunteers able to
> take
> > on new project volunteers willing to help.
> >
> > This is all an investment in the future success of the project.  We grow
> by
> > attracting new volunteers.  But the investment is time spent on
> mentoring.
> > This would all be over-kill for the average Apache PMC of 8-12 people.
>  But
> > with 10 million lines of code, a PMC nearing 100 members, and the largest
> > project at Apache, we need an approach to training new volunteers that
> > works to scale.  I think something like the above helps get us closer.
> >
> > -Rob
> >
> >
> > And I can think of at least two, and probably more, national bodies so
> >> interested.
> >>
> >> Do these give us developers straight away? I don't know. The problem
> with
> >> OOo was, as [not] said ultimately political, not codical (comical?).
> >> Engaging these longtime users, as well as new ones, with the
> possibilities
> >> represented by this community, which is open and unencumbered--ought to
> be
> >> easier.
> >>
> >> My own approach is to focus on ODF and on the benefits offered not only
> by
> >> the AOO implementation but by its community.
> >>
> >> -louis

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