Culture is one of the most important aspects of open source communities. It is culture that defines what a community is all about, what motivates its members and unites them. It can also be what helps a community grow.
While the software is primarily what attracts developers to a project, the community and its culture is a large part of what keeps them there. A winning culture can not only keep communities directed towards the same goal, but can also help attract and retain community members.
Cultivating a winning culture then, can be quite valuable to an open source community. But in this task where should you begin?
A Culture Audit
The first thing you need to do is to examine your current culture. You need to determine what it is that makes your project and community unique, what the ultimate goal is and what your community believes in. You also have to determine what needs to be changed, and what’s still missing in order to achieve a winning culture. To do this you’ll need to review your current vision, values and practices, have discussions with community members and maybe even conduct a community-wide survey.
A winning culture is one that is unique, easily identifiable, shared and felt strongly among the members of a community. It is one that clearly defines what the community is about, where it wants to go and how it wants to get there. As important as the community culture is however, it is a means to an end, not an end itself. What you really want to achieve is a successful project, but you will need a community directed towards this end. A winning culture is your tool to making this happen.
Once you have a clearly defined vision of this culture, it’s time to introduce it to the community and set proper expectations aligned with this vision.
Establishing the Culture
Establishing any new culture is often difficult, but can be achieved given some time and unified efforts. Of course the first and the strongest to champion these efforts must be the community leaders. They must serve not only as examples of the values and behaviors being set but also take on the challenging task of giving feedback and sometimes penalties to those who act against these values.
Apart from behaviors, the project itself should also reflect the culture you aim to have. For example, if you want a culture that emphasizes efficiency and accuracy, then your project should forego unnecessary or vague processes. If you’re aiming for a culture of openness and communication, then aside from encouraging community input you should also have several varied mediums of communication available.
Keeping Culture Effective
Once you have established your own winning culture, make sure it continually fulfills its purpose by getting feedback from community members and tracking its effectiveness and relevance to the project. As time goes by more changes will occur and more contributors will join in– making it necessary for the culture to adapt to these changes. It would be wise then to not only keep track of how the culture is helping further your project strategies and achieve your goals, but also to repeat the cycle of evaluating and refreshing community culture every few years.
A winning culture enables and encourages a community to successfully implement goal-oriented project strategies and also keeps the community united. It’s a considerable factor in community growth and project success that developers should consider in their open source projects.
[Category: Open Source]