Managing an Open Source Community of Storytellers

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Managing an Open Source Community of Storytellers

In part one of Jason's interview, we chat about the origins of opensource.com and learn more about the focus of his upcoming talk at All Things Open 2018.

· Open Source Zone ·
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Recently, I interviewed Jason Hibbets, senior community architect at Red Hat for opensource.com. He'll be speaking at the upcoming All Things Open 2018 conference which is set to run from October 21st - 23rd at the Raleigh Convention Center in downtown Raleigh, NC.

Joining Jason at ATO, there is an incredible lineup of open source luminaries prepared to speak at the show, including author Andreas M. AntonopoulosZaheda Bhorat (head of open source strategy at AWS), and Brendan Gregg (senior performance architect at Netflix), as well as many others. Not to mention, ATO will be held just around the corner from our newly located corporate Devada HQ in RTP, and should you be in attendance, you can expect to see DZone.com there as well. Please come and say hi to us at the booth!

Jason's talk is titled Survive and Advance: The Life of a Community Manager, which focuses on his experience as a senior community architect, a hybrid role of dev community manager/product manager, for opensource.com.

In part one of Jason's interview we chat about the origins of opensource.com, learn a little more about the focus of his talk, and discuss his out-of-work interests in using open source tech to better our local community. In part two, we get much more into the nitty-gritty of Jason's day-to-day work as a senior community architect.

Enjoy the interview!

DZone: Would you mind starting off by explaining to DZone's audience of dev writers and readers what opensource.com is?

Jason: Certainly. So, opensource.com is an online publication and community. We highlight the power of open source, meaning we publish articles and stories about creating, adopting, and sharing open source solutions.

We launched the site—we being Red Hat—launched the site in 2010. And, it was really around the philosophy of what we call the open source way: how can we take what we know and love from developing software using the open source model and apply that to other disciplines? And eight years ago, when we started out, we were really exploring how open source can be applied to things like business, education, law, health, life, and government. How do we apply the concept of open source to things that affect our everyday lives?

We still talk about those things, but we also realize that there's a lot of great open source technology to talk through. And, there's a lot of people who have great stories around some of the work they're doing in open source. So really, it's a platform we built to share the stories around what's happening in the ecosystem of open source.

Really cool. Going off of that, the content on opensource.com is user contributed as well, right?

Yeah, the majority of our content comes from what I would call the at-large open source community. So, my team's goal is really to go out and find those stories and let people know that they can publish on our publication. Statistically, if you look at it, about 70 (ish) percent of our contributions come from someone who doesn't have a redhat.com email address, that's kind of how we boil it down. So, we do allow our writers to contribute. But, this is a platform that we built for the open source community, and there's a lot more open source beyond Red Hat. We wanted to make sure we can highlight that and we have a really good balance of open source contributors.

Got it! You've been building the community at opensource.com since 2010, and the talk you'll be delivering at All Things Open is "Survive and Advance: The Life of a Community Manager" which is largely focused on your personal experiences. Without giving away too much from the talk, can you talk a bit about the biggest lessons that you've learned from your experience? And what do you consider to be your greatest success in the Senior Community Architect role?

Yes, I gave this talk a couple weeks ago and I've got kind of three big areas I'm planning to talk about. One of the big areas I want to talk about is burnout. Burnout is a very real situation. I want to talk about the signs & symptoms and really give people tips & advice on how to avoid it. This also kind of plays into managing everyday types of stress. So, I'm also going to highlight the stress points of community management and kind of balance that out with the structural things—here's what you can do to minimize the stress. But also, looking at the different roles of community management/community organizing, I've got a list of over 30 tools that I use on my everyday productivity cycles that I want to walk people through and time-saving techniques I'd like to share. I think, in general, even if you're not doing community organizing work, just seeing some of the examples out there of tools and how people use them is beneficial.

And the other part of your question: what's my biggest success? Well, first of all, the fact that opensource.com will be nine years old in January just blows my mind, and the interest in open source is growing every day. But really, I think the reason why that the platform itself is successful is that around 2013, we started a Community Moderator Program with the goal of identifying key contributors and giving them more access, more guidance, and really just to give folks that were going above and beyond something unique to rally around.

So, in parallel to launching the Community Moderator Program, we launched a points and badge system for people to track their engagement and see what their contributions look like. We hopefully did our best to implement that without "fostering gamification." We wanted to gamify the site in a positive way—you're contributing, you're commenting, you're writing, here are the visible results of that now with the points and badge system. And when we launched a community moderator program we started off with 4 volunteers, these are folks that were contributing several articles already, on average once or twice a month. And so we basically built a program around what people were already doing and we formalized a path that if you commit to do this for a year here's what the X, Y, and Z expectations are and here are the A, B, and C benefits that you're going to receive from that.

One of the big benefits of participating in our moderator program and staying active is that we will bring them to Raleigh, North Carolina, every fall in October. We have an in-person strategy session with them where they can help us set opensource.com's direction and tone for the next year. And, the real benefit is that we give them a pass to All Things Open and let them go network and learn whatever they want to at the conference.

We've evolved the community moderator program over the last few years to keep it current and keep it up to date. But we've grown from those four early contributors to about twenty contributors, currently. And I would say for the developer audience out there, think of the opensource.com community moderators as — if you want to compare it to an open source software project — our core maintainers. They are the life and the blood of the community, they have their pulse on what's happening in open source, and they're really the eyes and ears out there for us all over the globe. We've got contributors from Europe, from New Zealand, and all over North America. So, we do have a fairly global connection with our moderators. And it's somewhat exclusive — definitely invitation-only — and you really got to prove your contributions in order to be considered. But that's the highlight of my career... every year, we get to bring these 15 to 20 people together and plan for the future.

How about beyond your work with opensource.com and Red Hat? Would you tell us about the work you're doing there?

Yeah, outside of my role with opensource.com and Red Hat, I do a lot of work in the civic space, in my local community, and RTP, but also nationally through an organization called Code for America.  I helped run an event series called NC Open Pass and we focus in on different parts of the year for different events. So in the spring, we have a data jam where people can come and learn about open data and maybe start talking about some projects they want to develop around open data. Then, in the fall, we have our civic camp event which highlights some of those projects that are being worked on, and also it acts as the kickoff for our open data competition called DataPalooza.

So, this is probably very timely for your audience. The application period to enter a team is open until October 13th, you can go to ncopenpass.com for all the info and criteria. If you have a project that you're working on that uses open data and is city tech related, I definitely encourage folks to check it out to see if they're interested in participating. The teams that are selected will actually be able to do a five-minute pitch at All Things Open for the competition. Now, I don't want this to be confused with the open startup pitch competition — this is separate. This is the civic tech open data competition. And then, from the teams that pitch at All Things Open, our judges will select three teams to go to the NC Open Pass DataPalooza finale on November eighth. It's something that we do here locally in North Carolina and a really great way to highlight some of the development efforts happening around civic tech — those efforts that are truly helping our neighbors and our community to improve their lives and sometimes their situations.

We've seen a lot of interest in working with emergency responders this year. And this was actually before the hurricane. But we've seen even more interest in technology that can really help out some of the victims of flooding and other acts like that. So it's really cool to see the civic tech community come together and really use our skills to help our neighbors.

That is really cool. Thank you for the interview, Jason!

Please stay tuned for part two of the interview.

All Things Open 2018

Join DZone plus thousands of other developers and technologists in Raleigh, NC for the largest open source conference on the east coast of the US. We have 10 free passes to ATO 2018 available on a first-come-first-served basis. Just enter the promo code DZonefree when registering and send me a Twitter DM to confirm you are coming! If all free passes are already claimed, then take advantage of an additional 20% off entry by entering promo code DZone20.

Hope to see you at the show!

open source ,interview ,red hat ,all things open ,ato 2018 ,open source communities ,developer blog ,community manager ,product manager

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