Open source communities have an incredibly fascinating dynamic. In a talk at All Things Open 2015 in Raleigh, NC Red Hat Project Manager turned Community Manager Jason Hibbets shared his expertise from spearheading Opensource.com. Primarily, Opensource.com has built and maintained an amazing community through offering great content.
Originally, Opensource.com began as a thought-leadership project under Red Hat. It debuted in 2010 as a space for all things open source. Not limited to software and development, Opensource.com included topics such as government and education.
So how do you go about creating a solid community with content? Hibbets explained that their content team offers editorial services like, editing submissions, and encouraging their community to pursue writing about topics of interest. At the core of Opensource.com is storytelling. Through offering editorial services, a community of contributors and readers has emerged. Feedback like moderators saying their writing has improved from editor feedback validates their strategy: that fostering quality content, and actively engaging and encouraging contributors, grows community.
As for content types, these are decidedly varied, keeping the site fresh. News is one key component, but as Hibbets explained, it’s more aligned with storytelling. The other key aspect is comprised of various resources, which is evergreen content. That is to say, it’s constantly relevant to readers.
Hibbets broke down the fundamental principles of open source communities:
From Hibbets’ experience, passion is a leading motivation behind many dedicated members of open source communities. If you think about it, being active in the open source world means basically volunteering for free. It takes a great deal of interest and selflessness to maintain a steady commitment to free knowledge sharing and collaboration.
These tenants are derived from software development, but applied to content and community management. A lot of lean methodologies apply to the Opensource.com team. A key consideration is what value is brought to the team through a certain activity. That way success can be measured, and actually tracked. Thus, improvements and tweaks may be implemented, or an idea scrapped altogether.
Borrowing from Best Buy, Hibbets ascribes to the belief in a “Results Only Work Environment” (ROWE). The main notion is that when, where, and why isn’t as important as the work being accomplish. Awesomeness at Opensource.com that has risen from the ROWE school of thought includes Work From Home Wednesdays. It’s mandatory work from home day each week, meaning no meetings and therefore higher work production. What a glorious concoction. Count me a fan.
Strategy plays a prominent role in getting stuff done (GSD as Hibbets puts it). Metrics like published posts, pageviews, traffic, and inbound sources are essential to track and understand. “Content is king,” Hibbets emphasized throughout his talk. Understanding topics of interest, like Docker, or Raspberry Pi projects, allows them to cater to their audience, and provide relevant articles, videos, etc. Additionally, Opensource.com often features themes. October 2015 concentrates on encouraging new contributors to become active in publishing.
Content is king
However, having great content is only part of the battle; the other half is promoting that content. It’s no surprise, but SEO optimization is vital. Hibbets added that this doesn’t mean cramming keywords into articles, but rather writing organically. Email lists also provide significant hits, and social media is a must. Twitter is invaluable in promoting fresh content, and tweets are typically shared on two different fronts: a morning shift targeting East and West coast readers, and an evening slot to show love to various other time zones.
This dedicated moderator team has been influential as well, both creating original content, and gardening the Opensource.com community. Without passionate contributors, Hibbets explained, there wouldn’t be a site. Any contributor could rise to be the next Opensource.com moderator, and help improve content quality, nurture conversation, and foster relationships.
Are you passionate about an open source community? Have some thoughts on building communities through awesome content? Leave a comment, or give me a shout on Twitter!