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Dreamwidth's Diversity is its Strength - page 2

Openness, Mentoring, Diversity

  • December 23, 2009
  • By Juliet Kemp

Dreamwidth has progressed exceptionally fast, which both Denise and Mark attribute in large part to their success in attracting and retaining so many coders with such diverse experiences and skills. But there's still more to do! Mark is keen to speed up patch reviews, both to keep contributors' interest, and because it's the best way to provide feedback to contributors. He also wants to make it easier for contributors to find things that they want to work on.

Denise wants to improve the setting of project priorities. "I'd rather people find things that they really find interesting to work on, because happy contributors make for better contributions," she notes. But she'd like to work on improving the fit of that principle with the broader vision. As part of that, she'd like to look more at how they manage large-scale projects. "I'd really be interested in seeing whether we could have as much success in innovating new ways of doing things there as we have elsewhere," she says. So keep an eye on Dreamwidth for new and interesting ways of managing OSS volunteer teams spread across countries and time-zones.

Doing it yourself

Finally, I asked them for a couple of recommendations if you're running your own OSS project. "Open Source projects live and die on the communities that surround them," Mark says. "If you intend on being widely used or notable, placing a strong focus on your community will serve you well." He adds that interpersonal skills are not optional if you want your project to grow and prosper!

Denise's advice, too, is focussed on community. Her suggestions include implementing (and enforcing) a code of conduct, having your coders use your project themselves, making a point of welcoming and orientating newcomers, and generally lowering entry barriers (including pedantry!). She also talks about project culture: seeing both mistakes and bugs as opportunities to learn and improve rather than as disastrous; and treating all individuals as important.

For anyone interested in open source, Dreamwidth's success in attracting such a diverse group of contributors, many of whom are new to OSS, is fascinating. Many OSS projects struggle to attract or to keep new contributors; maybe it's time for more projects to make a New Year's Resolution to make some community, attitude, and culture changes. Making OSS a more welcoming place to be sounds like a no-brainer to me.

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