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Barriers for community can be good

We had an awesome discussion. Thanks to everyone who came and my apologies for the detail I am invariably going to leave out here.

The focus of the session was to build communities of capable contributors. One of the challenges of low barriers is that you invariably get more people, but in many cases a number of those people don’t have the skills or experience to contribute effectively. How do we ensure communities are accessible, but have requirements that crisply define what a good contributor is.

The overarching idea was that there is one type of role…a contributor, but you define “capabilities” that the contributor can earn based upon good work. These capabilities provide the opportunity to have influence, decision-making abilities, or other capabilities.

We had the idea of defining three layers of this:

  1. Fan - someone who is a fan of the community but doesn’t practically contribute to the focus of the community (e.g. not an advocate, developer etc).
  2. Active Contributor - someone who is actively delivering valuable contributions.
  3. Inactive Contributor - someone who has a body of active contributions, but is no longer active (e.g. someone who loses interest, gets a new job, has a baby etc).

We said that for each layer we should define:

  • Expectations - what are the practical expectations of that layer.
  • On-Ramp - how does someone get to that layer, and between layers (e.g. how does someone go from Fan to Active Contributor, or Active Contributor to Inactive Contributor).
  • Actions - practical things that the contributor can do at that layer.

By defining these aspects, it sets expectations much more clearly.

In terms of transitioning between those layers, we discussed formalized reviews. So, for example, to become an Active Contributor we could use the following process:

  • Ask the candidate to summarize their contributions on a wiki page.
  • Ask other community members to add testimonials to their page.
  • Have them join a meeting where a team reviews their work.
  • If approved, they move to that layer.

Other input and thoughts welcome!

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