Reading Vineet’s blog post about Community-Driven Commercial Development yesterday had me thinking about a potential problem with this development approach. First off, I think there needs to be a training class on how people should build development communities and interact with an open community.
Why? From my experience, people from a commercial development background tend to have a harder time working in open communities. There are really no managers out there in open communities, you’re typically on your own. There’s no climbing up the chain of people to force someone to do something. In open-source communities, you tend to be on your own and need to learn some skills to help your project survive.
I hate to admit this, but I’ve seen a few examples in the Eclipse community of new projects (that will remain nameless) with developers (commercial backgrounds) come in and do a poor job of building a community. Some concrete examples are not responding to inquiries of people willing to help on newsgroups or even just being downright mean in bugs. On the other hand, I’ve seen many great examples in Eclipse of community building. For example, I remember when Boris Bokowoski was helping this guy named Tom Schindl. For people who don’t know Tom, Tom was responsible for a lot of JFace improvements in 3.3, and without Boris’ patience and willing to help, this wouldn’t have been possible. I’ve also seen many great examples of community building around Eclipse’s Summer of Code program.
As members in the Eclipse community, how do we fix this problem? Is this something even fixable, or some people just better at community building than others? Should we have something part of our committer bootcamp to help new committers? In the end, the ability to build a community around your project is paramount, because the community is the lifeblood of your project.